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Readers' Questions About Writers Guilds

A recent column about writers guilds has prompted a rash of questions from readers — okay, not a rash of questions, since a rash is made up of a bunch of little dots, which implies that a bunch of readers were curious about this.

Let me try again.

A recent column about writers guilds has prompted a zit of questions from readers about how guilds work, how to join one, and even how to recognize the members.

Wanda A. from Quonochontaug, Rhode Island asks, "How hard is it to start a guild? Is there some sort of guildship granting authority, or a guild of guilds?"

Actually, Wanda, starting a guild is both easy and hard. Anyone can gather a group of people who work in one profession, dress them up in medieval-looking robes, and call themselves a guild.

On the other hand, you can sit in my garage all you want, but that doesn't make you a car. A guild is not like a professional association that throws big drunken conferences in Vegas each year. A guild works for the betterment of its members, collect a portion of each member's earnings, take care of members in hard times, and will even negotiate with the employers on behalf of the members. Writers guilds tend to be very poor, since they make very little money.

Clay M. from Box Ankle, Georgia writes, "So they're like a union?"

Yes, Clay, they're a lot like unions, but without guys in shiny suits who collect dues each month. Also, senior members of guilds don't sit on their butts while younger members do all the work, although they do get cutsies in the dessert line.

Bryan F. from Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump, Alberta, Canada wonders, "What if I want to join a guild, but haven't been invited? How can I get in?"

The only way to join a guild is either to be invited based on the quality and scope of your work over several years, or to save the life of a member while they are in the course of their guild-related duties.

Save a guild member from being hit by a bus, and you won't get anything except 20 bucks stuffed into your hand. But, if a guy from the International Society of Novelists (ISN) is choking on a canapé at a book launch party, and you save him with the Heimlich maneuver, you're in like Flynn!

Please note, however, that you will only gain admittance if you are a writer in that particular genre. If you are not, the members will reward you with copies of their books. The number and quality of the books depend on how much they like that particular member.

Cathy D. from Gibsonton, Florida writes, "Does every guild have a signifier or talisman?"

As I described in my previous column, each guild has some kind of symbol or indicator that they are a member of their particular guild. That way, they can recognize their fellow members, or even members of other guilds.

For example, the League of Poets wears a gold oak leaf at all times, even when they're in their barista's uniform, while members of the Public Relations Practitioners Guild carry a recycled stainless steel coffee mug filled with an organic soy latte, and wear an overinflated look of self-importance. But not every guild has a talisman. For some, it's how they dress, like wearing a certain style and color of socks.

Sal P. from Pittsburg, Kansas inquires, "Why do we even need guilds? They're ancient relics from a forgotten past. They're elitist and exclusionary, and the whole system should be dismantled."

Ah, youth. I'm guessing you're under 30, and were ignored by a guild because of your age. Was it the ISN? The Alliance of Historic Fictionalists? It couldn't be the League of Poets, because they'll take anybody even if you haven't saved anyone (because the only launch parties they attend are the ones they're catering). Just keep producing good work, and eventually you'll get in, mostly because the people who rejected you will have forgotten or died in another ten years.

Ryan B. of Hammond, Indiana asks, "Is there a guild for Young Adult (YA) fiction writers?"

Well, Ryan, I'm sure that if you found all the YA writers who wrote something that didn't have vampires and was actually worth reading, you might be able to get both of them to create one.

If you have any further questions about writers guilds, leave them behind the loose brick, fifth one from the alley, at First Editions bar. Be sure to carry a black fountain pen in your breast pocket. The password is "swordfish."

The second edition of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), and my other book, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing are both available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook.


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