The society was founded in 1948 and today is the leading organization of independent nonfiction writers in the United States. It has more than 1,000 freelance writers of magazine articles, trade books, and other forms of nonfiction writing. Each of these writers meet the standards of professional achievement required for admission to the society. They have written full-length bylined magazine or newspaper articles in major publications throughout a significant period of time as freelancers, or have written non-fiction books that have been published by established publishers, or had other equivalent freelance achievements. Because becoming a member of the society is difficult, membership in it serves to demonstrate to editors, agents and fellow writers that the member is a seasoned professional nonfiction writer. This is one of the most important benefits of membership in the ASJA.

Throughout the years, the society has compiled the major principles of the unwritten code that governs editor-writer relationships to create an ASJA Code of Ethics And Fair Practices. ASJA also has established a Committee on Editor-Writer Relations to investigate and mediate disagreements brought to it by members or editors. ASJA represents the interests of freelance writers and serves as their spokesman on matters relating to their right to control and profit from uses of their work. However, it also benefits editors and others by providing ready access to writers who have demonstrated their ability to produce articles, books, and scripts on any subject.

ASJA provides extensive benefits and services to its members, including seminars and workshops, and the opportunity to explore professional issues and concerns with peers. The annual ASJA Writers Conference brings leading writers, editors, publishers, and media experts together to explore markets and trends in books, magazines, and other media. There is a monthly newsletter that contains inside information on the writing industry; the society provides PayCheck reports of members' confidential fee rate information and experiences with publishers and editors. Members also have exclusive access to job and project leads through ASJA's Writer Referral Service and meetings with editors and others in the industry. There are private online discussion forums for sharing news, asking questions, and receiving answers from one's peers. There are extensive professional resource lists embracing everything from agents to office equipment.

Other membership benefits are membership in the Authors Registry, facilitating royalty payments for database and electronic reprints; a reduction in fees for attendance fees at all Society-sponsored conferences and meetings and large discounts on magazine subscriptions.

The society's address is Suite 302, 1501 Broadway, New York, NY 10036. It has active regional chapters in Northern California, Southern California, the Rocky Mountain area, and Washington, DC.

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