Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Writing Organizations: Should I?

I recently had a talk with an author friend who was saddened that a writing organization she has belonged to for many years has changed its acceptance guidelines and now doesn't regard her as an active member because her print runs are too small.

My advice to her was two simple words:

Fuck 'em.

Personally, I've never been a proponent of writing organizations. And at the risk of alienating myself from my peers, I'm going to list some reasons why I think you don't need them.

First, let me say that I've belonged to just about all the major genre organizations at one point or another. And they aren't entirely without benefit.

Awards.

You can be allowed to nominate books for awards, and in some cases vote for them.

Promotion.

Your books are mentioned in their promotional material, in print or online.

Meetings.

You get invited to meetings, which allow you to mingle with peers, and banquets, which allow you to mingle with peers while wearing nice clothing. Often these meeting have interesting speakers, and sometimes (more importantly) liquor.

Publications.

You have chances to appear in organization-sponsored anthologies.

Conferences.

You're allowed to participate in conferences and conventions that the organizations sponsor.

Good Will.

The organization often claims to help raise awareness of the genre you're writing in, and may contribute to worthy causes.

Now, readers of this blog already know my feelings about awards. To reiterate: They ain't important. Not a single one.

Sure, they make the writer feel good. And they can get your publisher excited. They might even result in extra sales and interest in your books.

But I have a hypothesis, which I won't confirm because it will take too much time to do so and I'm a lazy bastard. If you take all the bestselling books of 2007, and compare them to all the award-winning books of 2007, there won't be a lot of overlap.

Someone prove me wrong, and then effectively argue that the awards fueled the bestsellerdom.

Besides, this point may be moot, because in the case of many awards, you don't have to be a member of the organization that offers it in order to be nominated.

As for promo material, I think this has a certain amount of worth. Having your latest release mentioned in a widely circulated newsletter certainly can't hurt. Sure, you'll probably be buried among the dozens, or hundreds, of other releases also mentioned in that newsletter. But every little bit helps.

Whether this little bit justifies the steep (and still escalating) yearly costs of being part of a writing organization remains to be seen.

Being invited to meetings, or parties, is a great way to meet peers. Especially if you're a newbie. But you don't need to be a member of anything to meet peers. You only need to attend book fairs, conventions, and conferences, and you'll meet plenty of peers. Along with fans and booksellers, who are more important to your career than your peers are.

You get invited to submit to anthologies. Okay, this is a biggie. A real biggie. But I've been a member of many organizations, and have only been in one antho because of my membership. I've been in around twenty other anthos, no membership necessary. There are plenty of collections that don't require membership.

Many organizations host conventions. I think this is great. While attending conventions holds limited appeal after you've already done several, it's still the best way to introduce yourself and your work to the public, and a great place to shoot the shit with your peers. But even if you belong to the organization holding the event, you still have to pay to get into the event. And guess what? You can go to the event even if you aren't a member of the organization. So where's the real benefit?

As for raising awareness about the genre, I've had the unique opportunity to meet a few thousand booksellers. Some of them know about awards and writing organizations. Most of them don't. Ditto the fans.

The diehard fans who attend conferences do know about the awards, and a few of them care about them deeply. But I'll conservatively estimate the number of mystery, thriller, and horror fans who attend conventions to be less than 10,000 people total.

If your book only sells 10,000 copies, you won't be in this business very long. And chances are high you're not even going to sell to 1/100 of those folks.

The majority of the book buyers don't know, or care, what organization you belong to, because these organizations aren't raising the awareness of the average book buyer. They're preaching to the choir.

If I've missed any benefits to joining an organization, I'd love to hear them and be proven wrong. But now that we've gone through what I see are the positives let's talk about some negatives.

Volunteering.

Boy, can you get screwed volunteering.

The time you spend judging award submissions, organizing a conference, or sitting on a board, can be substantial---taking away from time where you could be writing or promoting. It's also exhaustive, stressful, and never appreciated. No good deed goes unpunished, and devoting your free time to helping an organization that you joined because you wanted it to help you is one of Dante's inner circles of hell.

Lack of Representation.

