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Paul Anthony Shortt

Writing is typically regarded as a solitary practice. Even dispelling the stereotype of the author hunched over a typewriter in an attic or study, blissfully unaware of the world passing by around them, we often think of writing as something we do alone. We research alone. We draft the manuscript alone. Even editing, the part of the process that requires the most interaction with another human being, is ultimately carried out alone.

But no-one is an island. As much as we can work on our own and, with the right skills, literally go from idea to publication without anyone else’s involvement aside from Amazon and Createspace if we choose, it’s not good for us to shut ourselves off. We’re still human, after all. We crave social interaction and recognition. So it’s fortunate that there are a number of groups out there whose goal is explicitly to offer support, assistance, and at times plain old friendship, to us beleaguered authors.

Writers unions, associations, and societies have been in existence for decades, and work to not only look out for the interests of their members, but to raise the status of respective genres and the profession as a whole. There are definitely benefits to joining, although some can be more geared towards traditionally-published authors, rather than indie authors, and you’ll have to decide for yourself whether you feel this dichotomy is an unavoidable factor of the industry, or unfair treatment.

Which organisation you’ll want to join will depend on two factors more than any others: your location and your genre. Some groups have geographical restrictions, while others are specialised towards specific genres such as science fiction or horror, and wouldn’t have much to offer a romance author.

For those of you living in Ireland, the obvious first stop in your inquiries is the Irish Writers Union. Structured like a traditional union, their aim is to secure better deals and conditions for Irish writers. While the bulk of their services are restricted to members, they do offer an FAQ containing important information for all authors, as well as examples of ideal contracts for comparison to any you might be offered.

If you live in America, or are considering a move there to help your career, it could be worth your time looking into the Writers’ Guild of America. Split into East and West chapters, it is a highly influential organisation in the film and television industries. They don’t have any focus on book publishing, however, and it can be worth educating yourself on the pros and cons of membership.

The Society of Authors, based in the UK, is another long-standing body, and there are no geographic restrictions on membership. They are without a doubt one of the most important bodies representing authors today, and they run a number of awards and events throughout the year.

The more genre-focused among you may prefer more specialised help. Groups such as the Romance Writers of America and the Romantic Novelists Association are helpful, and arrange regular meet-ups for their members to network, share advice, and make new friends.

Those authors who, like myself, find their place among the fantastic might want to consider the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America. Like The Society of Authors, the SWFA doesn’t restrict membership by geography, rather by the amount of royalties an author earns in a year. If you receive the minimum advance from a traditional contract, or that amount in royalties from your self-published work, you can apply for membership. One of the most well-known benefits of being a part of the SWFA is the chance to have your work considered for the prestigious Nebula Awards.

So get out there, find others like you. Authors, editors, publishers, and readers alike have gone out of their way to help make this industry better for all of us. These groups might not have something to offer for everyone, but even looking into what they can offer will help you figure out what it is you want from your career, what you can do for yourself, and what areas you need help with.

(c) Paul Anthony Shortt

About the author

Paul Anthony Shortt believes in magic and monsters; in ghosts and fairies, the creatures that lurk under the bed and inside the closet. The things that live in the dark, and the heroes who stand against them. Above all, he believes that stories have the power to change the world, and the most important stories are the ones which show that monsters can be beaten.
Paul’s work includes the Memory Wars Trilogy and the Lady Raven Series. His short fiction has appeared in the Amazon #1 bestselling anthology, Sojourn Volume 2.



Twitter: @PAShortt

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