Don’t Wait: Associate!

By Amy Brozio-Andrews

Most writers have probably thought about joining a writers’ association at one time or another. Hesitant about what you’d actually get out of it in return for your hard-earned money, you’ve probably put it off more than once. Numerous organizations have been created to serve writers of every genre, and while most offer the usual perks (newsletters, directories, member-only web sites), the practical benefits some offer could change your life. (Health insurance, anyone?)

Almost all writers’ associations have annual conferences. Workshops, lectures and networking opportunities abound at these gatherings. In addition to these national events, most organizations have local or regional chapters that sponsor smaller workshops and networking opportunities. Writer’s associations also offer many members-only benefits, including: freelance job listings, exclusive web pages featuring advice and articles related to the craft of writing, web hosting, member directories, newsletters, listings of agents and publishers, critique services, mentoring programs, and email chats. These member-only benefits can more than justify the cost of yearly membership. According to Bob Finn, cybrarian at the National Association of Science Writers, the most important benefits to be gained by joining a professional organization are fellowship and networking with other writers, the discussion of professional issues, and the job board.

Some writers’ associations offer additional professional services in addition to the usual newsletters and workshops. For example, members of the National Association of Science Writers are eligible to participate in their group health/dental insurance, and prepaid legal assistance programs. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, Inc. offers its members a grievance committee and contract alerts to warn writers of unscrupulous publishers. The National Writers Union offers a host of free publications for freelancers to assist them in negotiating the legal and technical waters of freelance writing. The NWU also offers grievance assistance and contract advice.

In deciding which writers’ association to join, it’s most important to consider the focus of the organization. Are you looking for a non-judgmental environment in which to explore creative writing? Do you publish non-fiction articles and need more nuts and bolts advice about contracts and libel? For example, the International Women’s Writing Guild has a more holistic approach to the craft of writing. The website makes it clear that this is a place women can come to feel empowered and craft their writing in a supportive environment. The National Writers Union, on the other hand, take a more practical, professional approach toward its members, focusing on contracts, grievances, legal advice and professional development for writers. Depending on your writing style, your audience and your writing experience, the general benefits like newsletters and networking may not be as important as the association’s “culture” and professional development opportunities.

Most writers’ associations have been created to serve all writers of a particular genre, field or gender. While the advantage of joining a genre-oriented writers’ association may be clear, it’s important to highlight the potential benefits women may gain from joining a women’s writing organization. Sheri L. McConnell, founder of the National Association of Women Writers, believes it’s important for women writers to work together. “By joining an organization where the individuals share the same struggles, they are more likely to be inspired. If other women can attain their dream, then they will feel like they can also,” she says. “Since these women share the same struggles, dreams and pressures, I think their support is genuine and it is really helping a lot of women feel like they can become better writers and published writers.”

While the general benefits among most writers’ associations are comparable, it pays to “shop around,” as some organizations offer significant benefits above and beyond networking and job listings. Brief descriptions of several of the most popular writer’s associations are included below, including yearly dues information. However if, you don’t find what you’re looking for here, try checking with an Internet search engine, or talk to your local librarian.

Horror Writers Association

  • This worldwide organization was founded in 1980, and includes writers and publishers. Benefits include: bimonthly newsletter, e-mail bulletins, lists of agents, bookstores and reviewers, members-only website, members-only networking opportunities online, marketing assistance, and mentoring.
  • Individual membership: $55 (North America)/$65 (International)
  • Affiliate members must prove an interest in horror, the occult and dark fantasy; Active members must satisfy publishing prerequisites, and receive voting rights for the Bram Stoker award. The HWA Website has more information.

Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, Inc.

  • According to its website, the SFWA is the only writers’ group to demand and conduct audits of publishers. The work of this association has brought about changes in contract language for its members.
  • Benefits include: quarterly bulletin, members-only directory, handbook, model contracts, grievance committee, legal assistance, writer’s resources, ergonomic advice, contract alerts, reading lists, and an author’s Bill of Rights.
  • Individual membership: $50
  • Both Active and Associate memberships have publishing prerequisites for membership. Junior memberships (under 21) are available. New memberships also have a $10 installation fee. See the SFWA Website for more information.

