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Major writers organizations

 



and allied organizations

(fighting for creators' rights, interests, and ethical behavior)

This list is both subjective and U.S.-oriented. I want the writer or editor new to a rather large world of specialty organizations to know which organizations are the big ones, in size and influence. That doesn't mean they're the ones that will prove most immediately useful for an individual -- but they tend to be large and to have more clout and power than the others, when it comes to something like a fight over copyright, for example, or promoting professional behavior. See also

    Other organizations for writers, editors, and others in the creative arts


Academy of American Poets Founded in 1934 to support American poets at all stages of their careers and to foster the appreciation of contemporary poetry.
Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences Home of the Oscars, a professional honorary organization of several thousand motion picture craftsmen and women.
American Medical Writers Association (AMWA)
American Photographic Artists (an alliance of advertising and media professionals)
American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) (the only performing rights organization in the U.S. owned by songwriters, composers, and music publishers)
American Society of Journalists & Authors (ASJA), the only professional association focused on independent nonfiction writers. Started as New York Society of Magazine Writers in 1948, by writers who wanted to compare magazine pay rates. Fairly selective. I've gone to their excellent annual conference every year for decades and have formed lasting friendships with other freelance journalists and authors.
American Society of Media Photographers (major trade association for respected photographers)

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Association of Writers & Writers Programs (AWP) This large organization provides support, advocacy, resources, and community to nearly 50,000 writers, 550 college and university creative writing programs, and 150 writers’ conferences and centers. Our mission is to amplify the voices of writers and the academic programs and organizations that serve them while championing diversity and excellence in creative writing. No longer a largely white-guy organization. Holds an annual three-day conference that draws thousands -- authors, teachers, and people from writing programs, literary centers, and small press publishers. "Hard to beat for price, quality, and variety of topics, events, readings, etc."
Association of Health Care Journalists (AHCJ). One of the best values in writers organizations. Annual conferences and regional webinars on issues such as rural health, big data in health care, the business of health care, and getting health care and medical stories right. An extensive array of fellowships, including fellowships to annual conference, the Covering Health blog (news in the field, story ideas, hot headlines, new reports and tools to use in reporting and stories), networking with members, a twice-yearly newsletter HealthBeat, discounted access to LexisNexis, free access to various medical journals and databases,listing in a searchable membership directory and a freelance directory, 23 guides to specific market guides, pitchfest, awards, idea exchange, and more.
Authors Alliance Empowering (academic) authors in the digital age. Promoting authorship for the public good by supporting authors who write to be read. But see Authors Guild vs. Authors Alliance (author royalties vs. broadest possible distribution, free) and Authors Guild warning against Authors Alliance (from T.J. Stiles to the San Francisco Writers Grotto). "If any of you earn a living as a writer, or hope to, I strongly urge you not to join the Authors Alliance....As [Pamela] Samuelson stated in Publishers Weekly, "When it comes to something like the AG v. HathiTrust, the members of our organization [Authors Alliance] are likely to think that it was a good thing that Google scanned books from research library collections and made snippets available because more people know that our books exist; more people are likely to check them out of a library, look them up online if they are available, or even buy the books. If you're looking for one stark difference, we would not have brought that lawsuit."  AA directors and advisory board members have pushed such ideas as
—allowing people to resell digital files the way they can resell used physical books (applying “first-sale doctrine” to digital media).
—allowing libraries to digitally copy your books, even if you have an e-book edition for sale.
—allowing private for-profit corporations to copy your books in their entirety and selling advertising against searches of them, and otherwise making money from your work, which would mean any business corporation could monetize your work, if they know how to game it just right.
—allowing potentially unlimited copying for educational uses. (For many of us, library and educational markets are huge parts of our income.)

Authors Coalition of America, LLC (an association of independent authors' organizations representing text writers, playwrights, composers, lyricists, songwriters, visual artists, illustrators, graphic artists and photographers--'authors' meaning broadly any creator whose works can be reprographically or otherwise visually reproduced. The group was formed in 1994 for the purpose of repatriating and distributing the creators' share of foreign non-title-specific royalty payments for American works photocopied abroad. Before 1994, these collective funds were sent to a U.S. licensing agency, Copyright Clearance Center, Inc. (CCC), where they were spent on copyright enforcement. After 1994, "these funds are more effectively focused on the rightsholders for whom they were paid by proportionate distributions to the associations constitutionally directed to promote and advance their careers."

