“I think it’s been bubbling under the surface for a few years,” John Degen, TWUC’s executive director, told CBC. “There are a lot of young writers who are sold on the idea of having that level of control over their careers, which has nothing to do with their success in traditional publishing. For older members, it’s a question of what they’re going to do next, how to maximize their options.”
The UK Society of Authors allows self-published members under a specific criteria: “those who have self-published or have had a work published on a print-on-demand/ebook only basis and have sold over 300 copies of a single title in print form or 500 copies in ebook form within a 12-month period.”
This will likely be a hot topic within the next several months with other guilds. The self-published world cannot be ignored any longer as works such as Fifty Shades of Grey have made best-sellers lists.
It’s also in the best interest of unions to allow self-published authors to become members, because unions don’t work without numbers. The strength of a union comes from its members. (I say this as someone who has been part of a union in the past).
I saw this type of situation develop with the Baseball Writers Association of America, which I was not a part of, despite the fact that the newspaper I worked for covered the Philadelphia Phillies. Eventually, the BBWAA allowed members from Yahoo! Sports and other digital entities into the union because as newspapers downsized, its numbers were fewer.
Author guilds should consider this scenario as well. Because as good authors decide to go the self-publishing route, unions are going to miss out on potential strong members.