What is the future of the Crime Writers’ Association?

The CWA (crime writers’ association) is open for consultation about its future, according to an article in its own magazine, Red Herrings (available only to members!). The organisation has put the text of this article up at its Facebook page, for anyone to read. The CWA is mainly known to the reading public for its various Dagger awards, which are announced at different times over a year in various PR-style ways.

As a keen reader of crime fiction, I was pleased to see this initiative, as it is pretty expensive to join the CWA for a reader given that there are very few benefits, if any, associated with membership, which is geared up for authors to promote their books and receive tax advice, as well as to socialise.

However, since the CWA article was posted at Facebook, only two people have commented – me and another person – and neither of us has received the courtesy of a response (I also emailed my comment, as suggested in the article). I do hope that the CWA is serious in its intent to change – some of the reasons for my hope are outlined in the response I sent them, which I am copying here:

I’m glad the CWA is open for feedback. I am not a writer but a reader and reviewer of crime fiction. I read most of the books eligible for the International Dagger award each year as well as many other crime novels. I have not joined the CWA to date because membership is expensive and the benefits not significant (to a reader). I would certainly join the CWA if you had a special “readers’ ” membership tailored to us, which could include online discussions, book promotions, reading events and so on. I think the CWA would benefit from this input, there is a lot of discussion going on all over the internet about crime fiction, either via sites like Shots, Euro Crime et al, or blogs, or smaller forums, and you would do well as an organisation to tap into that better than you do now. Authors tend in the main to be interested only in promoting themselves and their books, whereas readers are broader and can bring intelligent debate and analysis. CWA could be a hub for all that.

If you like crime fiction, and think that the CWA could offer something more than it does at present that you’d find useful, please do reply to them, either at their Facebook post or via email to info@thecwa.co.uk for those allergic to Facebook. I do hope that comments and feedback will be answered at some point, as I think the CWA is very well placed to be a hub for the crime fiction community, so long as “community” involves readers as well as authors.

UPDATE 6 October: I’ve just received a response from the CWA. Here it is (!):
Hi Maxine
Many thanks for taking the time to write back. At the moment the CWA is only open to published writers, so readers can’t join. Our proposal is to set up a readers membership as you suggest, which would be free, and draw together online content as you say. We hope to launch this over the next few months.
Best wishes
Claire (Director)
[Note, I have been asked to join previously by other members of the CWA (at least two of them from memory), even though they know I’m a reader not an author. Confused? I am.]

9 thoughts on “What is the future of the Crime Writers’ Association?

  1. This sounds such excellent advice, Maxine. I think not just the CWA, but any other literary association, would be wise to take notice of it!

  2. I wonder how many people, especially authors, are having their say behind the scenes via email? I don’t feel entitled to comment as it is a UK based group that I would be unlikely to join but it’s certainly a positive step that they’ve asked for comment, even if they haven’t really quite gotten the hang of doing consultation via social media (responding to comments, posing more specific questions, trying to generate discussion among commenters etc)

    • Even though the organisation is UK based, there is a lot of publicity generated by the various dagger awards (which Aussies have won😉 ) and I think for example the CWA could let readers nominate or vote for these titles wherever in the world they are. That’s just one, off the top of my head, idea – I feel sure there are many ways in which the CWA could embrace readers everywhere, to our mutual benefit.

  3. Maxine – Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this as well as your excellent response to the CWA article. I’ve been thinking about what I might want to say, myself… Like you, I hope that the CWA will respond to your comment; I’m a firm believer in the value of rich communication between readers, authors and the world of publishing and as you say, the CWA could be a real resource for that. The more organisations tap into the knowledge and perspective that informed readers can bring, the better for all, I think.

  4. I’m a member of the CWA but speak only for myself here, expressing my own personal views. Authors who pay more attention to themselves than to their readers are really putting the cart before the horse. Readers are the most important link in the book chain and authors and author groups are crazy to neglect them. I do think the new CWA initiative to start a readers’ group is a good idea and I hope it’s well supported ‘officially’ as well as by individual authors. I’m sure other CWA authors will agree. These ideas just take time to implement, I expect. I’m sure all authors appreciate your interest. Leigh Russell (CWA Dagger nominee)

    • Just so long as the CWA does not charge us £50 for the privilege! (As we can all start a readers group for nothing.) I do think that there is a bigger picture that an organisation like CWA can foster, though, given all the internet sites, blogs, and groups about crime fiction. I think they are missing out a bit by not being more ambitious about tapping into this content and debate.
      BTW, my experience on going to, eg crime festivals, is that one gets blitzed by a charm offensive from authors who want you to read their books and don’t have much interest in conversations on other topics (in the main) …..I have no interest in authors and their personalities, just in the reading! But maybe that’s me.

  5. Maxine,
    I am a little confused here. If the CWA is a trade association,then it properly
    concerns itself with the interests of people in that trade–like tax,getting
    published ,legal advise and so on. The interests of its customers –the readers
    is not the same.
    I am a member of a trade association –psychotherapy -(UKCP),and we have
    recently brought in lay members -representing our customers (patients)
    onto some committees. Perhaps that is the way forward for the CWA.
    On your point about writers as personalities ,I used to agree with you,until
    hearing and speaking to many authors at Nordic Noir Book Club. To a person
    they were all highly engaging ,humble,fascinating people –and having met and
    listened to them adds to my enjoyment of their writing.

    • Simon, in some ways you seem to be right about the CWA, but they have certainly encouraged people like me to join in the past – but when I looked into it, there does not seem to be any reason why I should (as I don’t need all those author things). Fair enough, but now they are saying they want to be open to readers and to change their organisation, and are open for comments from anyone (hence their reprinting their article on Facebook, which is free to anyone to read). It is just a bit odd that they don’t respond to the comments they ask for, but maybe they will in due course.

      On authors, yes, there certainly are exceptions. Sadly, there aren’t that many Nordic authors at these crime festivals – though one or two are regulars (Sigurdardottir and Nesser for example). It isn’t just crime festivals, though (as I should have made clear), if one has a reviewer blog or is known as a reviewer, one receives a constant stream of emails, etc, suggesting that you might like to read someone’s book, etc. It gets rather wearing, as I like to choose myself what I read, not be pushed into it.

  6. Maxine, I can imagine the volume of email requests you get at Petrona. I think I will judge a new attitude by the CWA on their approach to the Ellis Peters Award this year. Last year they announced a short list of massive doorstop books about a week in advance of the prize giving. If they really want to interact with readers, and bloggers, then they should be a bit more thoughtful in their marketing and response to comments.

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