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Authors Guild (the nation's leading advocate for authors' and journalists' interests, with 10,000+ members). As Mary Rasenberger puts it, "Our mission is to support working writers. We advocate for the rights of writers by supporting free speech, fair contracts, and copyright. We create community and we fight for a living wage." The AG provides legal assistance (especially about book contracts), has a legal staff, and has a board of famous writers, which offers some defense against publishers' tendencies to whittle away at writers' rights and share of income on writers' work. The searchable directory/index of its 10,000 members is available to all members, in various genres, fiction and nonfiction. Members receive free the Guild’s Model Trade Book Contract & Guide, a particularly helpful reference guide explaining desirable clauses (and why) in writers’ book contracts. In 2018 AG launched an online discussion group and regional groups that allow members to connect in ways the AG previously didn't offer; the Guild also provides links to important events and meetings and news items about publishing, etc. See criteria for eligibility, member benefits, AG's event archive (video recordings of excellent webinars on such topics as Four Strategies to Gain Early Reviews (and Build Buzz!), Manuscript to Marketplace, Create Engaging School Visits, Estate Planning for Authors, Book Contracts 101.

      AG offers several levels of membership (Regular, Associate, Emerging Writer, and Student), and the guild's legal assistance is available to Regular and Associate members. Regular membership requires meeting a $5k income threshold (most members do not depend only on their writing income), the Associate membership drops that requirement to $500 in royalties from self-published authors. Membership is open to traditionally and self-published authors, poets, translators, ghostwriters, illustrators, freelance writers. There's a special category of non-voting members who have a contract on a book but haven't written it yet (who become full members when it is published), for literary agents, for heirs/estates of authors. Plus non-voting student members and "emerging members" (those working on a book). 

---"The writing life is ours to defend. Protecting it also happens to be the mission of the Authors Guild." -Richard Russo
---Member discounts & offers
---WIT: Words, Ideas, and Thinkers series A virtual conversation series featuring authors and thought leaders addressing the most important topics of our time.
---Writers' Resource Library Resources for all stages of your career: value of an MFA or journalism degree, writers workshops, signing your first book contract, state of the publishing industry, self-publishing, marketing and publicity, booking a school visit, filing taxes, preparing your estate, avoiding publishing scams, etc.
---Contests, grants, & residencies
---Member spotlight

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Authors League Fund "Writers helping writers since 1917." The Fund "provides emergency assistance to professional writers and dramatists who find themselves in financial need because of medical or health-related problems, temporary loss of income, or other misfortune. Most of the writers helped by the Fund suffer severe health problems but have inadequate or no insurance; some face eviction; many are older writers whose income has ceased through no fault of their own."
Authors Registry, a not-for-profit clearinghouse for payments to authors, receiving royalties from organizations and distributing them to U.S.-resident authors (technically not a collective society). A collaboration of literary rights organizations: The Authors Guild, The American Society of Journalists & Authors, The Dramatists Guild, and The Association of Authors' Representatives.
Biographers International Organization (BIO), founded in 2010 to represent the everyday interests of practicing biographers.
Copyright Clearance Center (CCC), a U.S. licensing agency. The CCC is affiliated with book publishers, so even if they collect payments owed entirely to the author, they will send them to the publisher. CCC makes it easy for content users to license legitimate use of an author's work, but if the division of income between publisher and author is not clear, good luck getting the author's rightful share, say many authors.

     Decades ago Paul Aiken of the Authors Guild argued that CCC should pay authors directly--which European collecting societies do--but their laws are different. CCC insists that they are obligated to pay whoever the copyright owner is--and if it is the publisher, they pay the publisher. Their view is that the contract controls what the publisher gets. That is technically a correct view under US law. "We need to get better author protections in the law," says Mary Rasenberger of the Authors Guild.
Dramatists Guild of America (the professional association of playwrights, composers, lyricists & lybrettists)
Education Writers Association (EWA) See EWA's Reporter's Toolbox, National Awards for Education Reporting, EWA Radio (engaging interviews with journalists about education and its coverage in the media--what's hot on the Education Beat), Latest Education News, State of the Education Beat, The Educated Reporter (EWA's blog), Higher Education Beat (blog about post-secondary education), Latino Ed Beat (EWA's blog about issues affecting Latino students in P-12 and post-secondary education), and past newsletter articles.

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Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), defending digital privacy, free speech, and innovation. Writes one critic: "EFF is very good at framing things in an effective and seductive, if misleading manner where it favors the interests of the big internet platforms.  Sadly, EFF is seriously misguided on the need to protect copyright interests to support news, education, literacy, and culture generally – and indeed was founded with Google money by those representing Google's interests to undermine copyright so that the internet platforms could make more money.

