I haven’t written a post about writing organizations since 2013, and my view of them has changed a bit since then. So, I thought I’d write a new post about how to choose the best writing organizations at each point in your career.
Every writing organization has something it does well and focuses on, and it’s important to be in the right organization at the right time if you are utilizing organizations to boost your career.
Some organizations are great for brushing up on craft and networking. Some are wonderful professional resources. Others are mostly just badges of honor. That said, I’m not personally shelling out $100+ a year for a badge of honor. Not these days anyway. If I am paying an organization $100 + a year, I better be getting something out of it that will help me get what I need in my career.
Look for an organization that offers critique groups (if that’s something you want) and networking opportunities as well as programming that will help you hone your writing craft. Some of these groups may also offer programming that will teach you the basic ins and outs of the publishing business. The only reason to remain in organizations like this after you’ve gone from amateur to professional is to brush up on craft, use the organization to network and teach (pay it forward). Beyond that, they may not have much to offer the seasoned professional.
Pre-Published (as in under contract or getting ready to publish a first book) and Newly Published Authors (who have only had 1-2 books published)
Look for organizations that have opportunities for networking with other published authors as well as programming that teaches you the basics of marketing, the basics of the business of writing, and publishing in a quickly changing industry. They may also offer some programming to help you hone your craft. For seasoned pros, this type of organization is good for networking, refresher, keeping up with new marketing trends, and paying it forward.
Seasoned Published Author (people who have published more than two books but who don’t make a living doing it)
Look for organizations that have opportunities for networking with other published authors as well as programming that will help keep you up to date on new technology and new marketing tactics as the industry changes. For seasoned pros, this type of organization is good for networking and continuing education.
Professional Author (people whose primary income comes from writing books)
Look for organizations that can help you get what you need as someone who is making a living as an author. This may include legal advice, insurance advice or group policies you can get in on, lobbyists for legislation affecting professional authors, as well as professional level programming about the business of writing. There’s often the added benefit of networking with other authors who are also making a living as authors.
Things to consider as you choose:
–What do I currently need support for or help with and does the organization offer that?
–Does the organization support the genre I write in (or multiple genres)?
–Will the organization support me through one or several levels of my career?
As an author who writes both fiction and non-fiction, I decided to forego most of the “fiction-only” or genre specific organizations out there just because my work is so varied. So I belong to three organizations.
The first is an organization for writers at all stages (beginner to published) who are writing commercial fiction. I utilize this organization for networking and opportunities to pay it forward. It used to be my primary go-to organization, but now it’s not. It saw me through my aspiring and newly published phase, but became less valuable once I realized I needed more than what this organization could offer. The organization is Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers (Yes, old habits die hard, but I still have friends in the org and I still like teaching every now and again. Plus, the retreat is awesome and they’re local to me.)
The second organization I belong to is an international indie author organization that has members who write both fiction and non-fiction. I use this organization to keep up with industry and marketing trends. And to stay on top of new technologies, websites, etc. Also for networking. – Alliance of Independent Authors
Finally, I belong to a professional author network that works for professional authors in the US by keeping an eye on the US tax code as it affects professional authors, who lobbies for legislation benefitting authors (like Copyright codes etc…), who helps authors with contracts and other legal advice pertaining to writing (even if it is just a referral), offers liability insurance policies, discounts on services authors (as business owners) need, and has programming specifically geared toward professional authors. Like understanding copyright law, or retirement planning for authors, or literary estate planning, or tax code etc… They also take authors’ concerns to companies like Amazon and Barnes and Noble. They help authors negotiate for fair wages. Stuff you’d expect from a professional organization. Plus networking with other authors who write fiction and/or non-fiction as their primary source of income. The Author’s Guild
Yes, I skipped SFWA, RWA, HWA, and Novelists, Inc (as I easily qualify for all four) just because what they offer I can get in other spaces at the moment, plus two of my other orgs offer support for non-fiction authors as well as fiction, which is super helpful to me. Two birds, one stone and all that. Obviously the above orgs would be more useful to writers who mostly or exclusively wrote in one of those genres, or who only write fiction. At one time, qualifying for membership in any of the aforementioned orgs would have been very validating for me, but the fact that I’ve made my primary income as an author for 11 years now is really all the validation I need. I am still in the minority of authors who make the kind of money I make, and I am thankful every day for that.
That’s where I’m at with my thinking on writing organizations. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.