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Join the Writers Union

Self-Publishing Book Authors Unite!

By Susan E. Davis, 

Writing books may be a solitary pursuit, but the writer’s life doesn’t have to be a lonely one. Writers need the company of other writers — to share experiences, offer support and guidance, and work collectively to protect their rights. Those are among the many reasons why the National Writers Union was founded in 1981. Ever since, it’s been organizing writers of all stripes — book authors, journalists, technical writers, poets, novelists, academic writers, and even cartoonists — to better their economic conditions and defend their rights.

Maybe, as an Infinity author, you think you don’t need to belong to such a group. You’re happy with your publishing arrangement; you know you’ve got a good deal and you intend to stick with it. But that doesn’t address the many benefits that come with being part of a community of writers.

“The NWU-BOOK listserve is an excellent resource for authors,” says Jennifer Lawler, chair of the NWU’s Book Division and author of 23 books. “There, members share information on topics like how to promote your book, and you can always look up a subject in the online archives. It’s all about networking. Members share their knowledge and help educate other members. Belonging helps keep you from feeling isolated.”

The NWU offers a host of other benefits:

  • On the Road: The NWU’s Guide to Book Promotion discusses how to give your book the best shot in the marketplace — before, during, and after publication. Written by NWU members, it includes the basics of book promotion, tips on pitching your book to the media, how to organize a book tour, and resources for making your promotion plan both cost-effective and successful. This useful guide can be downloaded from the Members-Only section of the NWU’s Web site: www.nwu.org.
  • Authors Network makes any book promotion tour easier and more affordable by providing more than 100 NWU hosts nationwide and a list of reading venues and reviewers in selected cities (also on the Web site).
  • The NWU offers affordable group health insurance in selected areas around the country. We also offer national group dental, vision, and life insurance.
  • Because the NWU is Local 1981 of the United Auto Workers, we offer members the consumer buying power available to more than 13 million members of AFL-CIO through the Union Plus program.

Other benefits address the needs of book authors who choose to sign with traditional publishers, including:

  • Guide to Book Contracts, which provides preferred language to promote an author’s best interests.
  • A Grievance and Contract Division — offers advice on what constitutes a fair contract.
  • Agents Database — contains information about agents, the agency’s history, and commission structure.
  • Preferred Literary Agent Agreement — a recommended contract for author and agent.

Being part of the UAW sets the National Writers Union apart from other professional associations for writers. NWU President Gerard Colby wrote in the Spring 2004 issue of the NWU’s magazine, The American Writer: “We will continue to find innovative ways to fight for writers’ rights — because deteriorating conditions for writers leave us no choice. We cannot win this struggle on [the publishers’] grounds, as isolated individuals confronting media Goliaths. We must fight on our grounds, as writers united, using our skills to build publicity about these injustices, building community, political and clergy support for our struggles not only in court but also inside the publishing houses. We will go to the higher court of public opinion….

“This will require us to be both bold and smart, to do a new kind of organizing, helping writers with jobs and contracts with selected publishing houses that are bellwether firms in the industry to organize themselves into grievance committees, then organizing committees, then bargaining councils, building a writers movement in the publishing industry, inspiring writers to again believe that participatory democracy — whether in our union or our nation — can work.”

So if you like the idea of challenging the publishing Goliaths and of being part of a writers’ community, join the NWU. The more members we have, the more clout we can wield. And the better we can fight for the best interests of all writers.

Susan E. Davis has published four books and numerous magazine articles, she writes a monthly newsletter for architects and engineers, and she’s been working on a novel for 25 years. A member of the National Writers Union since 1987, she was elected Second Vice President for External Organizing in late 2003.

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