We've all heard of professional organizations for writers. But what's the point of paying the fee to join one? There are many benefits to membership, including conference and workshop discounts, members-only contests, and networking. Some agents and editors put a lot of stock in letters such as RWA, SCBWI, MWA, etc. Many more pay attention to the story instead of your memberships, so don't lose hope if you don't belong to any organizations.
Here's the question that may baffle you when you start looking for a professional organization: Which one do I join?
There is no one answer. Look at each organization you're considering. Which ones are for your area of writing? Do they offer what you're looking for? Is what they offer worth the membership fee? Once you answer all of these questions, you'll have some idea of which organization (or organizations) to join.
This brings us to the sometimes difficult-to-navigate sea of letters that confront a writer. What do all those letters mean? You know they're abbreviated versions of the names of professional organizations, but how do you know which one is right for you? Here's a list of some of the major organizations to help you get started in your search:
ACFW - American Christian Fiction Writers
AG - The Authors Guild
ASA - American Screenwriters Association
ASJA - American Society of Journalists and Authors
MWA - Mystery Writers of America
NWU - National Writers Union
PSA - Poetry Society of America
RWA - Romance Writers of America
SCBWI - Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators
SFWA - Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America
WGAE - Writers Guild of America, East (for professional writers in film, television, and radio)
WGAW - Writers Guild of America, West (for professional writers for screen, television, or new media)
There are many other organizations, both large and small. The well-known, national organizations will offer the most opportunities and impress editors and agents the most, but the small local organizations might offer what you need as a writer.
Do your research and choose wisely. Writing isn't a great way to get rich, so you'll want to save your membership fees for the organization that will do the most to help you in your career. Good luck with your search for the perfect organization for you; it's out there just waiting for you to find it.