     "Because most Americans now read the news through Google and Facebook, most of the ad revenue related to digital news content goes to Google and Facebook, and they do not share any of that with the producers of the news. This has led to a 60% reduction in ad revenue for newspapers and a comparable 60% reduction in newsroom staff in the last 15 or so years. At the same time, many local newspapers have simply closed, and others have been brought up by conglomerates who are simply trying to squeeze any profit out of the business they can and who tend to treat their journalists and editors very poorly. This is a situation that needs to be fixed if we are to retain decent news reporting founded in fact in this country....EFF and their allies continue to protect the right of internet giants to make more money off of copyright owners for reasons I do not understand, and they offer no alternatives to prevent the further demise of the news industry – which is so crucial for democracy.

     "EFF are good on free speech – except where it intersects with copyright. They do not understand that copyright is the engine of free speech and accommodates it at the same time."
Graphic Artists Guild, a national union of illustrators, designers, production artists and other creatives who come together to pursue common goals, raise industry standards, and improve the ability of visual creators to achieve rewarding careers Here's where you can download Disability Access symbols.
Hurston/Wright Foundation (a world of black writers--discovering, mentoring, and honoring black writers--named for Zora Neale Hurston and Richard Wright). Check out the excellent gallery of recommended reading.
International Federation of Journalists (IFJ)
The International Women's Writing Guild (a global powerhouse & digital village for mighty, soulful women writers--a global community of women writers with diverse voices, changing the way the voices and stories of women writers get heard, crafted, and spread around the globe). See, for example, its award The Livingkindness Foundation Prize for Social Justice Writing by a Woman of Color. An interesting grassroots kind of feminism responsive to Third World truths. See also Narrative Medicine: How a Poem Can Save a Life (Heather Summerhayes Cariou)
Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE), strong on training and on ethics and freedom of the press issues. Must-join for investigative journalists.
Literary organizations for Latinx writers (Authors Guild links)

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Mystery Writers of America (MWA), organization for mystery and crime writers, professionals allied to crime writing, aspiring crime writers, and folks who just love to read crime fiction. Important awards program. Perks include a list of libraries nationwide and a helpful list of bookstores.
National Association of Science Writers (NASW, founded in 1934, 2,200 science writers and editors and science-writing educators and students whose aim is to improve their craft and encourage conditions that promote good science writing. An active, sometimes contentious listserv (particularly a 2019 discussion of sexual harassment; an ongoing struggle about whether NASW is a journalism organization or a science writing organization, in which PIOs are valuable members (which is less a struggle and more useful an event as the annual Science Writer for Hire event, the best place at the ScienceWriters meeting for informal meetings between editors, freelance writers and PIOs); and a mid-coronavirus argument about research on gender and autism. At the same time, it values high standards of professionalism and is committed to teaching and mentoring young and new members. Find your nearest local science writing group here . Lots of interesting and informative activities and columns, such as Lynne Lamberg's Advance Copy column (backstories on books by NASW members). Useful for all organizations: NASW's Online Code of Conduct Creating "respectful, harassment-free environments for all people."
National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC), an alliance of over 40 national nonprofit organizations, including literary, artistic, religious, educational, professional, labor, and civil liberties groups defending freedom of thought, inquiry, and expression, educating the public about the dangers of censorship, and cultivating a climate of opinion hospitable to First Amendment freedoms.

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The National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) a professional organization for visual journalists (7,000 members strong), promoting the creation, practice, training, editing and distribution of visual journalism in all news media, as a valuable public service
National Writers Union (NWU), a union (which is unusual among freelance writers), part of United Auto Workers Local 1981, AFL-CIO.  Easy to join. See Issues We Care About and News. Among accomplishments:  NWU and Nautilus Settle $60,000 Non-Payment Grievance (Larry Goldbetter, 1-31-18) NWU represented writers in similar suits against Ebony magazine ($80,000+) and Uptown magazine ($20,000+). NWU represents STAFF writers more than freelance writers, which became apparent when all the organizations of independent and freelance artists protested that writers were excluded only with a 35-item maximum on AB5 (see freelancing section), because of which many of them lost major clients (wary of being penalized), and NWU approved AB5. So their  interests are diverging.
News Guild (formerly The Newspaper Guild). A strong union, a sector of Communications Workers of America, "representing journalists and media professionals in a digital world." See The Guild Reporter and News (about Guild issues, etc.).
Novelists, Inc, a professional organization for multi-published writers of popular fiction in all genres (whether two novels or 102), with about 500 members
Outdoors Writers Association of America (OWAA, founded in 1927). More than 600 individual outdoor communicators from the broad spectrum of outdoor beats, from shooting to camping, backpacking to kayaking, wildlife watching to mountain climbing. A good place to connect with others in your niche, connect with potential clients, and improve as an outdoors writer

