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The Case for Joining The Authors Guild, Or Why I Joined

9355090806_ed083c1aaf_hOver on Teleread David Rothman has responded to my recent post about The Authors Guild’s new membership class with a more positive take on the topic.

Amazon has been shafting KDP Select authors, and even if this is by accident, writers need to push for swift remedies. David VanDyke’s post in TeleRead masterfully chronicled the mess.

But blogging can go only so far in righting this wrong.

The need will remain for advocacy groups for writers regardless of the changing publishing scene—or maybe because of it.

So I would challenge Nate Hoffelder’s recent headline in The Digital Reader: The Authors Guild Now Recruiting Writers Before They Know Better Than to Join The Authors Guild.

“Emerging writers” can now join for the Authors Guild for $100 a year, under a new arrangement. Here’s the form. The cost is $25 less than the $125 for full and associate members, and you don’t have to earned such-and-such an amount for your work.

David goes on to list some of the benefits of membership like legal services, but since I already covered that in Wednesday’s post, and since the same info is listed on The Authors Guild’s website I will not repeat it here.

Instead I will discuss why I joined The Authors Guild.

Yes, I, one of TAG’s most vocal opponents, am now a member.

I am a member even though I disagree with TAG’s silence on Author Solutions, its backward position on Google Books, its hostility towards one of authors' biggest business partners, its position on the DMCA, and its apparent willingness to be the mouthpiece for the legacy publishing industry.

In fact, aside from The Authors Guild’s recent recent education efforts, I can’t recall one position TAG has taken which I could get behind.

Which is exactly why I am joining The Authors Guild.

Love it or hate it, The Authors Guild is still seen by many as a group which represents all authors. Anyone who looks at the membership count knows that simply isn’t true and hasn’t been true for a long long time(*), but that doesn’t change the fact that when TAG speaks it gets a lot of press attention.

I am most emphatically pro-author, and I don’t think TAG is serving the interests of authors.

I want to change that, and since I can’t reform the group from the outside I have joined and will start looking for ways to reform it from within.

Who’s with me?

A full voting membership costs $125 a year and is open to any writer who has earned $5,000 from their work over the previous 18 months.

That is a ridiculously low requirement which many indie authors already meet, so what say we all join The Authors Guild and start agitating for the group to change its positions.

Got a good reason why we shouldn’t?

P.S. The Authors Guild currently claims "almost 9,000 members", while in 2008 the membership count was described as "more than 8,000 writers"(Wayback Machine). this tells us that the tens of thousands of indie authors are not joining TAG.

image by freddie boy

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Smart Debut Author October 16, 2016 um 4:47 pm

Or, you could do what most authors are doing, which is not wasting money to perpetuate the existence of obsolete and ineffective luddite organizations that perpetuate the myths of author powerlessness and publisher hegemony… but hey, it’s your $125, so it’s your choice.

Nate Hoffelder October 16, 2016 um 6:18 pm

You do realize that your plan to ignore them until they go away is not working, right?

Smart Debut Author October 16, 2016 um 7:22 pm

I wouldn’t be so sure.

During the last few years, the AG’s membership count has stayed stagnant at 8,000-ish while the US number of income-earning authors in the US has exploded at least fivefold. And according to the AG’s recent surveys of their own membership, those 9,000 AG members have seen their incomes shrink drastically during the period of the greatest expansion in overall US author income in history.

Their stagnant enrollment during a golden age for authors tells me that, as far as most of those authors are concerned, the AG has zero relevance to today’s publishing industry.

Nate Hoffelder October 16, 2016 um 7:31 pm

And yet TAG is still fighting the Google Books case, they’re testifying in front of Congress, they’re getting headlines, and they go on TV and claim to speak for authors. They have a very real presence in the world, and I want to have a say in how that presence is shaped.

If you want to pretend that stagnation means they’re going away, feel free. But wishing it so will not make it come true.

Smart Debut Author October 16, 2016 um 9:05 pm

Eh. I’ll leave the "pretending" and "wishing" to those who actually care what the AG says or does. Like most authors, I had basically forgotten that they even exist… until your article reminded me. 🙂

Whether they "go away" or continue to limp along is immaterial, other than as a source of dark industry comedy.

Irish Imbas October 16, 2016 um 7:34 pm

Perhaps it’d be easier and more effective to start a splinter variant:
* The Real Authors Guild
* The Authors Guild Plus One
* The Alternative Authors Guild
* The Authors That Actually Sell Books Guild
* Son of The Authors Guild
* Revenge of The Authors Guild
etc. etc.

Nate Hoffelder October 16, 2016 um 7:41 pm


* The League of Extraordinary Authors
* The Author Legion
* The Author Corp
* The Author Guild of America

Smart Debut Author October 16, 2016 um 9:17 pm

* Xavier’s School for Gifted Authors
* Xavier’s Institute for Higher Earning

Nate Hoffelder October 16, 2016 um 9:19 pm


Mary Rasenberger October 19, 2016 um 12:01 pm

Hi guys, This is Mary from the Authors Guild. I couldn’t resist jumping in. It is indeed a new day at the AG. We actually are not fighting the Google case anymore, but are actively seeking input from our members on the fights they feel we should take up (granted our membership is very diverse so there is rarely agreement among all members). Nate is right, please do join and make a difference that way. We are a trade organization, formed by authors for authors. Our mission is to protect authors’ rights where writing is their trade — that is as professionals. We are concerned about authors ability to receive fair compensation and fair contracts; we protect copyright as the economic basis for writers compensation in a democratic society and as the engine of free expression. We also are always on the watch for where writers’ right to free speech is threatened. At the same time, we are committed to providing authors with the education they need to develop and protect their business interests. That is why we started the membership category for emerging writers. As a recent NEA report ( describes, the skills and knowledge to succeed today are very different than in the past and that is not being taught in schools. I came to the Guild two years ago next month and am committed to making sure we are serving authors generally – and in the ways that they need today. Feel free to reach out to me or the staff anytime. [email protected]

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