By a show of hands, how many of you have ever joined an organization and gotten EXACTLY NOTHING for your dues? Where did your money go? How did being a member benefit you? What exactly did the organization do for you that you couldn't have done for yourself?

Professionalitis.

This is when, because you consider yourself a professional writer, you must cloak yourself in the trappings of professionalism, one of which is joining an organization that reinforces the fact that you're a professional.

Bullshit. A union is one thing. But as far as I'm concerned, the only single criteria needed to prove you're a writing professional is if you've gotten paid for your writing.

Groups, clubs, cliques, and gatherings of like-minded folks are part of human nature. As is excluding other folks. Us and them is genetic. We all want to be us rather than them.

But here's a better idea. Be you. Because it's your books, your career, and if your feelings about either are dictated by the approval of your peers, you need to seek some therapy. Which brings us to:

Peer Pressure.

I've had some writing organizations give me the hard sell. A really hard sell, that becomes embarrassing and uncomfortable. Talking candidly with many of my peers, they continue to renew their memberships because they feel pressured into it, are worried about being though less of, and figure a few hundred bucks a year is worth not having to deal with the hassle of actually standing up and saying, "Wait a second, you're not doing shit for me."

Of course, if you do say that, don't be surprised if that organization offers you a volunteer position so you can help to change the very thing you're complaining about.

Conclusion.

If this blog post angered you, it's probably because you're a member of an organization that you feel has helped you. That's awesome. I'd love to hear from you.

Just don't be shocked if I reply and explain how you could have gotten the same benefits on your own.

I've done a lot of self-promotion, to varying degrees of success. In JA's World, joining a writing organization shouldn't be at the top of any writer's Must Do List.

Maybe it can't hurt. Maybe it can even help. But I think that rising dues, increasingly exclusionary practices, and very little return on investment for the average member has taken what was once a good idea: helping like-minded people succeed in a hard business, and turned it into organizations that exist solely to be self-sustaining rather than beneficial.

Of course, I'm also an opinionated jerk.

The Alternative.

Naturally, I have an idea for a writing organization I'd like to see. Let's call it WWJAD. Here are the rules, and what the organization does for you.

1. You must have written and published a book. If you have, you can join.

2. Your $100 a year dues invites you to attend WWJAD Con. You do not have to pay extra admission to get in. And at the con, you get 15 minutes of time to speak to everyone in attendance. No competition. There's one mike in the convention room, and that's the only program going.

3. WWJAD Con has a printed program book, which contains your bio, and a page about your work that you write. Could be an ad. Could be an excerpt. But it is only a page.

4. WWJAD Con is a three day event held at a cheap hotel. Admission is free to all attendees, but, like a carnival, they can buy tickets for $1 each. This fee goes toward paying for the hotel space, program book, and the poor bastards who are helping to run the con. No volunteers. If you work the front door, you get paid for your time.

5. During WWJAD Con, all authors have table space for their books. They give their book, for free, to anyone who gives them a ticket. How long you spend at the table depends on how many books you have to give away. Can this be expensive? Sure. But the best advertisement for your writing is your writing.

6. The WWJAD Award will be given at the end of the conference. Whoever has the most tickets wins the prize. Just like Chuck E. Cheese. Awards are popularity contests anyway, so why not be honest about it?

What's the Point?

The purpose of belonging to WWJAD is to give you an opportunity to mingle with peers, speak in front of an interested crowd, meet fans, possibly win an award, appear in a program, and give away as many copies of your books as you can afford to.

In other words, most of the pluses and none of the minuses of every other writing organization.

Dues, and $1 ticket sales, go toward running and advertising the event, and maintaining the WWJAD website.

Oh, and if you miss the event, your dues get refunded. And depending on the number of members, this could be held in different areas at different times of the year, to minimize travel costs and maximize fan attendance.

I'd join. Would you?

35 comments:

chocolab said...

Hello. You've already got me hooked on the Jack Daniels books, and if I could read print, I'd ask for an advanced copy. I'll have to wait till my local library has them in stock. Thanks for designing a great website for the visually impaired, and also knowing we hate CAPTCHA! lol.

David de Beer said...

Boy, can you get screwed volunteering.

Dude, this would have been a more helpful tidbit a couple months ago..

thing is, sometimes stuff does need to get done and, well, somebody has to do it. Sadly, it appears to be always the same people.

