Yet another alt-SFWA

We’ve covered attempts at creating alternatives to the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America before but the face behind the latest attempt has a better track record of getting things done. Craig Martelle (who you may recall from the LMBPN/20Books kerfufle) has announced a new organisation called The Independent Alliance of Science Fiction & Fantasy Authors https://iasfa.org/join-iasfa/

“The Independent Alliance of Science Fiction & Fantasy Authors (IASFA or Indie Alliance for short) aims to be a professional organization for working authors with a singular focus on helping its members sell more books through a philanthropic approach to reader engagement.”

The group aims to recruit writers publishing independently:

“Membership in the IASFA is reserved for science fiction or fantasy authors of all genres who are actively self-publishing or who are working towards that goal. Members have access to our private forums, professional support services, and reference archive.”

Currently the organisation is being operated financially by Craig Martelle’s company (e.g. the donation page states “Funds will be collected by Craig Martelle, LLC who will immediately transfer all donations to the IASFA.” [archive link]) but it “may eventually become a 501(c)(3) charity (where donations are tax deductible)”

As with any of these things, it’s a matter of wait and see. Martelle has demonstrated the capacity to actually get organisations off the ground (unlike previous attempts). Membership seems to be broadly open to anybody published at Amazon (the membership overtly asks for an Amazon author profile, presumably if you eschew Amazon you can’t get in?)

{Thanks to Cora Buhlert for pointing me to the website]

25 thoughts on “Yet another alt-SFWA

  1. helping its members sell more books through a philanthropic approach to reader engagement

    Well, that’s an oxymoron, isn’t it? A “philanthropic” approach would be giving books to readers for free. Which doesn’t actually sell books. 🙄

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Yeah, I don’t get what that means either.

      But it’s not entirely a bad idea. The next stage for the self-published fiction industry was quite clearly unions, publicity coalitions and professional trade organizations for self-pub authors, to pool resources, increase media and review presence, get better terms with vendors, etc. (not that one can do much with Amazon.) Some of these organizations have been going on but having genre/category specific groups is perfectly logical to do. It doesn’t undercut SFWA at all — you can belong to both. And it can help self-pub authors with particular issues they face in getting SFFH out to market.

      But. Not sure these are the best folk to do it. Having so much infrastructure devoted to getting cash from self-pub authors for various advice, services, promotion stuff, etc., even if it’s mixed in with some free stuff, is not a great recipe, whether it’s a corporate publisher trying to do it, a writer’s workshop organization or whatnot. It ends up looking like a churning operation, even if that’s not the intent. Still, that doesn’t mean that it can’t work and work well, so it’s certainly worth giving a try. As long as they are straight with people, have firm, concrete and followed bylaws (the problem that developed in RWA) and provide the services the membership fees pay for, it could be very helpful.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Yeah, “philanthropic” is a strange thing to say. I was wondering if he was referring to giving away the 1st in a series to hook the reader. Still an odd way to put it.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Zahn isn’t self-publishing a novel, he’s publishing a novella (short novel,) like nearly every major SFF author has done in the last ten years. They do them as either a spin-off of existing series to keep fans interested or as new works, sometimes that they figure publishers will be less interested in than their main franchises, as well as reprinting their backlists that they have rights on. It’s called being a hybrid author.

        Why do people always have to try to market things as something has to die in order for something else to do well? It’s so venomous and completely counter to the written fiction market and how authors work in it. Readers hate that crap as well. When tie-in fiction was doing well, it was declared that it was killing off “traditional” original SFF fiction. And when Zahn and other well-known authors did the Star Wars tie in stuff in the 1990’s, they got a lot of flack about how they were killing off the rest of SFF. But they didn’t kill off anything — the tie-in fiction helped SFF expand by bringing in a ton of new readers and funding acquisitions by the publishers. They got a lot of new readers for their original SFF. And newer authors who got to do tie-in fiction also were then better able to get license deals for original fiction because they’d developed name recognition and a fanbase. Likewise, self-publishing titles and license published titles reinforce each other and help each other sell by bringing in readers. Nothing has to die for that to happen — it goes on all the time.

        More ways to sell and get stuff out into the market is good. You don’t have to give up one method in the market to have another.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Thanks for clarifying that Zahn’s self-published book is a novella. I already assumed that it was either a backlist book to which he’d gotten the rights back or something that publishers were not interested in for whatever reason.

