SFWA Hikes Word Rate for Qualifying Markets

Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America announced that on September 1 the minimum payment rate will be increased to eight cents a word for short fiction sales to be counted toward qualifying writers for membership.  

The current 6c/word rate has been in effect since mid-2014. SFWA explains:

In accordance with our mission to support and empower science fiction and fantasy writers, SFWA periodically reviews and adjusts the minimum payment rates for professional short fiction markets, known colloquially as the SFWA Pro Rate… This change is the result of market analyses conducted by SFWA Board members, along with a review of the effects of inflation on author compensation.

… SFWA supports fair compensation for writers. We hope the new Pro Rate will encourage short fiction publishers to increase their payment rates.

Works in qualifying markets are judged by the date they were purchased. Stories sold before September 1st, 2019 at the then-current qualifying rate will continue to qualify a writer for SFWA membership.

SFWA has slowly escalated its minimum rate over the past 15 years, as shown below:

  • Prior to 1/1/2004 – 3c/word
  • 1/1/04 to 6/30/14 – 5c/word
  • 7/1/14 to 8/31/19 – 6c/word
  • 9/1/19 – 8c/word

[Thanks to JJ for the story.]

10 thoughts on “SFWA Hikes Word Rate for Qualifying Markets

  1. How are the mighty fallen. In 1953 F&SF was paying 3.5 cents a word, which in today’s money would be about 33 cents.

  2. @HelenS: I pay the qualifying rate now and will find a way to pay the new rate (though this does screw with my budget a bit…although I expect most of the stories we end up purchasing over the course of our first year will probably be contracted prior to September at the old rate).

    I WISH I could pay 20 cents a word, 10 cents even, but as we know, the market for short story magazines in the field is somewhat…moribund?.

    We’re trying to bring back a market, but we need the readers to cooperate by purchasing subscriptions. ALL of the magazines do.

  3. I estimated once that magazines would need to pay about 50¢ per word for authors to make the kind of money they did in the 1950s, when an author could live comfortably off nothing but short-fiction sales.

  4. @P J Evans: Hell, in 1999 magazines had much larger circulations than they do now; Asimov’s and Analog sold 3 to 4 times as many copies as they do now (I think the same is true for F&SF), although at least they seem to have more or less stabilized over the last few years compared to the double-digit losses in circulation they experienced in the late 90s and much of the oughts.

  5. Yeah, comparing the 1930s-1980s to today is a fool’s game, considering that circulation these days is a mere shadow of those decades. Simply applying inflation to pay rates effectively ignores other economic variables at play in the magazine market.

  6. Short story magazines need to appeal to mainstream readers. They’re too “artsy” these days and your average reader doesn’t care for that.

  7. Michael, as I understand it, short story magazines have always appealed to niche readers. SF magazines appeal to SF readers; mystery magazines appeal to mystery readers; romance magazines appeal to romance readers…

    And, honestly, I’m not sure what you mean by “they’re too ‘artsy’ these days”. Which specific magazines are too “artsy”? What specific story or stories made you come to that conclusion?

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