Erica Orloff said...

I've never joined any writing organization mostly because I observe some of them from an outsider staus and every single year, every time there's a conference, there is always some hellacious dust-up, flame wars, and nasty B.S. flying back and forth between "factions." I've yet to see (doesn't mean they don't exist) one go off without some "controversy" that every writer/blogger has to have an opinion about and toss in their two cents and pontificate on, whether it's the idiotic "controversy" last year about two authors dressing in funky outfits (that one was about the dumbest I've yet seen), or someone unhappy the status they enjoyed or want to enjoy at the conference has been revoked, or what consitutes PAN or PRO or whatever at RWA. I can see the benefits--I've got great pals in all the major organizations, but as much as I am a "march to my own drummer" person, I can't stand the pettiness (which is why I don't belong to the PTA and why I avoid the Desperate Housewives Barbie dolls at the school bus stop) . . . and just feel more comfortable remaining a non-joiner.

The four or five anthologies I've been in all came about through writer connections and being approached through my agent or whatever . . . not an organization.

Groucho Marx said it best. I wouldn't want to belong to any group that would have me as a member.

Laura (Kramarsky) Curtis said...

I think the real problem with most organizations is that often members think (partially because of how much they are paying in dues) that the organization is going to do more for them than the organization ever says it will do.

I belong to several organizations, but I have very limited expectations, so I don't get disappointed when the rules change.

Awards: I would say that the usefulness of awards is somewhat genre-dependent. I know readers really look at the RITA/Golden Heart Awards for recommendations, but I don't know too many mystery readers who pay much attention to awards. Now, awards that come with a publishing contract, that's another kettle of fish, but you don't need to belong to organizations to participate in any of those I can think of off the top of my head.

Promotion - get real. Organizations don't do anything serious for promotion. If that's what you hope for, spend the $$ you'd spend on dues doing promotional stuff for yourself.

Meetings: That's what I am in my organizations for. I go to local chapter meetings to hear professionals in various fields talk about things I wouldn't have a chance to hear about otherwise. (NOT the writing field, but various aspects of criminal investigation, international law, etc.)

Also, since I work for myself in my "day job," I can end up living entirely in my head if I am not careful and meetings help get me out and about.

My chapters have had agents and editors, cops, PIs, publicists, forensic scientists, authors, lawyers, all kinds of folks. And the listservs sponsored by the groups are a great place to ask questions about things when you've exhausted your usual avenues.

Conferences - as you say, you don't need to belong to the sponsoring organization to attend, though the price is often lower if you do. (And it depends on whether you're talking about national conferences or those sponsored by local chapters of an organization.)

Publications - I don't do "short", so that's useless for me, though I know other people who've had great success with anthologies sponsored by organizations. In fact, back on the "Awards" thing, two of the Agatha-nominated short stories this year came out of the SinC-NY chapter's anthology.

Your post doesn't anger me, although I belong to organizations that I continue to find useful. I've dropped them and rejoined them depending on where I am physically (all chapters are NOT created equal) and in my career, but no one has ever pressured me to stay when I have left.

I also belong to another organization, and I think there's some merit to comparing them. In Weight Watchers, the focus is all on what you, the member, are going to have to do for yourself. You don't spend more than one meeting thinking just "belonging" is going to magically melt away pounds. Unfortunately, there seems to be an idea that paying your dues to writers' organizations is going to transform you into a best seller. Or at least, that's how it often sounds to me when I hear people say, "I'm a member of [insert org here]."

Jim said...

"a writing organization she has belonged to for many years has changed its acceptance guidelines and now doesn't regard her as an active member because her print runs are too small."

That's the problem with most of these organizations, such as MWA and ITW. They've turned themselves into elitist snobbers. By rejecting others, they think that makes them special.

In the end, however, there's only two things that matter: the book, and the reader.

Joel Derfner said...

I'm totally joining WWJAD. Even though I don't know what it stands for.

Maria said...

One thing an award helps with (or even being shortlisted for one)--libraries will order the book! I ask my library to order a lot of books. Some of the requests get turned down--too obscure, not enough reviews, not enough good reviews, etc. If a book is up for an award or won one--it's a shoe-in. Mind you, I'm usually not ordering the book because of the award, but I know the library will very likely order it if it has one!

