The MWA membership committee, of which I am chair, has crafted a major overhaul of the criteria for Active Membership to embrace the new technologies that are changing our industry. These new guidelines, approved unanimously 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. An email blast with all the changes went out to all MWA members moments ago. Here's the intro…
The publishing business is experiencing massive changes and if MWA is to remain relevant, we have to change, too. That’s why we’ve revised our Approved Publisher criteria to make books published solely in e-book format or using print-on-demand eligible under certain conditions for MWA membership (and, perhaps later, for Edgar eligibility as well). Self-published books, whether they are published in print or as e-books, still do not qualify for MWA active membership. [Note: The italics added by me for clarity in this post, they are not italicized in the actual guidelines]
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.
We hope you’ll agree that we accomplished our goal.
There are a lot of tweaks to our existing rules, but here's the ground-breaking portion…the new section on Approved Publisher criteria for ebook publishers. If your ebook publisher meets these criteria, then your book qualifies you for Active Membership in MWA.
E-Book Publisher Guidelines:
Publishers interested in being on MWA's Approved E-Book Publishers List must fill out the affidavit and submit a sample contract. If all of the following criteria are met, contact the national office to begin the vetting process (the affidavit will be supplied if these requirements are met). The publisher must also meet all of the following criteria (the term "book" refers to all e-formats, "Publishing" refers to print, web, and other e-formats):
1. 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.
a) The publisher must have paid a minimum royalty of least 25% of net revenue to authors.
b) The royalties must have been paid at least quarterly, with a detailed statement, breaking out books sold through affiliate sites, through the publisher's own site, as well as print books if applicable.
c) Payment must be in monies, not in barter for advertising or copies or any other considerations.
d) Payment must be actual – not, for example, a donation of writing deemed worth a given amount.
e) Payment must have been made and not merely promised.
f) A contract alone is not payment. Proof of payment may be requested by the committee.
2. The publisher must have been in business for at least two years since publication of the first e-book by a person with no financial or ownership interest in the company.
3. The publisher, within the past five years, may not have charged a fee to consider, read, submit, or comment on manuscripts; nor may the publisher, or any of the executives or editors under its employ, have offered authors self-publishing services, literary representation, paid editorial services, or paid promotional services. If the publisher is affiliated with an entity that provides self-publishing, for-pay editorial services, or for-pay promotional services, the entities must be wholly separate and isolated from the publishing entity. They must not share employees, manuscripts, or authors or interact in any way. For example, the publishing entity must not refer authors to any of the for-pay entities nor give preferential treatment to manuscripts submitted that were edited, published, or promoted by the for-pay entity. To avoid misleading authors, mentions and/or advertisements for the for-pay entities shall not be included with information on manuscript submission to the publishing company. Advertising on the publisher's website for any for-pay editorial, self-publishing or promotional services, whether affiliated with the publisher or not, must include a disclaimer that it is advertising and that use of those services offered by an affiliate of the publisher will not affect consideration of manuscripts submitted for publication.
4. The publisher must publish at least five authors per year, other than those with a financial or ownership interest in the company, such as an owner, business partner, employee, or close relative of such person. Those persons should be listed on the application.
5. The publisher is not a "self-publishing" or "subsidy publishing" firm in which the author has paid all or part of the cost of publication, marketing, distribution of the work, or any other fees pursuant to an agreement between the author and publisher, cooperative publisher or book packager. Among (but not all of) the situations defined as "self-published or cooperatively published" are:
a. Those works for which the author has paid all or part of the cost of publication, marketing, distribution of the work, or any other fees pursuant to an agreement between the author and publisher, cooperative publisher, website owner or book packager;
b. e-books published by a privately-held publisher or in collaboration with a book packager wherein the author has a familial relationship with the publisher, editor, or any managerial employee, officer, director or owner of the publisher or book packager;
c. Those works published by companies, websites or imprints that do not publish other authors;
d. Those works published by a publisher or website or in collaboration with a book packager in which the author has a direct or indirect financial interest;
e. Those works published in an anthology in which the author is also an editor, except an anthology for which the author is a guest editor;
f. Those works published in an anthology or magazine wherein the author has a familial relationship with the editor or publisher
6. The publisher pays for editing, copyediting, design, cover art, production, advertising, marketing, distribution, web design, graphics, and all other aspects of publication. They do not require authors to pay for any of the above.
7. Books must be available through major online retailers, like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and the iBookstore, and not just through the publisher's website.
8. The publisher must not be engaged in the practice of wrongfully withholding or delaying the payment of acceptance fees to authors.
As the industry changes, you can expect the MWA's criteria regarding Approved Publishers will evolve as well.
In the meantime, now that the Board has passed these new rules, the issue moves to the Edgar committee (which I also serve on) to determine how these new criteria will impact Edgar Award eligibility, award categories, etc. for the 2013 Awards (for books published in 2012).