Got this email today:
Our members voted at last month's annual meeting to open Guild membership to self-published authors. All of the rules aren't in place yet, but self-published authors who earn at least $500 in writing income in the 18 months prior to applying do qualify for associate membership. (Associate members receive all the benefits of regular members, except for voting in elections.)
Self-published authors will also be able to qualify for regular membership, but our board has to establish the income threshold for that category. We'll be updating our materials to reflect the change after the board acts, but in the meantime, you may qualify for associate membership. Please let me know if you're interested.
I thought what the hey, it's ninety bucks I can't afford but now that I have two books for sale on Amazon and Barnes & Noble I'm an author, right? It's only natural I align myself with others of my ilk for the services offered and, more importantly, for the illusion of solidarity. Heck, I mused, maybe I could get a classy Authors Guild ring or an esoteric ear stud or really neat T-shirt or maybe, oh lordy, a one-size-fits-all baseball cap with AG upon it!!
Plus, I thought my ninety smackers would help the AG do what my NRA dues do to help keep my gun-nut brethren and sistren free from meddling hoplophobes who would mess with our God-given right to protect ourselves and loved ones from home invaders and rogue drone attacks.
So I filled out the online application form and clicked "send." Within minutes I received an automated reply affirming receipt of my application and informing me my application would be reviewed. Fine, I thought, finally somebody in the venerable halls of literary authenticity would be reading something I wrote. Someone did, allegedly. This afternoon I received the following:
Dear Mr. Paust:
Thank you for your recent application for membership in the Authors Guild. The Membership Committee has asked me to advise you that the record of publication you provided us does not qualify you for membership at this time.
Contracts with American book publishers that may qualify you for membership must include all three of the following:
- a provision by which the author retains ownership of the copyright;
- a significant advance;
- a provision which specifies the manner in which royalties are calculated and a mechanism by which they will be paid.
Advances are standard among established American publishers, and therefore are among the most important criteria we use to determine eligibility. If you are offered a contract which includes the aforementioned stipulations, we will be happy to consider your application at that time.
Please consider re-applying when you have a contract with an established American publisher meeting the criteria above.
Terry (Terence) King Membership Dept.
The Authors Guild
31 East 32nd St., 7th Floor
New York, NY 10016
212-563-5904; fax: 212-564-5363
Well, indeed, I gasped inwardly, struggling with an immediate impulse to download an image of someone flipping the bird and attach it as my response to Terry (Terrence) King's snooty brush-off.
My struggle ultimately succeeded in suppressing this immature impulse, despite my managing in the meantime to acquire the desired image for perhaps a further use.
I did, however, dispatch the following painfully polite yet pointed rejoinder to the pompous poobahs:
Dear Guild Membership Committee: So were I to sell twenty thousand self-published books you would still bar me from membership unless I had the financial blessing of "an established American publisher" behind me? I wonder. I'm surprised the Guild would persist with such traditional exclusionary admission requirements during such a significantly grim technological sea change in which the exponentially growing e-book phenomenon is bringing down brick-and-mortar book retailers like the Walls of Jericho. Your "significant advance" stricture appears especially archaic considering that "established American publishers" are themselves taking on such significant water in this market upheaval. So significantly that cash advances for all but those names deemed most marketable are shrinking, dare I say, significantly, thus contributing to the downward spiral of opportunity that encourages more and more new writers to bypass the long and winding crapshoot for a traditional industry blessing and leap, ambivalently at best, into Amazon's eager octopus arms.
I find this intransigence on your part particularly ironic in the shadow of Mr. Turow's recent letter to the membership still reverberating in my mind, which decries the evidently impending federal antitrust lawsuit to stop Apple and "five large trade book publishers" from cooperating to break Amazon's stranglehold market grab "using e-book discounting to destroy bookselling, making it uneconomic for physical bookstores to keep their doors open."
I was about to ask you to reconsider your rejection of my application for membership, but now I'm reconsidering, wondering just what value I might receive for the dues expenditure to an organization that would remain irrevocably married to a rapidly obsolescing model, which, despite the wailing of its president that the ship is in dire straits, seems helpless to adapt to the changing times.
Insignifcantly advanced author