(My library has all your books and at least one audio.) :>)

spyscribbler said...

Um, Joe, you brought this up. Did you say we could rant?

I happily wrote for four years by myself, utter bliss, where only Uncle Sam knew I was writer. He told me so, every year on April 15, so I believed him.

Then I figured I should join a writing organization. The main benefit for me was that once I joined, I learned I was not a real writer. I learned that when people in the organization asked me, I had to say I was "kinda" published. I even put that on my blog.

I was cool with it, at first. Whatever. Then, it began to wear on me. Pretty soon I was skulking around, half the time pretending I was unpublished, half the time looking pretentious because I would accidentally slip into thinking I was.

Now, I spend most of my time training myself to talk like I don't know anything about writing, but sometimes I can't help myself. And I've been working on training myself to not answer the question, "Are you published?" with the question, "By what standards?" Or worse, "Kinda," or sometimes I even lie and say "No" when I just don't feel like dealing with it.

That's been good for me, how?

And I got in an anthology because I saw an opportunity and I went to the editor with my enthusiasm and preparation at full steam with everything I had. It's true: someone kindly told me to drop her name. I didn't. It didn't feel right. It's either good enough to get an editor's attention or not. I haven't seen any evidence of who-you-know yet, although I'm willing to be corrected.

I did enjoy the local meetings, but my schedule doesn't permit me to attend the meetings, so I fulfill most of my writing-friend needs through blogs. I love the friends I met and appreciate the socialization. I will rejoin when/if I can make the meetings.

PRO, PAN, SCHMO, SCHMAN didn't bother me so much, except RWA made me pay for all of the above, then told me I could not access information meant for PRO-only or PAN-only because they said I didn't need it yet.

If I pay for it, I'll decide whether I need it or not, thank you very much. I have my own brain, and when it comes to my career, I'll research, ask everyone for advice, but in the end? I have to keep my own counsel.

When it comes to information? I want every piece I can get my hands on.

So. Yeah. I paid for it. Don't tell me I'm not allowed to read it because you think I don't need it because I'm not published by a publisher on a certain list.

And what Erica said. The sniping, the negativity, the nit-picking, the flame wars about wearing a cute outfit, the insanity and the drama?

That's not me.

And Joe, what you said about "us or them." I'm not that kind of person. I don't do cliques. I'm the person always trying to make everyone feel included and comfortable. So, in an organization where 80% of the members are a "them," I start campaigning to try and include "them."

This pisses the "us" off. It's all too stressful. Too political. Too many stupid dramas. Even the "them" are not interested in being an all. They just want to be part of the "us."

I'm an "all" sort of person. I need an "all" sort of organization. I don't care what the entrance requirements are. (Maybe Uncle Sam should decide.) But once you're in, you're in. There should be no dividing amongst members.

Laura, above: that analogy is brilliant!

Sorry to go on. I've been thinking about this a lot lately.

Bernita said...

Joe?
Amen.

Mark Terry said...

Hmmm,
Good post, I think (and the thing on volunteering came at the right time).

I belong to 3 writing orgs, two for fiction and one for medical writing. The medical writing gives me access to freelance jobs. That's what I joined for.

The two mystery/thriller orgs I belong to, I agree haven't done much for my career (what career?) although I basically enjoy being members and reading the newsletters. I volunteer for one of them, writing a monthly author profile, which is fun, interviewing authors, which is why I do it.

It was recently suggested I increase my volunteering predominantly because of how much it'll help me, but I'm skeptical, plus I'm busy enough as it is. I already turned down one major volunteering gig after giving it some thought and decided it sounded like a time-suck of major proportions (and having heard from the guy who did take it, that indeed, it is a time-suck of major proportions).

I think the major reason to join a writers org is because you want to. For whatever reason, it might make you feel like a pro or part of a group or, like several specialized writers groups like American Medical Writers Association or the Association of Health Care Journalists (I belong to AHCJ), they have tons of job postings for members, which if you're a freelancer is very valuable.

