Should You Join an Association for Writers?

mermaid-4340834_640 pixabay.comIf you’ve been writing for any length of time, you’ve likely seen enticements to join a writers’ association. But if you’re new to the game, or skeptical of groups that want you to pay to join, you may not have given much thought to them. Today, I thought we’d take a look at what associations do and how you can evaluate whether to join.

The basics of membership organizations. Associations and other membership organizations tend to provide information, education, and services around a topic. They exist for most fields – from mermaid swimmers to fundraisers. In the writing spaces, they tend to exist for genres ( Romance Writers of America, Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators), regions (Maryland Writers Association, Pacific Northwest Writers Association), or sometimes both (Virginia Romance Writers Association). Writing associations generally offer members resources to help with writing. They often have a magazine or electronic publication they send to members, offering tips and advice. Sometimes magazines publish member works. Most associations offer member discounts for their events. Some offer contests and even discounts on affiliated partner services. In full disclosure, I am currently a member of three associations (two I picked, and the third was provided as part of my employment). It took me a few years of watching in the wings before I joined the two associations I chose, because initially, their offerings didn’t quite align with my needs. And that brings us to the first thing to evaluate.

Your needs vs. their offerings. Joining an association is only good if it meets your needs. Otherwise, it’s just a waste of money, no matter what the sum is. So, when deciding if you want to join an association, think about your needs. Where are you as a writer? Do you want a lot of classes on craft? Do you want camaraderie with other writers? Do you need continuing education? What is it that you want? Then look at what the association is offering. What does it tout as the benefits of membership? What are the things it thinks members are getting the most value out of? If their offerings meet your needs, you might want to join. Most associations are open to anyone who pays the fee, but some associations have membership requirements (SFWA, for example has minimum sales requirements).writing association members-42919_1280 (003) from pixabay

Value. This is an important one. Because no matter what it is that they’re offering, if you think the price is too high for the value, you’re not going to buy it. When I joined the Maryland Writers Association, it was because my friend Jim was already a member. He told me that only members could enter their best novel contest (at that time). It was something I was interested in, and at the time the membership the fee was only $35 annually, so it was a reasonable value for the price. I also joined ACES: The American Copy Editing Society recently because my day job requires me to do a decent amount of editing, and I wanted to stay current on tips, techniques, and education. For me, the value was in the free monthly webinars for members (ones they charge $30 a pop for nonmembers to attend).

Changing needs. The good thing about memberships is they tend to be annual commitments, so they roll over each year, and you have to renew. This is good because if a membership stops meeting your needs, you can move on. I joined MWA solely for the contest that year, with no intention of renewing. However, after I joined, I found I really liked the topics of the monthly meetings. MWA members can attend any meeting in the state, and we’re a small state, so there are four meetings within a 30-minute drive of my house. I’ve attended some really interesting meetings, including one where a police detective who explained the pitfalls crime writers make and one where a forensic pathologist shared some ways to get rid of a body. While my needs changed, I still found something of value. However, if I hadn’t, I could easily move on.

Fun. As memberships tend to be short commitments, take your membership term to explore the resources the association has to offer. Not every resource will be one you’re looking for, but as you start to receive the association’s communications, you’ll really see what things are available. Enjoy what they have, take in what you want, meet fellow members, and have fun. Even if you leave the association, those people you’ve met will be valuable resources in your writing journey.

So, have you joined any associations and what do you like best?

Author: RJ Crayton

RJ Crayton is a former journalist turned novelist. By day, she writes thrillers with a touch of romance. By night, she practices the art of ninja mom. To learn more about her or her books, visit her website or her Author Central page.

26 thoughts on “Should You Join an Association for Writers?”

  1. I’ve found that the Women’s Fiction Writer’s Association has been a good source of community, craft, market information, contests, and so forth. It’s fairly inclusive in terms of self-publishers, too, though individual tastes certainly vary in that regard. Someday I’d like to try NINC (Novelists, Inc., I think), but there’s a minimum sales and/or trade deal requirement on that one — it’s not for newbies or aspiring writers.

  2. This is something many of us give little thought to. I did join an association a few years back but dropped out when I realized the return didn’t warrant the investment – re. both time and money. That said, I do think there may be good value if the association fits the kind of writing you do and is active.

