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I live in the publishing hinterlands. I was reading some query letters that worked and one thing they had in common was mention of attendance at a conference.

What benefits could a membership give one that would be worth the price of admission?

Do they also have agents and editors checking their membership list for likely talent? Or is it just a glorified writer's group that gives no real benefit aside from another card in your wallet and another newsletter in your email?

Do they serve a purpose?

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    All of the questions that you ask here (at this site) can be asked there. And it's more likely that you'll get more useful answers too. (If for no other reason—although there are more—that they won't be restrained by this site's formatting rules. And, of course, you can actually meet people and talk to them in person.) – Jason Bassford Apr 9 at 6:18
  • @JasonBassford, why not make your comment into an answer? – iamtowrite Apr 9 at 17:44
  • @imatowrite Because it's not a good answer—it's merely a comment. – Jason Bassford Apr 9 at 18:18
  • I haven't joined a guild, but I've met other writers at conferences, including the best critique partner I've had. – J.G. Apr 11 at 5:11
  • While I'm not sure there's a general answer that is useful here (they're all a variety of "it depends"), I'm finding the assessment of individual societies insightful. That said, if any answer looks at SCBWI, I'd be grateful. – Cyn Apr 11 at 14:32
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It depends on the specific organization. The one I know best is the SFWA -- the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. They're pretty amazing; so they're a great example of what benefits a good writers' organization might have to offer:

Some of the things the SFWA does are:

  • Runs an Emergency Medical Fund. Writers don't get much in the way of medical insurance.
  • Regularly collects and publishes important resources for writers, like Writers Beware (information on avoiding publishing scams and empty promises) and its Contract Committee (examples of contracts).
  • Runs the well-respected Nebula Awards, and it's only members who get to nominate and vote.

Additionally, the SFWA has a professional bar for joining. This means that if you have cleared the bar, the simple note that you're an SFWA member is a nontrivial marker of achievement and professionalism. And, since it's grown into a significant and influential marker -- the SFWA has some actual influence on what counts as "fair" or "professional" payment for writing work; the rates they choose as "pro" is pretty much what the genre industry goes by.

There's more than this -- and this is all for just the one organization. Different guilds and groups and organizations will, obviously, offer different things. Some will benefit you professionally; some socially; others are good for the field at large. Some are entirely worthless. But the good ones? Are pretty darn good.

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The major benefit is information.

Professional guilds inform their members about trends and changes in their industry. For writers this may include trending topics, changes in publishing procedures, networking help, and so on.

The help writers' guilds offer for actual writing (e.g. workshops) is usually not better than what you can find on the net for free or in the well-known how-to books. The true value lies in the look behind the scenes of the publishing industry and in getting in contact with other (aspiring) professionals.

  • Welcome to writing.se! Take the tour and visit the help center to learn how things work around here. This is an awesome first answer, you could improve it further by adding personal experience if you have it. Thanks for participating and happy writing! – linksassin Apr 9 at 6:41
  • It is likely useful to reinforce the value of networking and meeting new writers/writing industry professionals. However this very much depends on the the guild in question, and how you interact with them. Some are far more useful than others. – TheLuckless Apr 9 at 21:19
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Along with depending on the guild itself and what membership benefits it offers, it also depends very much on you and which (if any) of those benefits you feel you'd truly make use of.

I have belonged to the SOA and to a local writers' society. At first, it seemed like it was worth the price tag: I went to a few meetings, heard some fairly interesting talks from professionals in the business, and even had my agent contract assessed FOC via an SOA lawyer.

Did any of that really make a difference? No, not really.

My agent told me that no writer she had signed had ever had a contract assessed -- it was a standard agency contract (they were a big agency) -- and, if anything, it made me look like an amateur (I was :)). If you sign with an unknown agency who might have the potential to fleece you, then getting a contract reviewed could justify membership (if they provide that).

Eventually, being the type of person I am, I couldn't be bothered to attend the talks (not getting enough out of them to justify the time away from writing), had no time for reading all the articles in the magazines they sent out (most of which had already hit the headlines online), and didn't really make good use of the membership services because I was too busy doing the job of writing.

No... agents don't check for membership, or troll their databases for talent; it doesn't give you kudos. Agents are interested in two things only: do you have an idea they can sell; and have you written it really, really well?

So, it really comes down to the benefits they offer and whether you (as a writer in the hinterland who's no doubt as insular as the rest of us writers) will really make use of the things on that list.

Good luck!

p.s. one thing I will say in favour of the SOA, is they are fighting publishers for fairer contracts for writers. Now THAT could be worth the price of admission!

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