The contacts you make MIGHT be valuable, which seems to be the argument. I think that depends a lot on your personality. I'm not very comfortable asking for favors from people I really don't know very well, and I'm not at all sure that the favor you REALLY want--an intro to an agent or editor or a good word to the publisher--is going to happen in most cases unless you're really close to the writer.

So, ultimately, I think, the best reason to join is because you want to and think it might be fun, but everything else is going to be sort of unreliable.

JA Konrath said...

Thanks, chocolab!

David - I'm not saying volunteering is evil. The world would suck bad without volunteers. But it's a far cry from feeding the hungry to manning the nametag table, unable to see any panels. And don't get me started on actually being part of the organization process...

Erica - you should join some organization, because only then can you be called a pro, and because everyone else is doing it. :)

Laura - Good point. But even in the case of meetings, some organizations allow you a "one-time'fee" to attend a meeting with a speaker, rather than the large sum it takes to join. If they don't, they should, because you don't always want to see every speaker.

Jim - I don't think they've become elitist. I think they're worried about losing validity and watering down their brand. But I'm not convinced they have either to begin with. Exclusion can speak of standards, which makes being a member more desirable. But only for the member, not for the rest of the world, who just doesn't care. Think fraternities.

Joel - What Would JA Do?

Speaking of the con, I believe it would be an eclectic mix of die-hard small presses and big-shots, because those are the only two types who would risk giving away hundreds of books. And the speakers could do whatever they wanted for their fifteen minutes. Readings. Q and A. Or combining with other speakers to do panels.

Maria - My take on awards is pretty limited and unpopular. I'm sure some of them can help book sales. But the subjective, limited way awards are structured, and the thought that something is simply better because a select group of people voted for it, annoys me. Even fan votes, where majority rules, often involve nepotism without having actually read all of the entries.

I'm just not a back-slapping advocate.

Spyscribbler - The world is full of people who will try to define you. I find that defining yourself works better.

Thanks, Bernita!

Mark - I think the problem with bigger writing organizations is the loss of focus commensurate to the need for wider appeal.

Small, focused, trade organizations can help individuals. But once a writing organization is about the genre or industry rather than the individuals, then you work for the machine, rather than the machine working for you.

So where's all the backlash? I know some of my blog readers are huge advocates of writing organizations.

That's why I allow anonymous posts, people!

spyscribbler said...

"So where's all the backlash?"

But, dude, I think you're right, about all of it (except I think the WWJAD conference should be a big old two-day party; no speeches).

I did have someone explain to me at the RWA National Conference last year that she was attending so she could meet an author who, she hoped, would introduce her to her agent. She further explained to me that she would never query an agent directly, as the above plan was the "only way to go."

I was stunned, and I think I just sat there nodding like an idiot, just mumbling, "I'd rather query."

But I'm guessing she's not reading this blog, and so I doubt she'll drop by to engage in debate. :-)

Steve Malley said...

Timely post, as I was off to a lunch where our local writer's org was pushing for 'volunteers'!

Josephine Damian said...

Ha! I've had "What would J. A. do?" as my mantra for quite some time.

Great tell-it-like-it-is post, Joe.

Three more weeks and I'm DONE being an officer/short story contest judge in my local writer's group! What a thankless task and a time-suck.

Three more weeks and the days of my joining any organization are over!

Happy dance to follow!

Therapist/Writer said...

Sorry if you're looking for backlash, Joe, you won't find it in my post. I agree with you. I've dropped one org. that I belong to because after a year I see no benefits whatsoever. The second org. I belong to is a little different because I love one of the list servs that I receive. I get good advice and good support from this list serv. Is it enough to justify the steep membership price? Probably not, and I may have to re-think that. I do have one question: could you expand on how anthologies have been helpful to you? Maybe a new blog entry?

Anyway, thanks!

Echelon Press Publishing said...

Joe, somebody should set up a shrine to you. I have been a member of just about all of them, thinking it would do my company some good, and unfortunately all it did was give me stress and more reasons for my authors to ask questions that I can't answer. Even in publishing, I gotta be me, and now it's okay, cause Joe says so!

Have a super weekend!
Karen Syed
http://www.echelonpress.com

Conda V. Douglas said...

Joe, there's no backlash because, as always, your post was thoughtful and well-considered. And what you said was true and accurate.

