I’m happy to welcome writer S.E. White to the blog today, who is taking a look at the value of writing associations. One of the best things about my job as a presenter is getting to work with the amazing organizers of different writing groups, and I see first hand how much good they can do for a writer needing some extra support. Please read on and see if an association might just be the tool you need for your writer’s toolbox!
Why Join a Writers’ Association?
Writing a book is hard. All of us on this website know it and have struggled with some aspect of our prose, pacing, or plotting. And once the work of writing, getting critiques, editing, and polishing is over, we find out that publishing is even harder.
As I encountered different obstacles on my path to becoming a published author, I started to feel the need for a support structure. I wanted help to turn my idea into a coherently structured story. Finding readers to look over my story and catch my mistakes was difficult (thanks for trying though, Mom!) and I had no idea how to get that finished work out in front of readers who would (hopefully) pay for it. Like raising a child, creating a career as an author takes a village…but where was I going to find my village? When I heard about writers’ associations I decided to join one in my genre and it has turned out to be a great decision for me.
A Writers’ Association is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping writers develop their writing, and then assist them as they work toward publication. Most have a fee to cover certain costs. Here are some of the most well known associations out there, and the cost to join:
Horror Writers Association (HWA): Active members $69 a year.
Mystery Writers of America (MWA): $115 per year.
Poets and Writers (PW): Free, although they do encourage a $35 donation.
Romance Writers of America (RWA): $124 a year.
Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, Inc. (SFWA): Associate members are $90$, Active members $100 a year.
Society of American Travel Writers (SATW): $100 new member fee, $155 a year after that.
Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI): $95 your first year, $80 renewal fee thereafter.
Western Writers of America (WWA): Active members $75 a year, Sustaining members $150.
Wait, come back! I see you backing away slowly gripping your wallet. I know the costs might seem high for some, but these associations don’t just take your money and leave you stranded. In return for your membership fee they offer you many different types of support, depending on what you need. A breakdown:
Networking and Connection
Joining gives you access to local and online chapters of your association. You’ll be able to find mentors, critique partners, and reach out to other writers for brainstorming, moral support, and general advice. In addition to chapter meetings, some groups write and publish anthologies together, host their own contests, and hold writing classes. Could you find a group to give you all of this on your own?
Access to Workshops and Conferences
Most associations have their own big conventions (the tickets cost money, to warn you) where you can make friends, listen to keynote talks by agents, publishers, editors and best-selling authors, participate in pitch contests, advertise your work, and just generally immerse yourself in a world of writing. It’s a little like the Oscars for your genre.
People who might be just a byline on a website become people you know. In some cases they can become a friend, and a source of help in your own journey. You can also pitch to agents and editors at conferences, and gain great insider advice.
In fact, when you ask writers what they love best about their memberships, most say the friends and connections they’ve made through their writers’ association events.
Up-to-date Industry Information
One of the best parts of an association is the access to shifting trends and news, the lists of vetted publishers and agents in your genre, and staying current on best practices for publishing. There are usually online classes (or in-person ones) not only on the nuts and bolts of writing, but often also on querying, self-publishing, and marketing. Many associations have a database of places to go for reviews, resources, or to find help with specific legal things like contracts and copyright law.
Each association offers its own mix of information and you’ll want to research what yours can give you before you join, but they will likely have information for you that you may not be able to hunt down alone. Remember, it takes a village to get that book published.
Marketing and Visibility Help
Most associations have a newsletter that allows for contributions or advertising if you are published. This can be a way to get your name and book cover in front of potential readers. Also, there’s usually a section on their website full of marketing links, like lists of book bloggers, information on ads and book discounting, and tips on how to get your work out there for people to read.
You could find this stuff out by searching it up online, but it would eat up a lot of time. One terrific aspect of a writers’ association is they stay on top of the ways to help their writers, and have their finger firmly on the pulse of the industry for you.
If you feel at this point in your writing career you might need a large community of fellow authors to support, inform, and advocate for you, joining a professional association is an investment that I consider worth it. If you have found your own village and are already well-invested in your career, you may not need to add an association. If you are on the fence, reach out to current members and ask them if they are getting the help they need. And for more information on major writer’s organizations, check out this link from Writers and Editors.com.
S.E. White is an author writing from Carson City, Nevada with a few finished manuscripts looking for a home. She is a regular contributor to the site Books Rock My World, poking some fun at the romance genre she writes in, as well as a guest poster for various other websites.
A full time mom by day and a reader/writer at night, her three kids, husband and cat keep her running. Follow along as her query letters are rejected and find encouragement for your own author journey at www.sewhitebooks.wordpress.com
Do you belong to a writers’ association (or several)? Do you find you get strong value from it? Let us know in the comments!