Thinking about joining a professional organization? This post is geared to the writer who has decided what type of books to write and wonders if memberships would enhance the proposal. Those who are undecided would be better served by attending a few conferences as a nonmember to discern career direction.
When investigating professional organizations, I recommend asking yourself questions:
Can I afford to join? Some organizations keep dues reasonable. Others are pricey. Dues often increase. If the math doesn’t work for you, don’t join, at least not at this time in your career.
Do I have time to participate? If you are already overburdened with work and family life, unless you can reorganize your calendar or drop other activities, now is not the time to join.
What conference opportunities does the organization offer? If you join an organization that offers, say, a conference in Hawaii every year and you will always feel uncomfortable with the expense and time needed, this might not be the right organization for you. But if they offer convenient local chapters where you can participate, then this organization offers promise.
Will I meet the right editors and agents through this organization? Visit the organization’s web site. Most will have either the past year’s or current conference plans posted. Do the editors, agents, and mentors specialize in or are they knowledgeable about the books you want to write? Look until you find a conference with the professionals who will be the most helpful for you to meet.
Does the organization cater to my career plans? Look for organizations with a mission to grow the writer you are or wish to be.
Will agents and editors be impressed by memberships? I take memberships into consideration but I never accept or decline based on memberships. What the membership tells me is that this author has connections, or at least the ability to be in contact with other authors writing similar books. These relationships are helpful on both a personal and professional level for the author. Membership also says that the author has taken steps to shore up a career and didn’t just write a book on the fly and hope for the best.
Can memberships hurt my career? Years ago, I received a submission listing so many organizations’ acronyms that if the author had been an active member in each, she’d have no time to write a grocery list, much less a book. I asked for elaboration, but never received any.
Please be focused and thoughtful before joining any organization. And remember, the membership is for your personal and professional growth. Enjoy!
Are you a member of any professional organizations?
What is the biggest benefit you see from joining professional organizations?
What professional organizations would you recommend?
ACFW is at the top of my professional writing affiliation list, and I try to stay in tune with what’s happening. I look forward to their conferences and the overall energy they promote in writing and my relationship with Christ. Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference doesn’t have memberships that I’m aware of, but their conferences are fabulous as well. The Jerry Jenkins Writers Guild is another favorite. I agree with you about having too many. It’s difficult to read all of them, attend all the webinars, take all the writing courses, and participate effectively, which would add unnecessary stress to my already full calendar. Writing is my goal, so it’s important to maintain focus and do it well.
Personally, I think professional organizations are one part to being a successful author. You make valuable connections, have a ready-made group to bounce questions and ideas off of, and can find like-minded critique partners. I belong to American Christian Fictions Writers, ACFW Virginia chapter (for smaller, local conferences and connections) and Capital Christian Writers (both fiction and nonfiction writers group). Each group provides something a little bit different, and I’ve been able to learn, give back and find writer friends in all three.
Helpful post. Thank you. I find it challenging to find the right professional group. Any tips?
Tamela Hancock Murray
Afton, I looked at your web site and see that you are already a member of the Redbud Writers Guild. Perhaps you might consider the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA). I am an AWSA. Find out more at http://awsa.com.
Thanks, Tamela. Looks like a helpful group with lots of options.
Linda Evans Shepherd
This is a wonderful organization for women authors and speakers. Not only does it help develop leadership skills in women, it is an association where the members become their own prayer team, and work to encourage and train one another. Plus, we have a wonderful magazine, Leading Hearts. See http://www.LeadingHearts.com
Our upcoming conference, just before the Christian Booksellers Trade Show will be in Cincinnati June 25 – 27. There we will host the Golden Scroll Awards, highlighting the wonderful work of our members as well as awarding the Publisher and Editor of the Year! For info about how to join AWSA, go to http://www.AWSA.com. For info about our conference go to http://www.AWSAfun.com.
Big announcement: Recording Artist Ginny Owens will be our guest artist at our conference as well as The Golden Scrolls! Everyone is invited to attend the Golden Scroll Awards Banquet, but you will have to make a reservation at our http://www.ScrollAwards.com link.
Thanks, Linda. I love the emphasis on prayer and mentoring. And great to know about the magazine and conference.
Amanda Cleary Eastep
This is something I’ve been considering. I give time throughout the day to very professional and engaged private Facebook groups, so having to reduce (or replace) the time I spend there is definitely a consideration (add to that the time spent reading and commenting on valuable blogs). I appreciate hearing from those who belong to specific organizations and can recommend them. Thanks for the information, Tamela!
I’m a part of a small writing group (through email), and I participate in two Facebook groups. But, I’ve often wondered if I should be a member of ACFW or another such organization. I like that you offers many different aspects to consider when struggling to figure out if membership is good and helpful. My decision often rests on expense and time availability.
Tamela Hancock Murray
Barbara, ACFW has local chapters, which should decrease your traveling time and expense considerably. Perhaps this might be a place to start.
Thanks, Tamela. That’s very doable. I’ll re-look into it. Thanks for replying and the suggestion!
Sheri Dean Parmelee
I am a part of two professional organizations for my work, the National Communication Association and the Maryland Communication Association. I really don’t find them helpful, unless I want to present a paper at their conferences. Then, membership is helpful. I joined AFCW last year and thought the conference in Nashville was incredible. I’m glad I joined, though I don’t have much time to devote to them. On the other hand, I met some wonderful folks there that I have kept in touch with and found those new friendships to be a huge help.