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• ****PEN America (poets/playwrights, essayists/editors, novelists), the American branch of a global organization of published authors, aspiring writers, and all who love the written word, with an emphasis on literary writers around the world (fighting for the rights and lives of those living where speech and the press are not free). PEN's mission ("The freedom to write"), as part of the literary and human rights community, is to defend free expression everywhere through such vehicles as the excellent DARE (Daily Alert on Rights and Expression), subscribe to daily links to/highlights of threats to free expression--which keep us up to date on issues and problems better than any other writers organization), ARC (Artists at Risk Connection, The PEN Ten (weekly interview series), Writers at Risk, Research & Resources (invaluable reports and toolkits, such as Online Harassment Field Manual, Forbidden Fees: Government Controls on Social Media in China, Faking News:Fraudulent News and the Fight for Truth, Wrong Answer: How Good Faith Attempts to Address Free Speech and Anti-Semitism on Campus Could Backfire, Defending Free Expression: A Toolkit for Writers and Readers, Trump the Truth: Free Expression in the President's First 100 Days, and more). See also the PEN America archive, PEN's Freedom to Write program, the PEN World Voices Festival, Readers & Writers, the PEN Literary Awards, Prison Writing, and the Prison Writing Awards. Explore the site.
PEN/New England (PEN-NE). is a branch of PEN American Center, and part of International PEN, the oldest international literary organization and the oldest human rights organization in the world.

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Poets & Writers (PW), absolutely excellent resources for poets and literary writers.
Romance Writers of America (RWA), advancing the professional interests of career-focused romance writers through networking and advocacy (more than 10,250 members in 145 chapters offer local or special-interest networking and education). This organization KNOWS how to cultivate fans! On the other hand, see Inside the Spectacular Implosion at the Romance Writers of America (Kelly Faircloth, Jezebel, 1-15-2020). More (and shorter) articles on that under Romance novels and novelists.
Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, Inc. (SFWA), informs, supports, promotes, defends and advocates for its members, helping over 1800 authors, artists, and allied professionals deal effectively with agents, editors, anthologists and producers in non-print media. Distinguished awards program.
Sisters In Crime, founded by Sara Paretsky and a group of women at the 1986 Bouchercon in Baltimore to combat discrimination against women in the mystery field and promote the professional advancement of women who write mysteries. Has 3600 members in 48 chapters worldwide.
Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing (SABEW, an organization of business journalists). Headquarters: the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University in Phoenix, AZ. Presents annual Best in Business Awards and has an excellent teletraining archive.
Society for Technical Communication (STC), whose 14,000 members include technical writers and editors, content developers, documentation specialists, technical illustrators, instructional designers, academics, information architects, usability and human factors professionals, visual designers, Web designers and developers, and translators - anyone whose work makes technical information available to those who need it.

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Society of American Travel Writers (SATW), a highly selective professional association that represents the interests of more than 1300 professional journalists, photographers, and media relations professionals in North America--promoting responsible journalism, high professional standards,the right of freedom to travel, and conservation and preservation of historic sites and natural wonders
The Society of Authors (SoA) is the UK trade union for all types of writers, illustrators and literary translators, at all stages of their careers, 8500 members strong.
Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), the only organization in the country devoted to furthering the careers of authors and illustrators of children's and young adult books. The kidlit genre has altogether different approaches to publishing, so if this is the field you aspire to, join and participate. Important awards program. SCBWI onferences (New York in the winter, Los Angeles in the summer, for kidlit writers at all levels, and Bologna (Italy) Showcase every other early spring), plus many regional events. Read Esther Hershenhorn's Confessions and Secrets of a Veteran SCBWI Conference Goer (or, Do As I Say, Not As I Did). Members can get a list describing "which popular books were edited by which editors at which houses. This information is invaluable, because it tells you exactly which editor acquired or worked on what book-presupposing this is the type of material they will continue to seek out."
Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), important organization of (chiefly staff) journalists, founded in 1909 and still going strong. Professional development, networking, job board, awards program, legal counsel, Quill magazine, info about journalism.

