The Cost of Being Pro Is Going Up

It’s old news that the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) have raised the payment rate for its qualifying markets (e.g., the markets it considers “professional”), but that day of reckoning is now less than a month away.  On July 1st, SFWA will consider US$0.06 per word pro-rate (up from US$0.05).  Most of the current SFWA-qualifying markets have already agreed to raise their rates (if necessary), but some probably will not, and SFWA will no longer treat sales to these publications as qualifying for its membership.

I have mixed feelings on the rate increase.  It’s good for writers, at least on the surface.  The last rate increase was nearly a decade ago, so it’s long overdue.  But is a US$0.01 increase really going to make much difference (that equals US$10 more per 1,000 words), especially considering it’s nearly impossible to make a decent living selling short fiction under either rate.

Yet the rate increase will affect the bottom line of genre magazines, making an already tough business even tougher (for example, see here).  There are distinct advantages to being an SFWA-qualifying market—these markets usually get first shot at stories and thus scoop up the top names and best stories (theoretically speaking)—but I wonder how many publications will be able to maintain that status,  and instead of paying less (and becoming semi-pro), simply close shop because they will no longer be able to compete as effectively.  Will the rate increase lead to fewer markets, and thus fewer opportunities for writers?  Hmm . . . . That’s a good question, and no one will know the answer until the dust settles in the coming years.

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About D. Thomas Minton

Writer of speculative fiction
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