Romance Writers of America

  • Founded in 1980, this writer’s association boasts 8400 members and provides a wealth of information for romance writers, including sub-genre information, statistics about romance novels and the romance industry.
  • Benefits include: marketing assistance, book signing information, conferences and workshops, advice on contracts and royalties, monthly journal, networking opportunities, and local chapter meetings.
  • Individual memberships: $100 (1st year only, then $75)
  • General membership for those published in the romance genre, associate memberships available for those unpublished, or published in another genre. The RWA Website has more information.

National Association of Women Writers

  • A writers’ organization exclusively for women, the NAWW has no publishing prerequisites because as founder Sheri L. McConnell says, “I wanted NAWW to be an association that provides a forum WHERE WOMEN can UNITE TO WRITE– where they could encourage, teach, motivate, and inspire each other. To restrict those individuals who have not yet reached certain achievements seemed to defeat the purpose of NAWW.”
  • Benefits include: member portfolio available online, lists of agents, critique services, quarterly writers guide, eligible for participation in the members’ publication page, online writers’ resources, publisher information, and regional meetings.
  • Individual membership: $40 (if paid by check), $45 (if paid by credit card)
  • There are no publishing prerequisites for membership. Their Website is here.

National Association of Science Writers

  • Founded in 1934, this organization advocates the free flow of science news. Members include freelancers and science writers from most major media outlets.
  • Benefits include: a “Just for Freelances” section on the web site, quarterly publication, job opportunities, directories, email aliases, personal web space, eligibility for group medical insurance, prepaid legal assistance, annual conferences and mentoring.
  • Individual membership: $60 ($15 student)/$65 (Canada). See their Website.

American Screenwriters Association

  • A non-profit organization, the ASA works to support the advancement of screenwriters around the world.
  • Benefits include: competitions, monthly networking meetings, newsletters, advice for novices, selling tips, and low cost critique services. Online areas reserved to members include how to pitch scripts, consultants, and job listings.
  • Individual membership: $40/$50 (Canada)
  • There are no publishing prerequisites indicated for membership. See their Website.

International Women’s Writing Guild

  • This international women’s writing association provides an supportive environment for women to feel empowered and explore the process and craft of writing.
  • Benefits include: bimonthly newsletter, local/regional meetings and workshops, lists of literary agents, publishers and writers’ resources, group health insurance, and mentoring opportunities.
  • Individual membership: $45 (US and International)
  • There are no publishing prerequisites indicated for membership. See the Website.

National Writers Union

  • This union of freelance writers boasts 6500 members and can provide significant practical assistance to those working with American publishers.
  • Benefits include: professional development seminars, grievance assistance, legal assistance, eligibility for group health insurance, libel insurance, press passes, quarterly magazines and free writer’s resources.
  • Individual membership: sliding scale based on income—see Website for details.
  • Publishing prerequisites do apply; however, members will be accepted if they have written an equal amount of unpublished material and are actively seeking publication. See their Website for further details.

American Society of Journalists and Authors

  • Founded in 1948, the ASJA focuses on professional support for freelance non-fiction writers.
  • Benefits include: newsletter, industry reports and information, access to jobs through ASJA’s referral services, online resources, members-only networking opportunities, and professional development activities.
  • Individual membership: $195 (plus $25 application fee)
  • Publishing prerequisites do apply; see Website for details.

Canadian Authors Association

  • Devoted exclusively to Canadian authors, this group promotes Canadian writing and has regional as well as national activities.
  • Benefits include: networking, mentoring, conferences, newsletters, industry information, grievances and contract assistance, and personal web space.
  • Individual membership: $125
  • Published and unpublished writers are welcome to join. See Website for details.

Amy Brozio-Andrews is a freelance writer and book reviewer. She brings more than five years’ experience as a readers’ advisory librarian to her work, which is regularly published by Library Journal, The Imperfect Parent, and Absolute Write. Her reviews have also been published by The Absinthe Literary Review, ForeWord Magazine, January Magazine, and Melt Magazine. Visit her Website amyba.com.