I belong to a writer's org. Just one. Dues are low, cheap. The local chapter is very active and has a lot of great writers who have become great friends and supporters. I love the local conference. It's fun.It's local.

BUT: I have writer friends who belong to every single organization and who spend tons of time and money going to conferences. And I can say, truthfully, they are no further along in their writing career than I am (some less so as they haven't written and submitted as much as I have).

That's why you don't have backlash.

Sun Singer said...

Most writing organisations give their members the believe that in belonging to something they are actually doing something. Waste of time. They need to go home and sit down at write and stop schmoozing real or imagined bidwigs.

Malcolm

Sun Singer said...

of course, if those organisations proofread my blog comments, that would be a plus

Jim Huang said...

I'm not sure that the numbers work for the conference.

$100 memberships plus $1 tickets? Will that generate enough cash to pay for everything?

Single track of programming, one mike for all? At 15 minute intervals, you're only getting 48 writers into a (12 hour) day of programming. Is that enough?

Will an audience stay with a program that's designed like this? You will command attention. Will others? Does it matter?

In programming Bouchercon 2009, we're going to be trying a lot of new things that should really shake up how readers and writers approach the event.

We've got a bunch of oddball ideas already, one of which in small part resembles part of what you're proposing, at least in terms of mechanics. In practice and intent, what we have in mind will feel very different. (It's a crazy idea; we'll see if we can pull it off.)

We're open to considering EVERY idea out there. This one is WAY out there. Not to say that this isn't interesting, and I'll have to think about what if anything we might be able to steal for our use.

Thanks for a provocative post!

JA Konrath said...

Hi Jim!

$100 memberships plus $1 tickets? Will that generate enough cash to pay for everything?

I dunno. The big expenses are the hotel and the program.

Let's call it a three day event, 150 authors (at 48 performing per day), that's $15,000. I think that would be more than enough money to fund everything.

As for draws---not only will all the authors involved have a hand in advertising the event, but the $15k can pay for some local ads.

As for the program, I see this going on at one part of a large conference room, with some chairs set up, while the other part of the room has author tables. So people can sit and watch a few authors, then browse the tables, then come back, etc.

Would it work? I have no idea.

This isn't a conference, where fans pay to see different panels. This is more like a book fair. No admission fee, and all books are $1, and signed by the author to boot. Plus, free entertainment.

Maybe it would attract some big names. Maybe not. But do there have to be big names?

I think this would be less cost for authors (even those paying for their own books to give away) but they'd reach a lot more people, and be able to give those people individual attention.

I realize this is taking money away from booksellers, but it is creating fans.

What if a local indie bookstore had a table at the event, and instead of giving away books for $1, they gave away a ticket for $1 that was good for a paperback book at their store? That would get people into their stores, wouldn't it?

Anonymous said...

I'll probably join MWA when I get a book deal just so I can say I'm in the club John D. MacDonald once belonged to. ;)

Regarding your con: What's going to stop some entrepreneur from coming in and buying all the stock for 1/25 of the cover price and then tripling his money next Saturday at the flea market?

Jude

Rebecca said...

Thank you for this wonderful post. I have been so disgusted by the criteria that some of these organizations have for joining. For God's sake, with what they are charging for dues, it shouldn't even matter if you can spell. Since I am with an "undesirable" publisher, I have been told by several of these groups that I could pay to become an associate member, but I am still not good enough to be a "real" member. The dues are pretty much the same, but the recognition as a peer just isn't there. I came to the same conclusion you did, I simply said, "Fuck 'em." I've never been a fan of exclusive groups and cliques, so why pay to be in one? It is discouraging to be left out, but I feel that my writing will speak for itself and that someday, I'll get there.
Again, I'm grateful for the wonderful information you provide in this blog. It's always enlightening and empowering!

JA Konrath said...

What's going to stop some entrepreneur from coming in and buying all the stock for 1/25 of the cover price and then tripling his money next Saturday at the flea market?

And what would be wrong if he did? the boosk would be getting into the hands of readers. That's the point.

As for returning the bookstores to bookstores for full credit, we can have a stamp on the bottom of the spine--like a remainder mark, along with a stamp on the inner cover for paperbacks, so they can't be stripped and returned.

