The Horror Writer’s Association (HWA) are to accept self published works as membership qualification for the first time, after a referendum voted in favour of the changes by a significant margin.
Founded by horror writer Robert R. McCammon, the HWA’s inaugural meeting at the 1985 World Fantasy Convention was attended by no more than two dozen people. Today, the association boasts more than 800 members worldwide. In 1986, Dean Koontz was chosen as the organisation’s first president, and in a statement to members, he said that the HWA could “add dignity and publicity to the field, as well as giving horror fiction a focus.”
Since then, the organisation has sought to encourage public interest and appreciation of good horror and dark fantasy literature through sponsoring public readings and lectures, publishing newsletters, facilitating readings and signings, and maintaining an official presence at the major horror and fantasy conventions.
The new membership bylaws, effective from July 24th, will allow sign up to both Active and Affiliate membership levels based on qualifying self published book sales. Active (professional) membership requires proven earnings of $2000 from a single work within two years of publication, while the threshold for Affiliate (semi-professional) membership is $200. These requirements match those for non self published works, essentially seeing self publishers valued in equal measure to their traditionally published counterparts.
HWA’s President Rocky Wood said of the changes, “We are pleased to be leading the way in recognizing self-published authors who earn the same as mainstream, independent and specialty press authors. Self published authors are an important part of the very vibrant horror and dark fiction community and we welcome them at all levels of the Horror Writers Association.”
The changes are a significant development in the self publishing movement, reflecting a general shift in attitude across the literary profession as a whole. In its earlier days, the self publishing option was widely viewed as a short-cut or the only option for writers unable to obtain a publishing contract, thought to be flooding the market with poorly written and poorly edited literature. Many writers were fearful of self publishing, understanding that it would negatively impact their chances of a publishing contract in the future.
But in more recent years, self publishing has become a career choice, rather than a last option. Offering writers more control and, of course, a bigger return on sales, even big name authors have been joining the self publishing ranks. Figures released this month by the Authors’ Licensing & Collecting Society, register a significant drop in author earnings since 2005 and, in response, the Society of Authors’ chief executive has claimed that traditional publishers’ terms “are no longer fair or sustainable”.
The changes in the HWA’s membership bylaws will now allow self published writers access to exclusive networking, mentoring, information trading, and promotional resources, all designed to support them in furthering their career: rubbing shoulders with a membership list that includes the likes of Stephen King and Clive Barker.
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