Active category membership is open to professional writers in the mystery/crime/suspense genre. A mystery is defined as one where a crime is the central focus of the work. 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 on this list, you must also meet one of the income thresholds below. If your publisher is not on the list, ask your publisher to see if they qualify and if they do, contact the national office. In the meantime, you may join as an affiliate.
A. 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.
B. If you are a writer of ebooks (not self published), you have been paid at least $1,000 in advances, royalties or a combination of advances and royalties.
C. 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.
D. 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.
4. You have been self-published and have earned a minimum of $2,000 from approved mystery works (novels, novellas, short stories, or suitable non-fiction titles, i.e., true crime, biographies of mystery authors, critical works about mysteries, their creators and characters, forensic works, or other nonfiction that is mystery or crime-related), either in print, electronically, or by way of an audio recording. Works offered through predatory publishing companies shall not qualify. A predatory publisher (also known as a subsidy publisher) is a company who assigns your book an ISBN number that subsequently belongs to them, i.e., they become the publisher of record which entitles them to receive an additional royalty whenever a book sells. They also set the book’s retail price. MWA has the sole right in determining whether a publisher is deemed predatory.
NOTE: At the present time, self-published works are not eligible for Edgar Award consideration. The decision of Edgar Award eligibility is the sole responsibility of the Edgar Awards Chair, and the guidelines will be made at the Chair’s discretion. Edgar Award rules and decisions are kept completely separate for ethical considerations.
5. This earning requirement is a one-time event for both traditionally and self -published authors, meaning there is no need to generate a specified income each year to maintain one’s level of membership. We accept copies of contracts, tax forms, IRS Form 1099, copies of canceled checks, and royalty statements. The first calendar year for which this new criteria will be accepted shall begin on January 1 of the year this measure is approved by the active status membership of the Mystery Writers of America. However, MWA will accept proof of earnings for any calendar year beginning with 2014.
6. 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.
7. Your publisher must not be engaged in the practice of wrongfully withholding or delaying the payment of royalties to authors.
8. 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.
9. 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.
10. Your work is available to the public, or intended to be available to the public
11. 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. (Note: This rule does not apply to self-published authors.)
12. Your application is approved by the Board of Mystery Writers of America.
13. 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 Status 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.