SFWA Raises Pro Rate for Short Fiction to Eight Cents per Word

January 17, 2019

Science Fiction Writers of America just announced that they’re raising what they consider to be a minimum professional per-word rate from $0.06 to $0.08 per word, as of September 1st, 2019. The full announcement can be read here. I was excited about this change, just like I was excited to see them raise the rate from $0.05 to $0.06 back in 2014. The way I see it, SFWA is an advocacy group for writers and part of its mandate is to encourage publishers to pay a fair rate for genre fiction. But not everyone was as excited as I am. A writers forum I frequent on Facebook was filled with anguished comments about how SFWA keeps moving the goal post, and how this will only make it more difficult for the new writers to qualify for membership. So are they right? Am I now an out-of-touch elite, resting on my qualification laurels? I don’t think so. Let’s examine the arguments I’ve encountered against this change and then look at the list of affected markets.

  • Will this change will make it too difficult for new writers to qualify for SFWA membership?

Compared to 2018? Maybe. Historically? Definitely not. Thanks to the internet and print-on-demand technologies making publishing cheaper, there are more magazines and anthologies paying $0.08+ today than there were magazines paying $0.03 per word back in 2003. (SFWA raised the qualification rate from $0.03 to $0.05 in 2004.) SFWA has also made it easier to qualify for membership via other means in recent years, welcoming self-published authors and game writers.

  • Can magazines can’t afford to pay the princely sum of $0.08 per word, or will they just ignore the SFWA guidelines going forward?

Inflation is a thing. Everything goes up over time, and we can’t expect writers’ wages to remain the same. Back in the pulp days writers were paid at $0.01 per word, but guess what? $0.01 in 1954 money is an equivalent of $0.08 today. It’s true that some venues will ignore the SFWA guidelines, but that was already true at $0.06/word. Interzone still pays a British penny (roughly $0.015 per word) today. But you hardly ever see venues offer $0.05/word now because the goalpost is so close. I think we will see many, though not all, pro paying venues adjust upward a little.

Here’s the list of qualifying short fiction venues that appears on the SFWA qualification page. Keep in mind that ANY market not listed here that pays the minimum rate will also help qualify an applicant for SFWA, so this is not an exhaustive list. Also for the purpose of this list I’m disregarding venues that are defunct or at least have not sought submissions in the past 1+ year.

Venues that already pay $0.08+, for at least some of the fiction they acquire:

Daily Science Fiction
Diabolical Plots
Flash Fiction Online (* flat rate per story; some will fall under $0.08/word under current rates)
Future Affairs Administration
Strange Horizons
Unidentified Funny Objects anthologies

Venues currently paying $0.06 or $0.07 per word

Arc Manor/Galaxy’s Edge Magazine
Beneath Ceaseless Skies
Dreaming Robot Press
Cast of Wonders
Cosmic Roots and Eldritch Shores
Escape Pod
Flame Tree Publishing
Grantville Gazette
MZB (Sword & Sorceress)
OSC’s Intergalactic Medicine Show
Zombies Need Brains anthologies

Not specified in guidelines

Grim Oak Press
Star Citizen Jump Point Magazine

That’s 20 markets currently paying $0.08+ and 16 markets at $0.06-$0.07, with three more I couldn’t find pay rate data for. It will be interesting to see if and how the pay rate landscape changes based on SFWA’s announcement.


Unidentified Funny Objects Becomes SFWA’s First Anthology Qualifying Market

August 3, 2015

Copying the Science Fiction Writers of America press release verbatim below. You can also see UFO listed here.


August 3, 2015

For Immediate Release

Unidentified Funny Objects Becomes SFWA’s First Anthology Qualifying Market

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America is pleased to announce that Unidentified Funny Objects, edited and published by Alex Shvartsman, is the first anthology series to join the SFWA list of Qualifying Professional Markets, which holds markets that have been qualified by the SFWA Membership Committee as meeting the SFWA bylaws and other membership criteria. More information can be found on the Membership Requirement page: http://www.sfwa.org/about/join-us/sfwa-membership-requirements/.

Maintaining the list is one way SFWA tries to make the qualification process easier for its members by pre-vetting markets where it can. Unidentified Funny Objects is an annual anthology of humorous SF currently in its fourth year. Past contributors to the anthologies have included George R.R. Martin, Neil Gaiman, and Esther Friesner.

Shvartsman said, “I’m extraordinarily proud for the Unidentified Funny Objects series to join the ranks of the fine publishers and magazines on the qualifying market list. I view our admission both as a valuable service to those authors we’ve published who are in the early stages of their careers, as well as a personal milestone, akin to the moment I was able to join SFWA as a member myself.”

“I’m pleased to see SFWA starting to work out the nuts and bolts of how independently published authors qualify,” said SFWA President Cat Rambo. “As the publishing industry changes, SFWA needs to shift with it, recognizing the various paths to professional success and helping members with whichever they’ve chosen.”



New Sales & A Milestone Achieved

March 24, 2012

I have a couple of recent sales to report.

A new publication titled “Nine” picked up my post-singularity flash story “Putting It All Together” for their inaugural issue. “Nine” has an ambitious concept – they will buy 9 short stories per issue and pay each author a royalty of 9% of gross sales. There’s also an advance against royalties, so authors are paid something for their work regardless of the publication’s success.

Issue 1 lineup has been announced and features stories by such notables as Ken Liu and Peter Swanson, among others. It will be available for sale in April and I can’t wait to see how their business plan pans out.

Yesterday I also found out that Nature magazine will be publishing “Ravages of Time” in their Futures section. This is very exciting for a number of reasons.

First of all, Nature has, by far, the largest circulation of any publication that has published me so far, online or in print. It is a highly respectable print publication, that will not only print my story with awesome original artwork created just for it in their magazine, but will also post it online and likely podcast it as well. Finally, this marks my third SFWA-qualifying sale, which means I will be able to upgrade my SFWA membership from Associate to Active, definitely an item straight off of my bucket list.

And to make it even more exciting, the voting deadline for the Nebula awards is March 30 — so I may yet get to vote this year, depending on how quickly my membership upgrade is processed.