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Songwriters Guild of America, formed in 1931 to advance, promote, and benefit the profession of songwriters or their estates through the collection of members' royalties from publishers, the auditing of writer accounts, notification and filing of members' copyright renewal applications, administration of members' publishing rights, and legal and legislative efforts
Textbook & Academic Authors Association (TAA) keeps its members (authors of text and academic material) informed about their professional interests as authors and educators, protects their copyright and contract rights, and helps improve the working conditions of creators of academic intellectual property.
Western Writers of America, Inc. (WWA), founded in 1935 to promote the literature of the West, WWA is now an organization of freelance writers of Western fiction and nonfiction who banded together to lift the standards of their products, gain better promotion and publicity, and foster understanding of the mutual problems and efforts of WWA's members
World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) , one of 16 specialized agencies of the United Nations system of organizations, WIPO being responsible for promoting the protection of intellectual property rights worldwide.
Writers Guild of America, West (WGAW), where Hollywood is. Check out its guide to new media and its entertaining Hotlist (under Writing Tools), among other site features.
The Writers' Guild of Great Britain

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SEE ALSO

Organizations for writers, editors, and others in creative arts
(directories with links, by type)

Agents
Arts and poetry organization
Awards, grants, and fellowships
Biographers, memoirists, personal historians, life story writers, Organizations and sites for
Copyright and intellectual property discussion groups and listservs on

Corporate, government, and technical communicators, Organizations for
Editors, indexers, and other publishing professionals
Fiction writers and fans, Organizations for
Freelancers, contractors, telecommuters, Organizations for

Ghostwriters and collaborators, Organizations for
Job banks and publishing marketplaces
Journalism and journalists
Local and regional U.S. writers organizations
Major writers organizations (fighting for creators' rights, interests, and ethical behavior)
Media pros and other allied professionals (translators, indexers, designers, photographers, artists, illustrators, animators, cartoonists, image professionals, composers)
Medical, health, and science writers and editors, Organizations for
Narrative nonfiction and long-form journalism, sites and resources

Oral historians, Organizations for (McNees site)

Organizations fighting for First Amendment rights and Four Freedoms

Organizations focused on intellectual property rights and issues

Organizations that help artists with disabilities
Other storytelling venues
Online writers groups, critique groups, and communities (connect with other writers and editors)
Publishers, publishing professionals, and booksellers, Organizations for
Thoughtful radio and TV talk shows
Rights holders (licensing organizations and rights clearinghouses; organizations for clearing rights in visual arts, music and sound, books, scripts, and screenplays)
Screenwriters, playwrights, documentary filmmakers, and critics
Specialty and niche writers organizations (groups for writers who specialize in animals, autos, bowling, children's books,food, gardens, family history, jazz, résumés, sports, travel, Web writing, wine--or writing for children, academia, the Web, or public relations)
Social networking for readers

Sports journalists and editors, Organizations for
Translators and interpreters

Travel writers, Organizations for
Writers workshops, conferences, and other learning places

 

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More organizations for writers, editors,
and others in the creative arts

(lists with links, by type)


Agents
Arts and poetry organization
Awards, grants, and fellowships
Biographers, memoirists,and other life story writers
Copyright and intellectual property discussion groups and listservs on
Corporate, government, and technical communicators
Editors, indexers, and other publishing professionals
Fiction writers and fans, Organizations for
Freelancers, contractors, telecommuters
Job banks and publishing marketplaces
Journalism and journalists
Local and regional U.S. writers organizations
Major writers organizations (fighting for creators' rights, interests, and ethical behavior)
Media pros and other allied professionals (translators, indexers, designers, photographers, artists, illustrators, animators, cartoonists, image professionals, composers)
Medical, health, and science writers and editors
Narrative nonfiction and long-form journalism, sites and resources
Other storytelling venues
Online writers groups, critique groups, and communities (connect with other writers and editors)
Publishers and booksellers
Thoughtful radio and TV talk shows
Rights holders (licensing organizations and rights clearinghouses; organizations for clearing rights in visual arts, music and sound, books, scripts, and screenplays)
Screenwriters, playwrights, documentary filmmakers, and critics
Other specialties and niches (groups for writers who specialize in animals, autos, bowling, children's books,food, gardens, family history, jazz, résumés, sports, travel, Web writing, wine, etc.)
Social networking for readers
Translators and interpreters
Writers workshops, conferences, and other learning places