The Writers’ Union of Canada has finally announced that it will be allowing self-published authors to become members. The Union has been under fire recently for its very public ban on self-published writers, deeming them ineligible and, in some cases, unprofessional.
However, on Monday the union announced that it will expand its membership criteria in order to accommodate self-published authors. This has been a long time coming and was last discussed at the TWUC Annual General Meeting last summer, with the executive director, John Degan, explaining to the press that there were strong voices on both sides of the argument.
Eventually an online referendum was held over the last three weeks, and the 1,900 authors that are represented by the Writers’ Union of Canada voted majorly in favour of the new rules. 18% voted against the changes and 3% abstained from voting all together, however the 79% majority meant that self-published Canadian writers now have the right to be represented by a union.
This development over the pond in Canada is surely pointing towards self-published writers becoming more accepted and acknowledged in the world of writing. However the United Kingdom is miles ahead of our neighbours, as the UK Society of Authors has been allowing self-published members for many more years. While this membership may be under a certain criteria: “those who have self-published or have had a work published on a print-on-demand or eBook 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.” It is surely more accepting of the modern changes in the publishing industry than Canada has been in recent years.
Perhaps one of the reasons for the change in opinion around the union is the growing numbers of self-published, and successful, writers. The strength of a union comes from its members, and without self-published authors those members might start to dwindle. Unions simply don’t work without numbers.
The self-published world simply cannot be ignored for any longer, and in my opinion this ignorance of self-publishing has gone on for far too long. From Beatrix Potter to Fifty Shades of Grey, authors who have gone the traditional route have no right to believe that self-published writers are not professional writers.
The chair of The Writers’ Union of Canada, Dorris Heffron, said that the union has made the decision to respond to a changing publishing landscape. “When TWUC started 40 years ago, self-publishing was called vanity publishing,” she said. “It was an entirely different thing, but now it is the choice of many respected professional writers.” Heffron continues to say that self-published books will have to go through a reviewing process to ensure that they have been professional edited and demonstrate “commercial intent” before the writer is allowed to become a union member.
Heffron went on to say that the term “professional writer” is evolving so rapidly that many agencies are struggling with it. “TWUC is leading the way in establishing what a professional book is by setting up these criteria that self-published authors have to meet in order to join.” Perhaps they are leading the way in Canada, but it seems that TWUC is only just catching up to the rest of the world.
What do you think about this development? Post your comments below.