Somewhere on the interweb I recently stumbled across The Alliance of Indie Authors (ALLi). The name excited me--an alliance of indie writers! Visions of a horde of e-book-wielding authors storming the trad-pub castle danced in my head. Cool--where do I join?
Not so fast, young indie. Although ALLi represents itself as a "a nonprofit, professional association for self-publishing writers" it doesn't mean the club is not exclusive. Just because the organization is nonprofit doesn't mean you can waltz in for free. After all, nothing is really free (even free e-books; there's always a catch or hook or ulterior motive).
Okay, understood, a fee for any professional organization is reasonable and expected. So what will it cost to join ALLi? They offer four membership options, with varying degrees of benefits. The least expensive is $60 USD a year. Want to call yourself an ALLi author? That'll be $99, please. The professional membership goes for $139 annually (as does the partner package).
Whoa! My initial reaction was that this is a little steep for a penny-pinching indie like myself. But I didn't want to jump to conclusions, so I poked around to learn what benefits I would reap for my money. With all four membership options, you receive a membership badge and ALLi's Code of Standards, neither of which have actual monetary value (based on my return-on-investment analysis), so I moved on to the tangible perks.
The Member Benefits page of the ALLi website summarizes what you receive for your membership fee. The first benefit listed is world-class Self-Publishing Advice & Guidance via regular online sessions with key advisors addressing your self-publishing quandaries and queries. ALLi does boast an impressive stable of professionals on their team, and the ability to interact with these folks has value. However, my concerns are the actual availability of these obviously-busy professionals. How often will they be online and interacting? What will be the advisor-to-member ratio? What are the odds someone will answer my question with the information I couldn't find elsewhere? The website promises 'regular' online sessions, but I would prefer a more defined commitment. What does ALLi mean by regular? Weekly? Monthly? Quarterly? I don't know, but I would like to, because I think this membership benefit promises the most value.
The second benefit--Meetups & Contacts--includes perks such as a searchable member database, Offline MeetUps & Events, Closed Online Forums, Publishing Contacts (publishers, printers, booksellers, distributors, book fairs, self-publishing services and rights agencies), evaluation of self-publishing services and a few more. This also seems promising, however, assuming these contacts and services do not interact exclusively at ALLi, these resources should be available elsewhere on the web. Your searching of these resources appears limited to the pond of ALLi-allied professionals.
The remaining member benefits are categorized as Encouraging Excellence, Self-Publishing News & Information, Advocacy & Campaigns, and Member Discounts & Incentives. This last group of benefits aren't described in as much detail as the first two, and overall, seem a bit nebulous in regard to their cash value.
As a side-note, Grammarly found two typos in the text I copied from ALLi's website. Worldclass and quandries can be found on ALLi's Member Benefits page. I realize it's very nit-picky on my part to point this out, but I do find the presence of typos discouraging on a website that's promoting self-publishing excellence as part of its membership package.
In summary, I feel the urge to cough up the money and join, yet I question whether my motivations are driven by the value of the membership, or the draw of joining an exclusive organization where I may get a chance to hob-nob with some of the big fish in the self-publishing pond. For now, I'm staying on the fence. What about you?