Welcome authors, editors, and other publishing professionals to another Author Etiquette.
Beginning authors often concern themselves with putting their stories on the page, but as they grow and network, hopefully they begin to learn there’s more out there than just a bunch of writers struggling on their own.
Writer groups abound. You can find them online and even in your own home town. Some are simply loosely grouped people with the common goal of writing. But others are chapters of higher level organizations with rules, regulations and a hopeful roadmap that leads to the future.
Today, we are going to look at professional writer organizations, what they are and what they represent as well as how you can join them.
What is a Professional Writer Organization?
Professional Writer Organizations are groups that have clearly defined rules and regulations and are there to help authors of all types. They can be large or small and cater to a narrow band of authors or have a very general appeal. Many professional writer organization organize under the rules of not-for-profit status. This means that they have to follow a set of strict guidelines to keep their business license and follow certain guidelines.These guidelines provide the basic structure for organization, governance, and growth.
One of the most important guidelines of these organizations is to protect the interests of the profession (which would be writing), further the interests of those involved (authors) and connect with the public on behalf of the profession. This means that the goals of the organization is to promote conditions which is beneficial to authors, publishers, and to our readers.
They are often run by a governing body that can consist of boards and officers. While the governing body does make many decisions, they must still follow the rules and regulations, and the collective will of the membership. To become a member you must fill out an application and usually pay some sort of fee. Those fees then go into different services that help authors.
What does a Professional Writer Organization Do?
As said above, a Professional Writer Organization promotes conditions which is beneficial to authors, publishers and readers, but what does that mean?
Depending on the organization, a Professional Writer Organization can have many different responsibilities. Some promote a standard of pay for professional grade publications. Some provide educational opportunities. Still others provide guidelines for contracts. An organization can provide some or all of these and perhaps many more services to its members.
No matter the size of the organization they all provide a few basic things. First is a way for members to network. Being a member of a Professional Writer Organization opens up the opportunity to speak with other members, either through forums, emails, or face-to-face meetings at yearly events. This can allow authors to find mentors, get advice, and even coordinate on new projects. Networking usually helps increase exposure for your work. It can also open up opportunities that you might not otherwise have.
Another thing a Professional Writer Organization does is provide education. Education can be as simple as a column in the newsletter or it can be as complex as a week long seminar. The topics can range from publicity to contract negotiations. Organizations can even arrange online workshops for their members, or have specific speakers during conferences. Educational opportunities strengthen the membership and help promote better conditions for all authors, even if they are outside the organization.
And lastly, Professional Writer Organizations offer warnings about publishing gone wrong, and can help authors resolve issues. I’m sure that all of you have heard horror stories about authors who were trapped in contracts that were exploitive, or publishers who didn’t pay. These predatory practices harm all authors. Many Professional Writer Organizations have clear guidelines on the standards of qualifying markets. Those standards can include pay rates and other standards such as on time payment. If problems arise, then issues can be brought up for mediation, maybe saving both sides from lawsuits.
Oh, I almost forgot. What organizations would be complete without awards? Many Professional Writer Organizations organize and coordinate some sort of award. Some are limited to members, but others people outside the organization can win. Watch for information throughout the year as the award cycles don’t always correspond to a certain time frame such as the beginning of the year.
How can You Join a Professional Writer Organization?
Depending on the organization you want to join, it could be as simple as filling out an application and paying your fees, or as difficult as proving you earned $X in the previous year on your writing. Different organizations have different guidelines on who can join. And almost always, there’s a fee involved.
Many Professional Writer Organizations have different levels of membership. The full members (sometimes called Active Members) are usually those who have met all of the qualifying criteria. It could be a number of short story sales to professional publications or that you sold your novel to a qualifying market. Some limit full membership to only professional markets while others welcome self published and indie market sales.
Other levels include Affiliate and Industry members. These are often members who have a professional involvement with authors. Affiliate members include publishers, editors, illustrators, and publicists. Industry membership covers libraries, schools, and film organizations. Often these members have less privileges than full members.
Most organizations also welcome family members and have special rates for seniors. For those who have served the organization for a number of years, lifetime memberships are also granted.
Professional Writer Organizations are essential to the world of publishing. Without them, professional standards of publication would not be possible. They provide the structure for much of our current market and push for improvements. They allow members to network and provide warnings if necessary. They educate not only authors but the public as well on many matters that face authors and publishers. They welcome a variety of industry professionals into their membership so that a wide range of ideas can be found.
If you would like to know more about some of these organizations, please feel free to look at the links below.
And there’s many many more.