I have belonged to numerous writing organizations over the years. Many of them serve a good purpose. For example, RMFW, the state fiction writer’s association, was a great organization when I was first starting out. It still is, but it was more useful to me when I first started on my journey to become a professional novelist. The organization itself offered a lot of support, crit groups, and the opportunity to chat with other writers. Not to mention they have a wonderful conference every year. As I moved from unpublished to published novelist, the organization still had plenty to offer me in the way of promotion and the conference. Sadly, I kind of stopped utilizing that group once I moved into non-traditional forms of publishing and found another group for critiques (genre specific), and another for goal setting and motivation. After all, they wouldn’t allow me to advertise my self-published work in their mailers and in order to be included in book signings, most folks want big 5 authors, not small press or indie-pubbed folks.
I’ve also belonged to writers groups that were merely for critique and goal setting. Yes, I still participate in both, it’s just that I now belong to a private crit group for published writers instead of an open group for everyone.
Now, the main state organization I belong to is looking into creating a group specifically for independent authors. It will have requirements and guidelines just like the traditionally published group (within the group).
It got me thinking — what does a writer (an idie) really need from his/her writing organization?
For an indie like me, I get my critique from one group, motivation from another, and I do my own self promotion because promoting yourself to other writers is about as useful as promoting to friends and family. Sure – writers love books, but that’s a pretty narrow group of folks right there. If you only have fifty people in your organization, you’re only marketing your book to fifty people. Not to mention I don’t want to spend ALL my time self-promoting and promoting others. I have writing to do!
The bills don’t get paid if the writing isn’t done.
So I’ve been thinking about this and have decided this is what indie authors need more than ANYTHING from their indie author organization (feel free to correct me or add anything I missed):
- Marketing support. Sure, send out your book flyers to the group. Why not?
- Opportunities for speaking engagements and book signings. This is a big one because it’s a bitch to try and get a book signing when you’re an indie.
- Possibly group discounts on health insurance plans or tax services.
- Workshops geared specifically toward indies – how to do cover art and formatting. We can rid the world of awful, garish indie cover art and poorly formatted interiors one book at a time.
- Commiseration and solidarity with others who have chosen to travel the Indie path.
- Crit groups specifically geared toward indies perhaps? Of course a crit group is a crit group, pure and simple. Indie or not.
Beyond that I’m not sure.
Then I began to consider just what kind of requirements there would have to be to make it to where a professional Independent Author organization would be taken seriously by traditionally published authors as well as booksellers and even readers.
Most of the indie author orgs I’ve looked into merely give members a webpage on their site for book promotion. That, and then they spam Twitter with links on Amazon. Big whoop.
I have a website and my own twitter account.
Do you accept everyone who has independently published something? If so, don’t you run the risk of people rolling their eyes saying, “Well, anyone with an ebook on Amazon can belong to that.”
Or do you set up requirements, like the traditionally published orgs, to keep out the riff-raff in hopes you attract quality indies who elevate the professional image of the organization?
Do you require potential members to show you their tax returns to prove their indie published books have sold to more than just friends and family? Is there an income minimum? For example, do you have to make at least $1K a month in writing income to be considered?
Or would it be a book minimum? After all, let’s face it, anyone can write one book. Fewer can write two, and even fewer can write 3+. Do the books have to be over a certain length? Obviously if we’re talking novel-length fiction we’re talking 50K + in word length, unless they’re children’s novels, in which case the requirements would differ.
Do we discriminate on genre? For example, we allow romance, but draw the line at erotica? Or are we all inclusive and accept all fiction?
Or perhaps an author needs to have sold a certain number of copies of any one novel.
I guess the point is that somehow the bar has to be set. When we set that bar, are we really just becoming another clique to distinguish the haves from the have nots? Or are we simply being discerning for the sake of being taken seriously as professional novelists? After all, I make more than one of my dear friends who is a big five published author. I’ve certainly made it higher on the amazon charts than she has, twice in fact.
Am I any less professional, as in make a living doing something often engaged in by amateurs, than her?
I realize there are different needs for traditionally published authors as opposed to indie authors. One example might be that traditionally published folks may need more help or insight into navigating contracts whereas indies might need more information on dealing with and managing distribution outlets.
So I get that there are differences. After all, I am traditionally published, too.
I am very curious to see how this plays out. I volunteered to be on the committee to figure all of this out and it appears I’m now a part of this process. 🙂