Tamela Hancock Murray
Hi all: I posted the ACFW conference scholarship application link on social media yesterday, but here it is for anyone who’s interested: https://docs.google.com/a/stevelaube.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSc6yuq0kCv9JLPjgkKv5JeAAbkCkeYFKFFXXt4mPhIRXLvFfg/viewform?c=0&w=1
As a children’s book writer, I belong to two professional organizations for two main reasons. At the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, I am constantly reminded of the extremely high standards in this field and challenged to meet them in my own novels and picture books, and at the Northwest Christian Writers Association, I receive constant inspiration and companionship along the way–not to mention the occasional opportunity to meet agents and editors who specifically look for Christian manuscripts.
I need both to continue on this journey!
Amanda Cleary Eastep
I have been considering SCBWI for a long time. I belonged years ago and eventually was published in Ladybug magazine but am just getting back to YA fiction after a long hiatus.
From my own experience in a scitech career, I would say that being part of a professional group is invaluable for making connections to people in your field. That’s probably just as true for writers.
I’m a member of the ACFW, and I intend to remain one. Now that I’ve recovered from the car wreck, I’m about to contact the NM members again to see if we can get a chapter started based in the Albuquerque area. We’re border-line for having the required minimum number to organize, but I’m going to keep trying until we get one launched. I feel that strongly about the value of local chapters based on my experience with local scitech chapters.
Even if you can’t get to meetings, I’d recommend participating in the unpublished author contests of the ACFW for all that you will learn from the feedback on your entries. The entrance fee is about half-price if you’re a member.
I, too, have been mulling over joining ACFW. I’ve attended a workshop through my local chapter – lead by none other than the incomparable Karen Ball! It was wonderful! However, I’ve struggled with feeling like I didn’t belong because I’d yet to finish a manuscript. Now that I have, however, I’ve been thinking more about joining. I know I would have been welcomed, and have no doubt I could have benefitted from joining sooner, however time, international moves, and finances didn’t permit it. Not sure if finances permit now, but it’s something I’m looking into. A writing teacher also recently suggested the Redbud Writer’s Guild for me. What would you suggest for a debut novelist?
Jennifer, if you have your novel finished and you’re unpublished, I would heartily recommend entering the Genesis contest of the ACFW. I got a lot of valuable feedback in the form of very specific comments within the manuscripts that is SO worth the entrance fee. If you do join ACFW, the entrance fee is lower as well.
Thank you!! I’ll check into that!
Jennifer, you don’t need a completed manuscript to join. Many of our members are at each stage of the writing process. When I joined, I had an idea. That was was 26 books ago!
Barbara L Brutt
I’m totally following along on Jennifer’s comment, and I’m really appreciating the responses from Cara and Carol. Thank you! I really relate to what Jennifer shared (Thank you, Jennifer, for sharing!).
Amanda Cleary Eastep
I agree! Wonderful advice in this post and comment thread.
I am a member of ACFW and also the ACFW Virginia Chapter. I am gleaning a lot of great information from other writers. The wisdom from these writers is priceless to me.
This is WONDERFUL advice!
I’m a member of ACFW (so glad, since it connected me with my agent *wink*) and hope to join my new local ACFW chapter once our move is finalized.
I love ACFW because of all the author friends I’ve made at the conferences and online through the email loops and Facebook pages. Plus chatting with authors who create some of my favorite reads (and getting to meet some of their editors) is such a fun thing to do. Writing inspiration bubbles up from these conversations, and the benefits of fellowship with other creative minds is priceless. Not to mention marketing ideas and general emotional support for the writerly life.
*stepping out of the commercial now* 🙂
What a great topic, Tamela!
I just joined ACFW a couple months ago and have started attending meetings with my local chapter (the Plot Twisters, which I think is just the best name ever for a group that meets in Tornado Alley!). I don’t have a lot of experience with the group yet, but what I have received is invaluable!
Elizabeth Van Tassel
I’ve really enjoyed belonging to different groups from idea stage, drafting a middle grade work, and now to nonfiction writing. San Diego Christian Writer’s Guild has been super all along my journey. The ACFW and Write His Answer conferences have been invaluable for network building, understanding the business, and developing my platform. Our local SCBWI for children’s writers and illustrators provides excellent training and interaction as well. I so enjoy interacting with and supporting other writing friends now and it’s all due to these great organizations. And I enjoyed your presentation at ACFW two years ago, as well! Now that my speaking is ramping up more, I may shift to AWSA. Thank you for this great post!
I have a writer’s group that meets the 2nd Monday of the month (in the evening) at my tea room (Her Majesty’s). We do not collect dues. We are a spin off of another group that possibly does. We try to tackle one person for a while to solve whatever their issues might be. For example: writing a better query, finding agent listings, working on that opening paragraph, how and where to promote their published book.
We are hosting a Spring Open House and Author Fair the Sunday after Easter (April 23) at my tea room. We have many interesting authors who will be signing and chatting. We are baking lovely British sweets and putting out a buffet and serving tea. We are marking down clothing in our store (attached to our tea room) and introducing areas that have just been remodeled. We did this 2years ago and had about 500 people come through. All the authors sold many books and many of my regular customers discovered new authors. Because the event was held in a combination restaurant/store, the guests are inclined to shop and spend money. Purchasing a book is simply part of their afternoon outing. The authors we are hosting are varied so our guests will find a variety of themes. We are not charging the authors or taking a percentage of their sales. They will sell and make change etc for their books.
I have found that author events at libraries are nice but they do not get many people through and they do not get people who are spending. We are open minded to other events that would include authors.
I also sell all the authors in my writing group. I do not take a percentage but simply keep track of when their books sell and pay them when we meet. This is another good opportunity for my customers to see books FACE out.
thank you, I enjoy your blogs.
Jacqueline Gillam Fairchild
author: Estate of Mind
What a helpful post, Tamela. I’ve been considering joining ACFW, and the comments you posted about it being a great place to start and offering local chapters really helped me to make the decision to join. Thank you so much!