Monday, December 7, 2009

Why Do We Need Professional Organizations?

I was actually thinking about writing on something along these lines today and dang, if someone didn't beat me to it. Still, I think I want to take a slight twist on this discussion.

I was thinking recently about the role of professional organizations. I am frequently asked by writers, why should we join organizations? We're already starving artists, how can we come up with the extra money for membership, conferences, contests and the like?

My answer is simple. Find the cash.

Professional organizations, whether is it be the RWA, MWA, PNWA, SCWW, or so forth have a lot to offer the membership. This is where we share a commonality of writing and an interest in learning the craft. Membership gives us much more than something to put on a resume or cover letter. If we actively participate, we have a ton of resources sitting in front of us.

I took a leadership course a while ago and one of the elements we worked through was the concept of Knowing and Using the Resources of the Group. This is what the professional organizations have to offer. In essence, this group becomes a source of information and networking. More specifics?...

- We get journals full of information dealing with the latest trends, successes and failures.
- We get conferences where we can discuss the craft with professionals in the business including editors and agents that we would normally not be allowed to talk to.
- We get to learn from people who have already fought their way to the top in the hopes that we don't make the same mistakes.
- We get resources for critique and growth with our own writing.
- The list goes on and on...

Since the Harlequin issue came down with the RWA and MWA I have heard a ton of writers out there on Twitter and their blogs proclaiming "this is why I don't work with anyone and self-publish." I think, unfortunately, many authors that have run from these organizations may have done this for the wrong reasons. Why did they?
- I don't get to wear a pin that says...
- I don't get to vote...
- I don't get to sign my books at the conference...
- I don't like their decision to do...

What ever their reason might be is entirely their own. They are making that choice. But what I often want to ask them is: "What are you giving up?" Sure you may not be able to sign your books, but is this really worth losing the resources you have at your finger tips?

But what about the politics Scott?

My grandfather was a Methodist minister and he always said, it didn't matter which church he went to, there would always be politics. I agree. And with every organization, there will also be politics. But here is the twist. If you don't like what is being done, what are you personally doing to fix the problem?

At every RWA National conference, they have their annual general meeting. I always have to laugh at the members that frequently say, "Hey, this will be a great time to see the sights of the city. I don't want to sit in that boring meeting?" Again, this is one of those times when they are missing out on a benefit.

Again, this is just my thoughts. But keep thinking about what you do and why you do it in this business. Keep yourself on target for what is important.

And, check out this article though. Interesting perspective.

The Minefield of Publishing Politics: MWA and Harlequin and Fixing the Book Business » BSCreview


  1. Very interesting post. I have to agree a lot of these organizations are great to have a foot in with, but most of them have requirements as well, such as published sales based on their guidelines, so sometimes it's not something you can just pay to get in.

    I am in Dallas, not far from the DFW Group and would love to be a member. You get to sit in on a few meetings to see if it suits what you're looking for, which is awesome, I haven't done it yet due to work, but I hope time comes when I can go to see if this could help me with some nice benefits.

  2. This is a fine post, and one that speaks to a subject seldom mentioned.
    As for the prior post, finally, ! a coment on the awful fact that mahy of us who lived for books, have not actually read one for years. The same reasons, pulled apart by work and family demands. Movies improved greatly, the quality of books tanked. Poor paper,smudged tiny print, dismal quality paper that falls apart and is too tight to hold open in one hand. Being short on sleep, one quickly dozes off after a few pages.
    Enter very high quality CG effects and great fantasy plots.
    Return of the King, Narnia, Gladiator, and on and on, No need to concentrate or try to stay awake while squinting at tiny smudged print for an hour!
    The movie medium is perfect for the chronically tired and distracted population we seem to be now. I have not bought a book in years. I've watched thousands of movies happily in the same time. It's always my first choice OVER reading. A good movie is instantly engaging and never an effort to continue. Books are always an unwelcome effort, it seems.
    Oh man, and me an English Literature major who never doubted that my life would be entirely about writing.
    This is so pathetic. Am I the only one? The only solution I see is to become independently wealthy. And single. And without any family. Just pathetic.
    Oh yeah, life is certainly change. And not a welcome one.