Occasionally, prospective members question the need for membership in the Romance Writers of America. Does membership in the parent organization, they ask, truly provide enough benefits to warrant the additional cost?
My answer is an unqualified yes. Speaking for myself, here are the benefits I receive from my membership in RWA.
Benefits Due to ORWA’s Chapter Affiliation
- Opens More Doors due to Chapter Affiliation:
- Agents and editors are willing to deliver workshops to affiliated Chapters like ORWA, providing a deeper understanding of the publishing business and invaluable opportunities to pitch my manuscripts.
- Best-selling authors like Roxanne St. Claire are willing to give workshops to RWA Chapters, expanding my knowledge of craft and understanding of the business.
- Workshop CDs: ORWA owns a CD library of all workshops delivered at the RWA National conferences for the last few years. This resource is a free alternative to actually attending the conference, and one I can listen to in the comfort of my own home.
- LoveKnot: As an RWA Chapter, ORWA is authorized to prepare and distribute a monthly publication, The LoveKnot, which provides inspirational articles, industry information, writing tips, etc.
Benefits through my Individual RWA Membership
- Allows me to Join an Affiliated Chapter like ORWA: Chapter membership is a privilege available only to RWA members.
- Opens More Doors at an Individual Level: RWA membership opens doors at a personal level by demonstrating that I am serious about advancing my profession:
- When selecting between two promising manuscripts with equal appeal (and this happens with surprising frequency), my RWA membership may tip the scales in my favor.
- My RWA membership provides an edge in the form of writing credentials. I include mention of my RWA membership in my bio, my author’s profile, everywhere and anywhere a reader, editor, agent, or other industry professional might find me.
- The US book market is 90% larger than Canadian. Because RWA it is a US-based organization, it gives Canadian authors a key to unlock a broader audience through facilitating entry to US publishing houses and/or wider distribution in major US retail outlets (e.g. B&N, Walmart).
- Conferences: As an RWA member, I have the opportunity to participate in the many Chapter conferences for published and unpublished manuscripts. I also receive a discounted rate for the Annual Conference held each summer. RWA conferences offer many top-of-the-line workshops that make my work more marketable, provide extensive networking opportunities and offer access to editors and agents. Consequently, I pitched a manuscript at every workshop I attended. Several ORWA members actually sold their books or made life-long friends as a direct result of attending a conference. I have attended both the New England and New Jersey Conferences (both within driving distance) as well as RWA National. All were energizing, informative, and, in my opinion, worth their weight in gold.
- Chapter Contests: As an RWA member, I have the opportunity to participate in the many RWA chapter contests for published and unpublished works. These contests provide valuable criticism. Winners have access to editors or agents. On a personal note, the critique I received from contests, much as it pained me to hear, was both eye-opening and valid. The resulting re-writes strengthened my books to the point that they are now receiving excellent reviews.
- National Contests: As an RWA member, I’m eligible to enter the prestigious RITA and Golden Heart contests at the discounted member rate. Note: There are downsides to the national contests: Not all publishers are on RWA’s eligibility list; mailing delays due to cross-border mailings; and, not all romance or near-romance genres are eligible for these contests. Issues aside, these contests are an amazing opportunity. Sadly, I haven’t won. Yet.
- RWA University: RWA’s online education hub for members offers many craft and business related courses, many of them free. The course content is provided in the form of daily email messages, which can be saved and studied at any time.
- Romance Writers Report: The RWR is a trade publication that mails monthly and covers all aspects of the romance writer’s career. Free with my membership.
- eNotes: A bimonthly e-newsletter that delivers current industry news right to my e-mail inbox. Free with my membership.
- Local and Online Chapters: RWA has approximately 145 local, online, and special-interest chapters that I, as a member of the national association am eligible to join. ORWA is one of these. As a Chapter member, I find it comforting to know that if I visit or move to another city, there is likely an RWA Chapter nearby that will welcome me.
- myRWA: myRWA is a private online community I can connect with other members, often in genre-specific Chat Groups, network, enhancing my RWA membership experience, as well as accessing content specifically for RWA members. For years, I was a member of the FF&P group for fantasy, futuristic, and paranormal writers.
- Advocacy: As an RWA member, I benefit from the substantial advocacy RWA conducts on its members’ behalf. RWA advocates for the best publishing practices for its members, including fair contracts from both publishers and agents.
- Leadership Opportunities: As an RWA General member, I’m entitled to run for a variety of leadership positions, including committees and the RWA Boards of Directors. At this stage in my life, I confess this benefit holds less relevance, but if I were younger (and a lot more energetic) I would be interested in having direct input into the direction of the organization.
Hopefully, this extensive list of benefits will encourage prospective members to join and take advantage of the many rewards and services offered through an RWA membership.
To sum up, and speaking only for myself, I can say with absolute certainty that I would not be where I am in my writing career today if not for my memberships in both the RWA and ORWA.