Saturday, August 20, 2016

Quick Thoughts - My Road to SFWA Eligibility

So I think I am now officially SFWA qualifying. I haven't applied or anything yet but I'm 90% sure that I've now sold 10k of SFWA eligible fiction. So yeah, balloons and streamers and beer time! This is something…well, something that I've probably complained too much about because it feels like it's taken a long time, probably because I shouldn't compare myself to other writers. But I figured that maybe I would share a bit of my journey to this point as a writer, complete with stats. So…yeah!

05/21/2012 – My first fiction submission
This is where I mark the official "start" of my journey because, while it's slightly arbitrary, it's when I started submitting to pro SFF markets and that's something.

01/25/2013 – My first sale [24 submissions / 15 rejections]
$10!!! To a publication that shuttered just three months later. But that first taste of sweet, sweet sales.

01/22/2015 – My first Pro sale [360 submissions / 320 rejections] [3519 words toward SFWA]
"Spring Thaw" [7 rejections prior to pub] was my pro first sale and appeared at Nightmare in 2015 (so I'm still Campbell eligible in 2016 fwiw). I still really like this story and I still very much love Nightmare.

03/22/2015 – 2nd Pro sale [398 submissions / 361 rejections] [4791 words toward SFWA]
"Rubbing is Racing" [0 rejections prior to pub] was picked up by Lightspeed as part of their Queer's Destroy Science Fiction special issue. It was the first time I sold a story on my very first submission.

09/05/2015 – 3rd Pro Sale [496 submissions / 453 rejections] [5791 words toward SFWA]
"Pushpin and Pullpin" [0 rejections prior to pub] was picked up by Unlikely Story for Clowns 2.0: The Unlikely Coulrophobia Remix. I tend to have very good luck with shorter word-count open calls. This was my first pro sale that didn't appear for free online and I'm guessing few people have read this one. I think that under the old rules this is where I would have been eligible to join the SFWA.

02/03/2016 – Pro rate but not SFWA qualifying sale [546 submissions / 503 rejections] [5791 words toward SFWA]
"Medium" [8 rejections prior to pub] was taken by The Book Smugglers for their first Quarterly Almanac. It was a pro-rate sale but I was informed by the SFWA that it wouldn't count toward qualification. Another print only sale so again, not sure how many people have actually read this one.

04/24/2016 – 4th Pro sale [578 submissions / 533 rejections] [7141 words toward SFWA]
"Burning Day" [either 0 or 5 rejections prior to pub, depending how you look at it] was taken by Unlikely Story to appear in their Journal of Unlikely Observances. After the disappointment of my last sale not counting this one was a way to build up momentum again.

06/06/2016 – 5th Pro sale [586 submissions / 542 rejections] [9841 words toward SFWA]
"The Death of Paul Bunyan" (working title) [5 rejections prior to pub] sold to Lightspeed for a regular issue, which I am super excited about! But I think I almost cried when I saw I was 160 words away from qualifying. Seriously.

08/13/2016 – 6th Pro sale [599 submissions / 555 rejections] [12218 words toward SFWA]
"???" [5 rejections prior to sale] sold but hasn't been announced yet. But it has pushed me over the edge and I am firmly into SFWA Land. This also comes during something of a slump in submissions as I had been shit at writing for a while there. I'm hoping my submissions will get better soon, and I'll be able to sell even more!

And there you go. Obviously there's a bit to unpack in all that, as I have zero idea how typical I am as a SFF writer. It took roughly 2.5 years from my first submission to my first pro acceptance, and about 360 submissions. It took 4.25 years and just shy of 600 submissions for me to reach SFWA qualification. Now, in that time I did have a number of semi-pro sales, and continue to have those. I just wanted to look at Pro sales for purposes of SFWA qualification because that was the hurdle I just managed to clear. I'm not sure when I'll apply for membership, as I have to look into all of that, but I imagine that I will fairly soon.

I think when I started doing this back in 2012 I thought it would take like a year tops to reach SFWA. I had…no idea of how it worked. I was isolated and with only other writers who didn't know the process. Since then my metric of success has certainly changed. I did no great dance when I got my last sale. I mean, it's amazing and I'm very excited about it, because I am about every sale. But I definitely see how hard it will always be and how…conflicting being a writer of SFF is now. I've said this elsewhere but I still very much love SFF. As a reader I find so many great stories. As a writer…well, I try to do the best I can. I don't know what that means, most of the time. I'm tired and frayed and almost too afraid to hope for too much anymore. But I'm still here.

And I still have goals. Right now they are pretty simple, I think. I want to write some longer stories. My longest pro sale is under 4k and I'd like some longer, not just because it pays more but that, too. There's still a long list of dream publications that I need to keep submitting to. Maybe some time I can do a collaborative story. That would be weird. But yeah, for now at least I can check off "Qualify for the SFWA" from my list of things to do. On to the next thing. Thanks for reading!

All the best,

Charles Payseur


  1. Well deserved - that is an amazing number of submissions in just a few years! Congrats.

  2. Congratulations, Charles! And thanks for the inspiration. A woman in my writing group hit her thousandth rejection recently (give out candy for rejections) so they're definitely a badge of honor.