Membership Application FAQ

Professional and associate memberships require application. Here are some of the most common questions about that application process.

General Membership Application FAQs

Can I start my application and finish it later?

No. Read through all membership qualifications, this FAQ, and the full application before you begin. Then gather all of your supporting documents (links and pdfs), so that you can complete your application in one sitting.

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

Staff-written work can be used to satisfy all five clips to qualify for an associate membership. A successful professional membership application may include staff-written work, if the following conditions apply: 

  1. Applicant has submitted a minimum of three substantial freelance credits (which could include long articles, editorials, paid blogging, or a book);
  2. Applicant held a staff job as a writer or reporter at an established media company (newspaper, magazine, website, etc.), and can provide at least three substantial bylined clips from that media company;
  3. Applicant’s qualifying staff job terminated at least 6 months before date of application.

Must qualifying work be written in English?


Can I submit old clips or books?

Some applicants to ASJA submit perfectly good but old qualifications (two books published 20 years ago or magazine articles from 10 years ago, for example). In that case, the membership review committee asks that you submit some recent clips showing that you still working as a freelance writer.

Does ASJA judge the quality of my writing samples?

The membership review 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.

Can I email or snail mail my application or supporting documents?

No. The application process must be completed in full using our online forms. Supporting documents must be submitted as links or PDFs.

What payments are required in order to consider my application?

Before submitting your application, you will be required to submit a credit card payment of $310, which includes an application fee, an initiation fee, and the first year of dues. If you are not accepted for membership, you will receive reimbursement of $285 for the first year of dues and initiation fee. The application fee is nonrefundable. Because you have pre-paid the first year of dues, you will automatically become an ASJA member if you qualify, and your ASJA benefits begin immediately.

What happens if I don’t qualify for professional membership? 

If an application falls short of qualifying for associate membership, we will let you know why. The application will remain accessible to you, and you’re invited to add clips and credits at any time to submit it for reconsideration, without additional charges. 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.

When will I hear back about my membership status

It can take up to six weeks to notify applicants of their membership status. See Apply for details about ASJA’s membership review process.

Article FAQs

How does ASJA define an article?

ASJA defines “substantial” pieces as at least 1000 words. Applicants can submit more, shorter clips to qualify, but the membership review committee wants to see at least some longer pieces from national or well-recognized regional or trade publications or major websites. Articles may be essays or reported pieces. 

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

The membership review committee expects to see at least one or two longer articles. If you are submitting shorter pieces as well, submit more articles so they add up to six articles of at least 1,000 to words.

Can I submit articles from only one publication?

No. You must submit articles from two or more publications.

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

Articles from free publications qualify for associate membership.

For professional membership, qualification depends. In that case, the membership review committee would like information about the publication. Some freebies (such as nationally known alt weeklies) are respected and publish good journalism. Others publish mostly 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 that 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 review committee does not accept clips from publications for which 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 review committee, we suggest you include information (circulation figures, audience, e.g.) about the publication with your clips.

My articles are not bylined. Can I qualify?

Yes, you can submit non-bylined articles with proof of authorship, such as a contract or assignment letter/email. 

What about clips from publications outside of the United States?

If an application falls short of qualifying for associate membership, we will let you know why. The application will remain accessible to you, and you’re

ASJA 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 membership review 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 review committee usually accepts as qualified articles published in foreign English-language publications that are widely circulated in print or online in the U.S., such as the Guardian, The Economist, and The Financial Times. It does not accept as qualifications articles published in foreign English-language publications that are 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 qualify for ASJA membership.

What about custom publications?

The membership review 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 Gannett special publications for USAToday) are acceptable, provided the assigning, writing, and editing are not tied to advertising (i.e. the writer does independent research and is not required to mention advertisers). Advertising inserts (advertorials) are not acceptable as credits.

Book FAQs

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, please 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 considered for qualification.

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 review committee may ask for clarification from the applicant or possibly contact the book’s editor to verify the contribution of the applicant.

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