Jude Hardin said...

And what would be wrong if he did? The books would be getting into the hands of readers. That's the point.

Just seems like it would ruin the conference if a handful of people came in and scarfed up all the product.

Maybe you could limit the number of books per customer, the way grocery stores do with cans of green beans on sale.

Leann Sweeney said...

Thanks Joe. Good post.

Anonymous said...

I'm not a member of any writing organizations.

It seems like you benefited from at least one. Your story in the ITW book was great. Don't know if it was worth the money. (Don't know how much it cost.)

JA Konrath said...

Your story in the ITW book was great. Don't know if it was worth the money.

Thanks. I'm thrilled to be in that antho, and I'll always be grateful to ITW for the opportunity.

Anonymous said...

Girl, you aint speaking nothing BUT the truth, allll throughout this blog post! I'm a multipubbed author, fairly new, but have been doing the damn thang and selling my booty off. I love my readers, they are the BOMB and they don't give a flying fig that I've never won an award. They don't go to blogs where books are reviewed, so they don't care that my books have never been reviewed by these reader blogs. They know nothing about writing organizations and all that stuff, the only thing they care about is me giving them the types of stories that resonate with THEM. I don't know why so many authors think an award will garner them ghetto superstar status. It won't. Period. Getting a bad review won't stop them from being a ghetto superstar either. Nope. I'm silent on the internet, focus on my writing, keep out of stuff and just do my thang, ya know? I do belong to my local rwa chapter, and honestly I get NOTHING out of it. I joined because a friend told me about it (after I had already sold my first book) and although the ladies are really nice, I find that they have this certain expectation of me. I HAVE to participate, either judging a contest (which I hate like a son of a bitch) get my editor to come to a conference (no biggie, me and my editor are cool like that) or something else...to give back. It is very very taxing and I have been seriously thinking of letting it go. I'm not trying to be mean, but, I get NOTHING out of it.

Now, if you ever help organize a group like the one you're describing, let a sistah know, for real, I'm THERE! ;)

Love, peace and hairgrease!~

Anonymous said...

Oh shit, sorry J.A, I didn't mean to call you a girl. I say that all the time "Girl..." just a habit ;)

Devon Ellington said...

That's an excellent post, and I belong to a couple of writing organizations!

I've also left several, because I felt they got too cliquish, and it was about a group of mostly barely-published writers trying to make themselves feel better by bullying others.

Not for me.

The one organization that I think transcends all the others I've known is PEN. Not that everyone and everything is perfect, but their World Voices Festival every year, their various events, and the Core Freedoms/Freedom to Write program have had a huge personal impact on me. Yes, I meet people at these events, but the whole focus is so different from most conferences, and the desperation's not there. It's more about inspiration and a reminder of why it is I do this.

I like your conference idea, by the way.

Great post. Hope people take it to heart, even if it hits too close to home for some of them.

Simon Haynes said...

I've been a member of sfnovelists for a year or more, and it's been very useful. It's a loose gathering of published sf/fantasy/horror novelists with a common blog (and no fees!), and we share info & ask career type questions on the mailing list.

Amra Pajalic said...

vqI was a member of a few writing organisations and it was only after I dropped them that I really discovered my writing style. Getting the newsletters and hearing the industry gossip can sometimes act as a real detriment to your writing because you end up chasing the next big thing rather than doing what you love. And don't even get me started on the volunteering. It's a time-suck and no one appreciates it. Once you get seen as the sucker who'll help out the requests just keep coming but the thank yous seem to get lost in the mail.

Anonymous said...

I asked a mystery writing organization I belong to to post a notice that our government is elminating Reading Is Fundamental and if authors cared that low-income children might never own books, learn to value them, they should contact their elected representatives. It was deemed too POLITICAL and not allowed. Also they had their OWN program to encourage young readers (which, I might add, doesn't include giving kids free books).

I've considered dropping my membership ever since I read your post. I am now definitely going to dump this writers group.

Do I need them? No. In ten plus years I've paid about a grand in dues. As Janet Jackson asked, "What have you done for me lately?"

The answer is nothing.

As you said: Fuck 'em.

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