Wednesday, May 3, 2017
Should You Join A Professional Organization?
Jill Williamson is a chocolate loving, daydreaming, creator of kingdoms. She writes weird books in lots of weird genres like fantasy (Blood of Kings and Kinsman Chronicles), science fiction (Replication), and dystopian (The Safe Lands trilogy). Find Jill on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or on her author website. You can also try two of her fantasy novels for free here and here.
As you are navigating the publishing industry, you will likely hear about many professional writing organizations you could join. A professional writing organization is most often a nonprofit group seeking to help writers learn about the craft of writing or how to get published. There are a bunch of professional writing organizations out there. I have compiled a long list here on my website.
But how do you know when or if you should join one? And which one? How do you decide? How much does it cost? And ultimately, is it worth the investment?
Why should you join?
1. Networking and friendships.
When it comes time to pitch your book, nothing helps quite so much as having people you can talk to and ask questions of. Professional organizations are one of the best places to make such connections. These might be contacts that lead toward publication, or they might simply be new friendships. Both are important. I met my dearest writing friends through organizational conferences or gatherings. When you have writing friends in your life, you can help each other reach your writing goals. You'll also talk to each other. If I hear that a publisher is looking for a certain type of story, I'll tell any friends who might be a good fit. You can also meet more people by volunteering or becoming a leader in the organization.
Most professional organizations offer webinars, courses, and/or conferences to their members. This helps keep everyone learning and updated on the industry. While conferences are often a more expensive investment, many organizations offer some free classes to their members. Most organizations have email loops or forums where you can talk to other members and stay up-to-date on the industry.
3. Access to professionals and other resources.
Attending a conference or workshop put on by a professional organization can be a great way to meet industry professionals, like agents or editors. If you look at the organization’s website, you can usually see lists of conference staff from an upcoming conference or even a past one. This will give you a good idea whether or not that organization can help you meet the type of professionals you need to sell your book.
4. Contests and feedback.
Many professional organizations provide the opportunity for critiques from veteran writers or industry professionals. Many also hold contests from which entrants will receive feedback on their writing. These can be immensely valuable opportunities to learn and grow your writing craft.
5. Mentoring and moral support.
Being part of a professional organization can provide the opportunity for you to be mentored or mentor others. But the best part of joining a writing organization, in my opinion, is the moral support of being with others who are on the same journey. Writing for publication can be both isolating and discouraging. Having the opportunity to be around other writers who are struggling is not only a comfort, it helps you stay motivated and inspired to keep at it. You realize that you are a part of a community of writers who are all on a similar journey. You can help each other and learn from each other. It's pretty fabulous.
When should you join a professional organization?
This depends on the organization, the cost, and your situation. If you have the time and money, then I would recommend you join an organization and take advantage of as much as they have to offer. But if you are busy with school or work and have little time or money, I would recommend that you wait to join a professional organization until you have completed a manuscript and feel ready to try and sell it to a publisher. Then it will make sense to invest in trying to make the right connections so you can pitch the story to an agent or editor.
Which professional organization should you join?
Look for one that matches the genre or subgenre of what you write. If you write mysteries, you probably shouldn't invest in the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America. For those writing romance, nothing beats RWA. If you write for children or teens, I recommend SCBWI. Spend some time searching the internet to find groups that might be a good match. You can also look again at the list I've created here.
How much does it cost? And is it worth the investment?
That depends on the organization. There is usually an annual fee for membership dues. And dues usually increase in price every-so-often, too. Most organizations also offer an annual conference to members, and those will cost extra. You don't have to attend the conferences to be a member, but you might want to. Calculate the costs of the organization and see how they fit into your budget. If they don't fit right now, that's okay. You can always save up and join once you've raised the funds. And if money is tight, wait until you are ready to sell that first book before investing.
I would also caution you to beware of any organization that continually asks for more money than their annual membership fee. Charging for classes here and there is one thing, but if the organization is constantly emailing you sales pitches for classes, books, and certificates you can earn, the organization might not be in your best interest. Use caution. Investing in your career is important, but you shouldn't have to fork our money all the time. I pay annual dues for two organizations (once charges $45 a year, the other $65), and that's it. I will sometimes pay to attend their conferences if I have a book to pitch (and that can cost anywhere from $300 to $1200 depending on the tuition, hotel, and airfare costs), but if I have no business reason to go, I stay home. I will also say that one of my organizations has a local chapter that I'm a part of, and the local chapter charges dues ($15 a year). But that is all I pay for the organizations I'm a part of.
Another example of my experience, I joined Willamette Writers when I first moved to the Pacific Northwest. They are a fantastic organization. I think they charged $40 a year or $65 for a family. They offer lots of workshops and an amazing conference, but after one year of membership, I never found the time to go to any of their gatherings. I decided it wasn't worth my investment if I didn't have time to make the most of it, and I did not renew my membership the next year.
How about you? Are you a member of any professional writing organizations? What do you like about them? Dislike? Is there a particular group you would recommend to others? Share in the comments.