They Didn't Ask Me (dr_phil_physics) wrote,
They Didn't Ask Me
dr_phil_physics

In My Lifetime

SFWA Raises Minimum Professional Rate

So... the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America has decided to raise the minimum pro rate from 5¢/word to 6¢/word, effective 1 July 2014.

I am surprised.

While it is true that some of the big guys, Analog, Asimov's and F&SF, already pay six or more cents a word, there are quite a number of markets which have either recently been granted SFWA Pro status. Or have had fundraisers or Kickstarter campaigns to get the funds for 5¢/word.

We'll see what the reaction is.

Still, they're raising the pro rate!

The Last Time This Happened

In 2004, SFWA raised the rate from 3¢/word to 5¢/word.

To put that in perspective, I didn't start blogging until Thursday 28 April 2005, so I didn't even blog about the last increase, though I was on my way to becoming a published author.

What This Might Mean

Yes -- There are plenty of markets that already don't pay the SFWA pro rate.

Yes -- 6¢/word will make it harder for some markets to gain SFWA Pro status.

Yes -- There may be some markets that will lose their SFWA Pro status. Some might even choose to close as a result.

No -- This is not going to make science fiction short story writers rich.

Because here's the bottom line. The SFWA minimum pro rate isn't that much different from what SF authors were getting in the Golden Age of the 30s, 40s, 50s. A Heinlein, a Hubbard, an Asimov could make a living, if one kept the production up.

Put it another way. Suppose Dr. Phil only submits stories to 6¢/word markets. Suppose I want to make $30,000/year. At 6¢/word, that's 500,000 words. Now I have actually written over half a million words in a year. But that was a nascent, uncompleted "novel".

A typical short story falls in the 3000 to 7000 word range -- lets call a standard short story 5000 words. So 500,000 words/year translates to 100 SALES/year, not just submissions. Or a sale to a pro market every 3.65 days -- two a week.

Since you can't sell one hundred stories to one market, and with some double issues, most monthlies only have ten issues a year, you must be steady selling to a minimum of ten pro markets. Realistically, maybe 40 markets a year.

Can you write two stories a week that sell? In theory... maybe. But highly, HIGHLY unlikely.

If I wanted to simply replace my meager income as an adjunct physics professor, then I'd just have to sell one short story a week. That could almost be doable. Except for that whole market saturation thing. Or that whole The Author Doesn't Make The Sale -- The Editor Does thing.

Bottom line. I won't quite be quitting my day job just yet.

But Wait, You Say...

If one is that prolific, then one should be writing novels and get paid more. Of course, success in selling pro rate short stories, isn't the same skill set as selling novels -- and the payday can be even longer away. (grin)

At my level, I am not writing to make it rich. It'd be nice for the lighting to strike and be a full-time top tier author. But I ain't holding my breath.

And considering the reluctance by some to even contemplate raising the minimum wage -- well, don't EVER try to estimate your pay per hour as a published short story writer. (double-entry-grin)

The Hard Truth

There are literary markets which pay 10¢, 20¢, 50¢/word. SF markets don't pay well. Period. But we don't write for the money. Really. (wanders off whistling)

Still, good on SFWA. Their actions are still an act of courage.

Dr. Phil
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