Wednesday, June 1, 2011


Lee Goldberg lists new criteria for active members approved by the Mystery Writers of America. Lee says, "These new guidelines, approved today by the MWA Board, opens the door to scores of authors whose books are published solely as ebooks or via print-on-demand, but they still exclude self-published works."

From the guidelines themselves:

"Self-published books, whether they are published in print or as e-books, still do not qualify for MWA active membership.

"In crafting the criteria below, we had to strike a balance between including books published using those new technologies while also maintaining our high professional standards and our commitment to protecting our members (and writers in general) from the less-than-reputable publishers who seek to take advantage of them."

This criterion for establishing an Approved Publisher in particular caught my eye: "During the preceding year, the publisher must have paid a minimum of $500 in advances and/or royalties to at least five authors with no financial or ownership interest in the company."

Not being a mystery writer, I have no dog in this fight. But I do find it slightly amusing that their desire to protect their members means that they approve publishers who can prove they've paid a lousy $500 in royalties in a year to five authors. I make quite a lot more than that off self-publishing every month. So do a lot of indie authors. And yet self-published authors are apparently ineligible for Active Membership. Intriguing.


  1. FYI - The italics were in my post for clarification and are NOT italicized in the actual guidelines. I've updated my post to make note of that.

  2. You need to be protected from yourself, Ellen, and from making all that money!

  3. Thank you for that clarification, Lee. I shall correct.

    And also, thanks for posting all this!

  4. I understand trying to come up with guidelines like these must be a real pain in the arse, Jody. I do like that they specify "to at least five authors with no financial or ownership interest in the company" (because we do know that sometimes small pubs are not exactly forthcoming about that kind of thing). I also get that it might be very difficult to confirm what an indie publisher actually makes via Amazon-- one could send copies of one's royalty statements, but I suppose they could be doctored or something. Also, as more of us make more money, it might become something of a time sink for someone to sort through all that paperwork. So I'm not exactly criticizing... I'm just saying I find it all a bit ironic. That's all.

  5. Ellen,

    What you seem to be suggesting is that MWA should base its active membership requirements on how much an author earns. If they make "X" dollars, they qualify as active members.

    We don't base active membership on whether or not an author get great reviews, sells lots of books, makes lots of money, or is well-liked. We base it on whether their *publisher* meets our objective, minimum standards of professionalism.

    The MWA has not opened its doors to self-published authors, regardless of how much or how little they make (or how good or how bad their reviews are). We have, however, opened our doors to authors published only in e-book or print-on-demand formats by a publishers who meets our minimum standards (but who hopefully exceeds them!).


  6. Lee, I'm not suggesting that MWA "should" do anything. That's up to its members. I only know that I left the RWA because they wouldn't treat me as a fully qualified author when I wrote for a small press. I wouldn't join an organization that didn't treat me as a fully qualified author now, either. But to each her own. For those of us who are self-pubbed, there are other organizations to join *shrugs*.