    1. Yvonne,

      It’s no fun when you join an association that doesn’t fit your needs. Associations struggle with providing value to members, and it can be even more challenging as the membership changes, and new members want x and old members want y. That’s why it’s nice to be able to move on if it’s not working. And why it’s wonderful to find a gem.

  3. I am a British Columbian author and joined the FBCW (Federation of BC Writers) a half dozen years ago. We currently have over 800 members. I am not an overly active member as I live on small island and prefer not to travel all that much. Nevertheless, I have attended two AGM’s and the workshops offered. I was asked to add a one-liner to the Federations brochure over a year ago. I sent this: “I find it incredibly comforting to belong to a cavalcade of BC Writers, each of us creating our art, wrangling words, shaping and sharing our imaginings.”
    I’ve had an article published in the organizations excellent publication, WordWorks and regularly enter FBCW writing contests.
    There are certainly other writers organizations I could belong to. This one works for me.
    I should note that on my little Island we have an active writers group that meets monthly and also an annual writers and readers festival, the Denman Island Readers and Writers Festival that is incredibly supportive of local writers who annually present their work as part of the proceedings.

    1. Wow, Bill! Sounds like you found a group that really works for you. I’m so glad. I think it’s wonderful when organizations are able to provide that mix of camaraderie, education, and productivity that makes members happy.

  4. I’ve been considering joining Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association and Novelists Inc., but I haven’t pulled the trigger on either.

    I’ve heard only good things about the NINC convention in Florida every year, so that’s a big enticement to joining.

    1. Shawn,

      I hope you take the plunge in one of the groups. See if it’s a good fit for you (at least for a year). You’re the second person to mention the NINC convention, so maybe that’s something I should check out.

  5. I joined a Facebook-based group, NZ Indie Authors, in early 2015.

    I’d never heard of them until another member of a Kiwi journalists’ group mentioned them to me.

    I joined, and it was like walking into a group of people you felt you’d known all your life.

    Here were people doing what I was wanting to do – saying ‘bugger you’ to a rather smug and self-important and self-congratulatory publishing and literary establishment that looked down their noses at people who were not like them.

    They’re welcoming and inclusive. Advice asked for is readily and often generously replied to, whether it’s ‘what do you think of this cover?’ to matters of grammar and word-use to navigating the CreateSpace / KDP landscape.

    And it’s quite ‘Kiwi’. We’re paddling the same waka (wakka – canoe). We back each other.

    – Paul Corrigan

  6. I belong to, and am active in two writers clubs in Los
    Angeles. I belonged to two others in the past but dropped them when they didn’t fit my needs. I’ve found my present clubs to be excellent sources of inspiration and friendship and I’ve been on conference and club panels and done solo presentations—all great experiences. I also joined several Facebook writing groups. Everything helps keeps my hand in the business of writing. We are a tribe!

      1. Thanks so much for your and all the great info you’ve shared over the years. Sorry I just read this today.
        I love IU!

  7. I’m an MWA member, too. I participated in their novel contest the first year I joined, and I’ve attended three meetings over three years, at one of which I was the guest speaker and earned an honorarium, so I can’t say I’ve wasted too much money in the process. Unfortunately my personal circumstances prevent me from participating very often, but if I plan to stay in it for now. I expect it will repay me at least in small ways from time to time.

    1. Dale,

      Sounds like you and I joined for similar reasons. I’ve found the monthly meeting speakers to be very good, in terms of the overall state. Every other month, I can find something I’m interested in attending at one of the meetings. I was really pleased with their Donald Maass session earlier this month, too, so MWA has worked for me.

      I think the key to any association is it meeting your needs.

  8. This is a great post! You addressed all the aspects of joining a writer’s organization and why you should or shouldn’t. I am a member of the Texas Association of Authors, The Authors Marketing Guild, The Writer’s League of Texas and the RAVE REVIEWS BOOK CLUB. Each organization offers something different, but the one I get the most bang for my buck with is the RAVE REVIEWS BOOK CLUB. As every writer knows, getting reviews is difficult and when I joined this organization I only had an average of six review for my books. Now they are approaching the 50 mark! Thanks for sharing this post!

  9. I’ve never joined any writers’ group, but I’m considering PEN America, which just opened a Dallas / Fort Worth chapter. That the group is dedicated strongly to free speech, freedom of the press and human rights makes it much more attractive.

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