        I have never understood why certain self-publishers are so eager for traditional publishing to die either. After all, self-publishing and traditional publishing support each other- Self-publishers can publish books that wouldn’t be viable otherwise and publishers can help indie authors reach new audiences. There is no competition.

        I guess some self-published writers have a lingering trauma from getting rejected. And the puppy types just hate certain publishers, mainly Tor, and want to see them go down.

        Timothy Zahn self-publishing is also big deal for those folks, because his Star Wars tie-ins were a gateway into science fiction for many fans and he is also viewed as a very nutty nuggets author by many, even though Zahn was a well known writer long before he wrote the Thrawn trilogy and even was a Hugo finalist.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. The problem was that Amazon, Smashwords and other early e-book sellers in the great expansion before and after the Kindle launch decided to market services and platforms to self-publishers by declaring an e-book market expansion as a “new” revolutionary industry (as we know, it wasn’t new,) that license publishers were evil and useless, and claiming that they would soon die off as everyone rushed to self-publish e-books and a lot of other nonsense — some of it sadly lying, the rest just marketing hype, (like calling license publishers “traditional” to imply that they are all old and hidebound and thus icky.) And the media of course thought this was great conflict. So publishing folk got hit by a barrage of people claiming that they didn’t do anything and were going to be vanquished, which pissed them off. And authors with license partnerships were told that they were fools, with demands that they magically break their contracts and join the supposed revolution, which pissed them off. So there were a lot of angry words for the first few years, still sometimes now. And a lot of pressure was put on self-pub authors that they really shouldn’t have had to have on their shoulders in trying to enter the market.

        Tor.com caught on when they finally started developing into a real, multi-pronged website that a lot of the major SFF authors were self-pubbing novellas as hybrid authors, so they started making license deals with those authors, offering them a bigger sales platform, publicity, and the chance to also sell the novellas as short print novels/series as a branch of Tor. Which has worked really well — and gotten them a lot of award nominations, which pissed the Puppies off. But this has always been the way that self-publishing works, for both fiction and non-fiction. If a self-published author does well with a project, publishers will offer reprint deals or new deals for new works and often authors take them up on it. Most authors are going to be hybrid authors going forward, so it’s not terribly surprising that Zahn, though an older author now, decided to join in the fun. He’s a bit behind the curve. Authors they hate have been self-pubbing novellas and short stories for longer.

        The pandemic is going to create a sharp toll on publishers, as it is doing on bookstores. But, after having the ebook market level off on sales, there’s now another expansion from the shutdown, which helps both publishers and self-pubs. But that doesn’t mean that other formats have to die.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I thought, “Gosh, an entire kerfuffle I missed”, but not really. Could have been copied and pasted from Puppies from what I saw on that thread.

    Here’s a thought: maybe write GOOD books that people other than your pals like, and join Real SFWA?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Martelle and his partner Michael Anderle are SFWA members or at least used to be. I guess they’re still bothered by last year’s Nebula uproar, when it became clear that selling a gazillion books doesn’t mean those books are actually award-worthy.

      Liked by 4 people

  4. Every time I see the “it’s too much trouble to set up the non-profit now so we’re going to start by using my company to handle money” trope I back away.

    It is not particularly difficult to set up a nonprofit (or public benefit, depending on your locality) corporation, and the paperwork to qualify for 501(c)3 status is far less onerous than it used to be. You can be legally non-profit without being tax-exempt while you are working to qualify for 501(c)3 status. Changing from a for-profit entity to a non-profit entity is actually far more complicated than incorporating properly in the first place.

    There are so many issues that go away if you do it right to start with (legally being able to use volunteers, for instance, is the one obvious advantage to a non-profit). Failing to do it right can lead to organization-dooming problems.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Well that’s going to be one of the tests, isn’t it? Is this going to be another money-making operation for LMBPN or is it going to be an actual trade organization for self-publishing authors? So we’ll see. Again, certainly a trade organization for self-pub SFFH authors could be very useful.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. You should totally write that story under a pseudonym. A galactic military recruitment service that enlists MilSF authors? The puppies would lap that up.
        “You showed a level of understanding of space warfare that only we could recognise as being at a level of military genius. To bad your Earth critics couldn’t grasp just how smart you really are!”

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