Sunday, 5 October 2008

Author Groups and Organisations

There are a number of writing bodies representing authors. I belong to two at present, The Society of Authors (SOA), a general one for authors, and The Crime Writers' Association of Great Britain (CWA) for crime writers (obviously). Below, I provide some information on these groups but I would be delighted to hear from anyone who belongs to other writing organisations with details on how helpful or otherwise they are, wherever they are UK, USA and elsewhere around the world and for whatever genre.

The remit of the CWA is to raise the profile of crime writing by providing a forum for all writers and others connected with it. They administer and award a series of prizes known as the Dagger Awards and aspiring writers can enter the opening chapters and the synopsis of a proposed crime novel into the Debut Dagger. Membership of the CWA is open to anyone who has had one crime novel produced by a bona fide publisher - though I'm not sure how they define this! They issue a monthly magazine/newsletter called 'Red Herrings', hold an annual conference and various regional social events and produce a useful directory of members. Crime writers can also advertise their speaking engagements and events on the CWA website and promote their latest novels there.

The Society of Authors based in London, UK is a much broader based organisation as its title implies. I have found it extremely helpful by providing valuable information and guidance on publishing contracts and copyright issues. The SOA has (as its web site declares) been serving the interests of professional writers for more than a century, and has more than 8,500 members writing in all areas of the profession. These include novelists, textbook writers, ghost writers, broadcasters, academics, illustrators and translators. Being a member helps me to keep in touch with the current issues in the publishing world, and I also receive a very useful quarterly journal, The Author. The Society maintains a database of writers and their specialism, which can lead to writing commissions and talks.

Tomorrow, is the Society's AGM, there is book-trade question time with Jonny Geller, the Managing Director of the agency Curtis Brown; Alexandra Pringle, the Editor-in-Chief of Bloomsbury Publishing, (they of Harry Potter fame), and Graham Rand, Commercial Director of the book wholesalers, Bertrams/THE. He is also President of the Booksellers Association. Attending events gives authors the chance to network and swap gossip, as well as pick up one or two tips and pieces of advice.

The Society of Authors offers a confidential service helping with the individual vetting of contracts, and professional disputes. It administers a wide range of prizes, as well as the Authors’ Foundation, which is one of the very few bodies making grants to help with work in progress for established writers. A year’s membership costs £90 (£64 for those aged under 35). Visit their web site for further information.

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