Membership: Active Status

Active category membership is open to professional writers in the mystery/crime/suspense genre. A number of factors determine eligibility for this category. You may qualify for Active category membership if:

  1. You are a citizen or legal resident of the United States.
  2. Your work is published or produced in the United States.
  3. You have been paid for your work by a print, e-book, print-on-demand, periodical or e-zine/webzine publisher that is on the MWA list of approved publishers and currently meets all of the criteria for inclusion. Most major publishers and their imprints, as well as established independent and small presses, are on this list. If your publisher is not on the list, you do not qualify for membership (Screenwriting and playwriting applicants, you can skip ahead to item 10)
    1. If you are a writer of original hardcovers or paperbacks, you have been paid at least $1,000 in advances, royalties, or a combination of advances and royalties.
    2. If you are a writer of ebooks, you have been paid at least $500 in advances, royalties or a combination of advances and royalties.
    3. If you write short stories, your cumulative earnings are at least $200, with only payments of at least $25 counting toward the total. Scholarly articles or chapters of nonfiction books will be treated like short stories for purposes of Active Category qualification.
    4. Note: Payment must be in monies, not in barter for advertising or copies. Payment must be actual—not, for example, a donation of your writing deemed worth a given amount.  Payment must have been made and not merely promised. The promise of royalties will not qualify toward Active Category membership.  A contract alone is not payment. Proof of payment is required.

  4. Your work is professionally published or produced and is not self-published or cooperatively published. Among (but not all of) the situations defined as “self-published or cooperatively published” are:
    1. 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 or book packager;
    2. Works printed and bound by a company that does not sell or distribute the work to, or place it in, physical (aka “brick-and-mortar”) bookstores;
    3. Those works 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;
    4. Those works published by companies or imprints that do not publish other authors;
    5. Those works published by a publisher or in collaboration with a book packager in which the author has a direct or indirect financial interest;
    6. Those works published in an anthology or magazine in which the author is also an editor, except an anthology or magazine for which the author is a guest editor;
    7. Those works published in an anthology or magazine wherein the author has a familial relationship with the editor or publisher.
    8. Those works made available for sale and/or download by their authors in various e-formats on, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Scribd, iBookstore, and other e-retailers, blogs and websites.

    A reputable, professional publisher works with agents or other authors’ representatives; the publisher is listed in the Literary Marketplace or belongs to professional publishing associations; the publisher pays for editing, copyediting, design, cover art, production, advertising, marketing, distribution, and all other aspects of publication. They do not require authors to pay for any of the above.

  5. Your publisher must not be engaged in the practice of wrongfully withholding or delaying the payment of royalties to authors.
  6. The work submitted for qualification is not simply an article of journalism, a review, interview, or a compilation of another’s work without commentary. Reviews, interviews, reports, forensic science or legal studies, newspaper or magazine articles about crimes, articles about mystery-related events and the like do not qualify an individual for Active Category membership. However, non-fiction and scholarly works about the genre itself, whether presented as articles or as a chapter of a text; a book-length critical works; biographies; true crime novels; and books that are more than a compilation of another’s work qualify as creative writing and the writer or editor may be eligible for Active Membership.
  7. If your work is a contribution to a periodical, a hard copy must be provided. For an e-zine/webzine,a hard copy and proof of its online/electronic availability must also be provided, even if not currently available. A work must be available for a minimum of thirty days to be considered published. All rules of eligibility, including those regarding self-publishing and payment, apply to works published in electronic format.
  8. Your work is available to the public, or intended to be available to the public.
  9. Your application is approved by the Board of Mystery Writers of America.
  10. If you are a playwright or an author of screenplays or teleplays, you must have received a minimum payment commensurate with the standards and practices of the Writers’ Guild (film/TV) or Dramatists Guild (stage plays), and your work must have been produced.
  11. In the case of writers applying for active status membership on the basis of work published five years ago or longer, eligibility is based on our present criteria, not those in force at the time the work was published.

The requirements and standards for Active Category membership are under constant review by the MWA Board. Please ask for help from our headquarters if you have questions about the appropriate category for your membership.