Should you consider joining a writer’s organization?
Much like running, writing has a tendency to be a lengthy independent exercise. The road can often get lonely and desolate, and it can certainly be reassuring to see some fellow runners, or in this case writers, alongside. Regardless of which publishing route you choose – traditional or self-published, there’s still a long journey of self-promotion that lies ahead.
As a self-published author, you’re essentially taking on a new profession, and if this is your first book, there can be a steep learning curve ahead. But, having an outlet to gain advice and support from other writers can help drive momentum and establish a solid foundation as a writer.
Many authors look to a writer’s organization as an opportunity to turn an independent effort into a team sport. Whether it be a national organization with smaller regional branches, a provincial organization, or a niche specific group, you may want to consider joining one as part of your marketing and promotion strategy.
Here are some of the advantages of becoming a member of a writer’s organization:
- Support from a community of writers – In any given writer’s group, you’re guaranteed to have the opportunity to connect and interact with other authors, many of whom will have unique insights to bring to the discussion based on their own publishing experiences. In essence, they’re a great forum to gain feedback from fellow members of your craft.
- Networking opportunities – Most writer’s organizations arrange events and other interactive opportunities for you to meet with professionals in the publishing industry. Whether they be editors, reviewers, booksellers or other high-profile authors, writer’s organizations offer good settings to increase your author network.
- “How-To” guides and instructional information – One of the greatest advantages of writer’s groups (particularly at a national level,) is the knowledge base they can provide, especially to newcomers. From contracts and legalities to marketing and promotion, writer’s organizations are a great preliminary source for best practices in publishing.
- Access to readings programs – Some writer’s organizations provide their members with the opportunities to participate in pre-established events and speaking engagements. These can include subsidies to invite writers to perform at a school or public reading, which can act as a great gateway to showcase your book to appropriate markets.
- Access to apply for awards – Many writer’s organizations offer awards to recognize contributions to the literary industry, but the committee’s considerations are often limited to members only. By joining one of these organizations, you’ll have the opportunity to submit your work for award consideration.
- Writer’s Coalition Benefits – Many writer’s organizations include eligibility to participate in the group health and dental benefits plan through the Writer’s Coalition. If your principal profession is writing, it may be worth your while to have access to benefits, which aren’t usually available at a group rate in this trade.
- Credibility – In the publishing realm, having a membership to a writer’s organization can enhance your status and clout as an author. As a self-published author in particular, this can be an extremely valuable confidence boost when you’re first starting out.
Without a doubt, these kinds of organizations can certainly increase your knowledge base as an author, not to mention your support network. However, there are some drawbacks to investing in a writer’s organization over other marketing efforts:
- Return on investment – Many writer’s organizations can cost upwards of $100 CAD annually. While that doesn’t seem unreasonable, it’s important to consider how much you’re really gaining for this investment; think about how often you’d use the services included in the membership fee, because it will vary from one organization to another.
- Lofty application process – Many of these organizations also have very strict and specific application processes for new members. While most now accept self-published authors, you will need to fill out an extensive application form and be able to provide proof of your eligibility as an author.
- Educational / Professional Development Focus – Most organizations, especially at a national level, focus their efforts on educating and advocating on behalf of authors. Therefore, much of what you’re paying for as a member is informative content to support and help you improve in your publishing endeavours. There are some opportunities to showcase your work (i.e. on directory pages,) but these forums aren’t usually where your target market will be looking for new reading material.
As an author, it’s worth your while to explore some of the prominent writer’s groups out there to assess whether membership could be a valuable investment for you. Here are some popular North American writer’s organizations to check out:
- The Writer’s Union of Canada: Founded in 1973, the Writer’s Union of Canada is recognized as the national organization of professionally published book authors. Boasting more than 2,000 members, the Union works with governments, publishers, booksellers and readers to advocate and support Canadian authors. For more of membership benefits, visit: https://www.writersunion.ca/why-join
- Canadian Authors: This national association provides writers with resources, programs and services to enhance their craft and their ability to earn a living as a writer. Their services and programs include webinars, conferences and an annual writer’s summit. Learn more about joining the Canadian Authors network here: https://canadianauthors.org/national/membership-benefits/
- Canadian Children’s Book Centre: This national organization is specific to supporting books for young readers. Becoming a member as an author can provide access to awards and programs, and a subscription to their quarterly magazine Canadian Children’s Book News. For more on membership details, visit: http://bookcentre.ca/support-us/membership/.
- League of Canadian Poets: Specific to Canadian poetry, this national organization is devoted to developing the art of poetry. Membership can include cross-country networking and funding opportunities. For more visit: http://poets.ca/membership/.
- Federation of BC Writers: With nearly 700 members, this provincial organization offers programs and events, publication venues, news, profile pages for members, promotional opportunities, and a network of dedicated colleagues for authors to connect with. To read more about the benefits of joining this community of writers, visit: https://www.bcwriters.ca/members-benefits/.
- Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America: This international niche-specific organization offers sci-fi and fantasy authors support, promotional opportunities, information and advocacy to improve conditions for writers. For more visit: http://www.sfwa.org/about/join-us/why-join-sfwa/.
- Crime Writers of Canada: Also referred to as CWC, this non-profit organization is devoted to promote Canadian crime writers to readers, reviewers, librarians, booksellers and media. For more on the benefits of membership, visit: http://www.crimewriterscanada.com/aboutus/joinus/memberbenefits.
- Romance Writers of America: Characterized as ‘The Voice of Romance Writers,’ this international organization has many local and online chapters dedicated to support, advocate and allow romance writers to connect with one another. For more, visit: https://www.rwa.org/p/cm/ld/fid=522.
If you’re looking for a supportive information hub, a writer’s organization might be the right fit for you. These kinds of organizations can be especially helpful in gaining a better grasp on your craft or your genre in particular. That said, writer’s organizations aren’t necessarily a direct way for you to connect and engage with your target audience. Ultimately, it’s important to find the organization that suits your needs best – whether it be based on your genre, or your region – if you plan to invest in a membership.
Find more Federal and Provincial Organizations to consider here: https://canadianauthors.org/national/writers-organizations/
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