We haven’t tried to show bias or favoritism with our series of media groups, but something about this one struck us as a little odd, and we wanted you to know.
The National Writers Association is a 73-year-old “community of writers and friends where Great Work Begins”, according to their web site. Founder Sandy Whelchel tells us that the group has 5,000 members. It very well may have, but.
If you’ve been following our series at all, you’ll notice that of the groups that charge for memberships, non-professionals are usually allowed to join (as “associates,” “supporters,” etc) for a higher fee.
When we wrote the NWA to ask about dues, we received this back:
“Regular Membership $65, Professional Membership $85 (which should be accompanied by three tearsheets of your published work, verification of your employment as a writer, or a copy of the title page from a published book or play), or just $35 for students with a copy of your student ID.”
That’s odd. It’s extremely rare for the pricing to be switched like this. In fact, we’d go as far as to say that there is no other membership organization we’ve profiled that charges more for professionals.
We wrote Sandy, the executive director, and after the jump you can read what she said and our conclusions:
(Update 10/13: Sandy sent us a bit more information; it’s also after the jump.)
On Sep 25, 2009, at 9:48 PM, Rachel Kaufman wrote:
I’m a careers blogger with Mediabistro.com. I’m currently running through a series of profiles of professional development organizations like the NWA. This is the first I’ve come across that charges *more* for a professional membership. Could you explain the discrepancy?
On October 2, 2009, at 12:42 PM, Sandy Whelchel wrote:
I guess I really didn’t understand what you wanted. Here’s the short spiel. NWA is a 73-year old service organization for writers. We assist writers with everything from how to format a manuscript through finding ethical agents and editors. The services are pretty well outlined on our website. The research reports (available only to members) are one of our most popular services.
Sorry for the slow answers. We are currently moving our database to an online host and it has been a nightmare. 5000+ names goes very slowly.
On October 2, 2009, at 2:08 PM, Rachel Kaufman wrote:
Why does NWA charge its members one fee for a Regular membership and a higher fee for a Professional membership? What extra services does the $20 annually buy you? I see on your web site that the only benefit that seems to be available for pros that isn’t available for regulars is the freelance writer’s directory, but where is that directory?
I ask because, again, in most other organizations for writers, it’s non-professionals that end up paying the higher fees, and I was wondering why NWA was different.
On the NWA page outlining benefits, there’s a list of benefits that are for beginners (the cheaper price), professionals (the higher price), and either (with payment of an additional fee). It appears the only benefit for pros, as we’d said in our e-mail, is a writer’s directory, which is “Published online, includes names, addresses, specialties of qualified Professional NWA and Associated Business
Writers of America members.” But where? Who knows? It isn’t on their site.
On 10/13, Sandy responded to our question about where, exactly, the directory lives:
We keep an ongoing inhouse database of professionals. I get several e-mails or calls per month for writers. When that happens I use the database to refer our members for those jobs. I have many professionals who join as regular members who do not need that service and I’m happy to have them as regular members.
We are hoping to restore the Professional Directory to our new website. Links were lost in cyberspace a while back and never restored.
The group does have a quarterly newsletter and some member testimonials, so we’re giving them one point in their favor. Too, there is nothing negative on Writers Weekly’s Whispers & Warnings…but nothing positive, either. (This is the only thread we could find) Sandy herself uses an @hotmail email address for all NWA communication we’ve received from her, and most of the member authors who have written books appear to have self-published or vanity pubbed..not that there’s anything inherently wrong with that but we’re not sure this is a resource worth paying extra for.
Or even at all, for that matter.