When aspiring writers ask me what they can do that will most help their career, I say:
- Join your genre association
The last often comes as a surprise, and many writers balk at leaving their writing rooms. I understand this. I balked, too. I’d rather be writing or revising or doing most anything than joining a club. I’m not a joiner. And like most writers, I’m at heart an introvert who’d rather be home writing a book or reading a book than out anywhere else. (As an agent, I’m an extrovert. But that’s another story.) Still, I’ve joined a lot of writing organizations over the years, and have enjoyed and benefited from the experience every time. I still do. Here’s what joining yours can do for you:
Find your tribe. Only writers understand other writers, and only writers in your genre understand exactly what you are trying to do with your work.
Hone your craft. You’ll find all kinds of resources at your genre association designed to improve your craft—from articles and classes and conferences to critique groups and mentors and manuscript services.
Meet agents and editors. Many agents and editors frequent genre association events to look for writers just like you.
Find a good editor. If you’re looking for a good line editor or developmental editor, you can ask for referrals from your genre association.
Meet writers more successful than you are. The best part may be meeting your favorite writers, and (sometimes) becoming pals. They’ll serve as your best role models.
Get referrals. Once you’ve made all these new writer friends, you can ask them to refer you to their editors, agents, and more. Just be prepared to pay it forward….
Solicit blurbs. Thanks to MWA, ITW, and the New England Crime Bake, my books all have wonderful endorsements from great authors. Yours can, too. In fact, your publisher will expect it.
Promote your book. As helpful as these organizations are in getting you published, they’re even more helpful in getting you and your work promoted once you are published. Many run speaker bureaus and conferences and more.
Inspire/Improve/Enlighten Your Writer’s Self. All writers need inspiration and encouragement and emotional support—and you’ll get all that and more from the new friends and colleagues and mentors you’ll meet.
As you can see, I’m an unabashed fan of genre associations—both as a writer and as an agent. I insist all my clients join theirs, and participate as much as possible. And I count my dearest friends among the people I’ve met through MWA, ITW, WD, SinC, PEN, SCBWI, and more….
So get out there and join up. You’ll be glad that you did.
And tell us all about the friends you win and the people you influence on our facebook page.
There’s a Place for You
No matter what your genre, you can find a writer’s organization that will work for you. No matter where you live, you’ll benefit from its resources, even if you cannot attend meetings. And most have online chapters you can join.
- American Society of Journalists & Authors (ASJA)
- American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP)
- Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP)
- Authors Guild
- Dramatists Guild of America
- International Federation of Journalists (IFJ)
- International Thriller Writers (ITW)
- Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE)
- Mystery Writers of America (MWA)
- National Association of Science Writers (NASW)
- National Writers Union (NWU)
- The Newspaper Guild (Communications Workers of America) and The Guild Reporter.
- Novelists, Inc.
- PEN America
- PEN/ New England (PEN-NE)
- Poets & Writers (PW)
- Romance Writers of America (RWA)
- Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, Inc. (SFWA)
- Sisters in Crime (SinC)
- Society for Technical Communication (STC)
- Society of American Travel Writers (SATW)
- Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI)
- Songwriters Guild of America
- Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ)
- Text and Academic Authors Association (TAA)
- Western Writers of America, Inc. (WWA)
- Writers Guild of America, West (WGAW)