Thursday, September 04, 2008

No Dues is Good Dues

When I first became published, I joined every writing organization I could think of. I wanted to meet other writers, to learn about the industry, to be invited to exclusive gatherings, to have the opportunity to be included in anthologies, to get my name and bibliography in mailing lists and newsletters and on websites.

I eventually let all of my memberships lapse, with the sole exception being the International Thriller Writers.

The reason for not rejoining these organizations was a purely selfish one--I didn't feel that they were worth the seemingly ever-increasing dues I had to pay. I believe writing organizations are supposed to help writers, but I couldn't really point to anything helpful being done for me or for my career.

Networking with fellow industry professionals is a wonderful experience, but I discovered I could do that without spending several hundred bucks a year in membership fees.

I've never really understood the importance of awards, and have found some of them to be nepotistic and self-congratulatory.

The organizational newsletters and websites that listed my books also listed 3000 other books, making me wonder about their effectiveness.

I kept up my ITW membership because that organization did help me and my career, namely by putting one of my stories in a high-profile anthology. They did other things as well, but that was a biggie and it earned my loyalty .

Then just yesterday, ITW sent out an email that said, in part:

From the beginning, ITW was not – and was never intended to be – a writer’s organization like most others. Our purpose was not to collect dues, publish newsletters, and have a convention once a year where we get together and talk about what fine fellows we are. We are a group of published writers who have banded together to promote our genre in an innovative, effective way. With that in mind, the Board of Directors decided in July that dues are inconsistent with our mission, and we have voted to eliminate all membership fees for qualified, active members.

Well color me impressed.

With this one decision, ITW has made me believe there is an organization that truly wants to help me and my career. But it's done more than that. I've long stood fast to the belief that volunteering is masochistic, and no good deed goes unpunished. However, if the ITW decides it needs me for something, anything, they've got me, no questions asked.

For the first time in my professional life I feel proud of being part of writing organization. And it's a really nice feeling.

To learn more about the ITW, visit www.internationalthrillerwriters.com.