Frequently Asked Questions About Joining ASJA

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How do you define a book?

A book is a publication of words, usually 35,000 words or longer. Some books, such as fitness guides, pop psychology, and children's books may be shorter. If you are the author of a shorter book, the Membership Committee suggests you include a word count with your application. The committee may consider a shorter book in combination with article credits.

In general, self-published books are not accepted as qualifying material for ASJA membership. An exception may be made on rare occasion for self-published books with substantial sales, reviews in well-known journals, or inclusion in a major book club. Proof of sales, inclusion in book clubs, or published reviews must be submitted along with a copy of the book. Without such documentation, self-published books will not be reviewed by the Membership Committee.

Does a co-authored or ghostwritten book qualify toward ASJA membership?

It depends. For some books co-authored by a writer and an expert, the writer writes the entire book. In other cases, both authors share the writing. For collaborative or ghostwritten projects, the Membership Committee may ask for clarification from the applicant or possibly contact the book's editor to verify the contribution of the applicant.

How do you define an article?

ASJA defines "substantial" pieces as 1000 to 1200 words. Applicants can submit more, shorter clips to qualify, but the Membership Committee wants to see at least some longer pieces from national or well-recognized regional or trade publications or major websites.

What if I am submitting shorter articles, say 300 or 400 words?

You should submit more articles so they add up to six articles of 1,000 to 1,200 words. However, the Membership committee expects to see at least one or two longer articles.

Can I submit articles from only one publication?

You should submit articles from two or more publications as supporting evidence that you are a professional freelance writer.

Is it OK to submit articles published in a "freebie" publication?

It depends. The Membership Committee would like information about the publication. Some freebies are respected and publish good journalism. Others are merely throw-aways with puff pieces about their advertisers. If you are submitting articles from a freebie, please give us information about the publication, such as a copy of their writer's guidelines or their "about us" statement.

What is a "major trade publication"?

In general, this means trade publications with a wide circulation and trade publications that are often referred to or used as sources by editors and writers for the public. However, some trade publications are "controlled circulation" and are sent free to everyone who qualifies for a subscription. Other trade publications are highly respected but have a small circulation. Furthermore, some trade publications are highly respected but not widely quoted outside the industry.

The Membership Committee does not accept clips from publications where the writer is required to write about major advertisers. It also does not accept advertorials as clips. The committee is looking for trade publications that contain good journalism. Examples include Women's Wear Daily, Variety, and the New York Law Journal.

Because there are so many trade publications, many of them unfamiliar to the Membership Committee, we suggest you include information (circulation figures, audience, e.g.) about the publication with your clips.

What about old clips?

Some applicants to ASJA submit perfectly good but old qualifications -- two books published 20 years ago, for example. The Membership Committee asks that you submit some recent clips showing that you are back at work as a freelancer. The committee realizes that it may take a year or 18 months after you return to freelancing before you have new clips to add to the oldies.

What about Canadian clips?

The Membership Committee recognizes that writers try to sign a First North American Serial Rights agreement, indicating the American and Canadian market is one.

Our Canadian members have noted that Canada is a niche market, about the size of California or other regional or specialized markets, so the committee usually accepts as qualifications articles published in major Canadian publications, such as Chatelaine, National Post, and Toronto Globe and Mail. The committee would like to see, but does not require, clips from major US publications.

What about English-language clips from elsewhere?

The Membership Committee usually accepts as qualifications articles published in foreign English-language publications that are widely circulated in the US, such as the International Herald Tribune, The Economist, and The Financial Times. It does not accept as qualifications articles published in foreign English-language publications that are major in the country where they're published but not widely circulated in the United States.

What about online publications?

Online-only credits qualify as long as they were produced on a freelance basis and paid for by the market. Since online clips tend to be shorter than those for print publications, a larger number should be submitted.Unpaid content or that produced for pay-per-click models do not now qualify toward ASJA membership.

What about custom publications?

The Membership Committee does not accept as qualifications articles that must mention the advertiser or are part of magazines publicizing an institution or company. The committee tries to draw a line between publications such as "in-flights," which are published by airlines but have general informational content and publications that promote a company or institution. Smithsonian and AARP, for example, are accepted because they are general-interest magazines and widely available. Custom publications (sometimes called one-shots) from major publishers (for example Your Perfect Wedding, Your Perfect Kitchen Make-Over) are acceptable provided the assigning, writing, and editing are independent -- ie, the writer does independent research and is not required to mention advertisers) Advertising inserts (advertorials) are not acceptable as credits.

Must qualifying work be written in English?

Yes.

My articles are not by-lined. Can I qualify?

ASJA's Bylaws require that articles be by-lined. We regret that a few publications do not give writers by-lines.

I'm a staff writer, but I also freelance. Can I qualify for ASJA?

Yes, but only for the work you have done as a freelance--the books or articles you wrote on nights or weekends. We're sorry, but your staff work doesn't qualify. ASJA is a professional association of freelances and independent writers; staff work simply lies outside our area of concentration.

Does ASJA judge the quality of my writing samples?

The ASJA Membership Committee doesn't evaluate applicants' work. That's the job of an editor at a respected publication. The committee wants to see that you have published in several magazines, newspapers, or websites or have published books that meet the criteria described above.

What happens if I don't qualify?

If an application falls short of qualifying, we let you know why. The application remains accessible to you, and you're invited to add clips and credits at any time to submit it for reconsideration. There's never an additional charge. We don't want anyone to give up; it's often just a matter of adding a few more credits before a working freelance writer can qualify to join ASJA.