This week we're pleased to chat with Kasey Michaels, chair of the 2015 Novelists, Inc. Conference, about the hot topics at this year's conference, new challenges and opportunities for both publishers and authors, and more.
Kasey is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of more than 110 books (she doesn't count them). She is a recipient of the RITA, a Waldenbooks and Bookrak Bestseller award, and many awards from Romantic Times magazine, including a Career Achievement award for her Regency era historical romances. She is an Honor Roll author in Romance Writers of America, Inc. (RWA), and is a past president of Novelists, Inc. (NINC).
Please tell us a bit about Novelists, Inc. What is the mission of the organization? What are the goals of the conference?
Let’s begin with this year’s conference dates: Wednesday, September 30 – Sunday, October 4, 2015. Registration cutoff is August 28th, so there’s still time to arrange to network with us – and with Vearsa -- in Florida!
Novelists, Inc (NINC), is an international organization of close to 900 multi-published career authors representing all genres of popular fiction. There are no unpublished in the organization, no tiers of membership, no fans, no contests, no awards. This structure, in addition to our emphasis on “the business of the business,” makes NINC unique in the world of writers organizations. Our membership requirements are listed here.
Dr. D.P. Lyle, Author and 2011 Speaker, sums up our membership and conference nicely: “For me the best thing about attending or speaking at the NINC conference is that the audience consists of professional writers. They hear it, they get it, they use it. It’s just that simple. It’s useful and fun from either side of the podium.”
That’s why, as Chair, I tell speakers that, when considering their workshop content for NINC, they should probably begin where they left off when speaking to other groups.
It wasn’t always this way. A quarter-century ago, career writers were the last to know, the last to be informed, the very last to be asked for their opinions and ideas. Isolated. NINC set out to change that, beginning with its Statement of Principle:
Novelists, Inc., in acknowledgment of the crucial creative contributions novelists make to society, asserts the right of novelists to be treated with dignity and in good faith; to be recognized as the sole owners of their literary creations; to be fairly compensated for their creations when other entities are profiting from those creations; and to be accorded the respect and support of the society they serve.
NINC members range from those in the business for three or more decades, many with fifty or more published novels in their resumes, to newer writers just starting out. In NINC, they are peers, equals, and that’s part of the beauty of the organization. If you qualify for NINC, you know how to write — now let’s learn the business of writing, staying in the game even as the goalposts keep moving.
Fully believing that allied industry professionals and their (gasp!) content providers need a two-way street of communication, NINC set out to engage with the allied publishing industry, bring them together with our members for open, frank conversation between professionals, to share knowledge and build more productive associations.
Happily, that works. It certainly doesn’t hurt that we decided to set our yearly conference in beautiful St. Pete Beach in Florida, at the TradeWinds Island Grand Resort directly on the Gulf, We work hard during our workshops, both members and industry, but we leave time for relaxation, mingling, networking. In fact, we call our conference “a deductible vacation wrapped around the most productive conference your career has ever had.”
While First Word is open to all writers and related industry, only NINC members and related industry may attend the main conference. Qualified applicants may attend the conference while still going through the application process.
What are some of the hot topics at this year's conference?
Our conference this year is titled NINC World – NINC Goes Global. Thanks to our Media Consultant, Porter Anderson, this year’s First Word day sessions will look at aspects of the global market from all angles – the good, the bad, and the what comes next.
The remainder of the conference, with two days of up to three workshops running per hour, will bring us news on innovations in the library market, getting our books ready for publication in e-markets, working with author assistants, international networking, metadata, promotion, freelance editing, social media, translations, co-authoring, discoverability, specialized workshops on research, contract language, how authors are paid (always a hot topic!), and much more.
Our First Word and Main conference schedules will be at here soon, but in the meantime, here’s a fairly complete listing of our diverse and truly marvelous speakers:
Porter Anderson, NINC’s Media Partner
Kris Austin CEO and co-founder, Draft2Digital
Scott Beatty, Co-founder and CCO, Trajectory
Lori Bennett, Nelson Literary Agency (metadata)
Karen Block, freelance editor
James Bryant, Founder and CEO, Trajectory
Catherine Coulter, New York Times-bestselling author (NINC member)
Gareth Cuddy, founder and CEO, Vearsa
Ali Cunliffe, freelance editor
Katie Donelan, BookBub
J.T. Ellison, New York Times-bestselling author (NINC member)
Elizabeth Spann Craig, bestselling author; website named in 101 best sites for writers
Robin Cutler, Manager, Content Acquisition, Ingram Spark
Judith Curr, President and Publisher of Atria Publishing
Richard Fayet, Co-founder, Reedsy
Jane Friedman, digital media strategist
Chuck Kronbach, Director, Indie Publishing Worldwide, Amazon
Matthias Matting, SelfPublisherBibel.de
Thad McIlroy, publishing consultant
Courtney Milan, New York Times-bestselling Author (NINC member)
Alene Moroni, King County Library System
Christine Munroe. U.S. Manager for KOBO Writing Life
Richard Nash, publishing entrepreneur
Nicole Op Den Bosch, Sr. Assoc., Content, ACX
Orna Ross, Founder/Director, ALLi (Association of Independent Authors)
Brenda Shanks, King County Library System
Daniel Slater, Author and Vendor Relations, Amazon Indie Publishing
David Symonds, General Manager, CreateSpace
Neal Thompson, Manager of Author and Publishing Relations, Amazon.com
Joshua Unruh, Marketing Director, Draft2Digital
Dan Wood, Director, Author Relations, Draft2Digital
Marsha Zinberg, The Write Touch (editing)
… and more.
How has the landscape of multi-published authors changed in the past few years?
Speaking from the author viewpoint, this particular author having been in the business now for thirty-five years, and remembering that not so long ago every writer was a print writer:
There are authors very happy with their print houses, publishing regularly, and no problems.
There are authors publishing with print houses while also publishing their backlist and even writing new material strictly for self-publishing (currently called hybrid authors).
There are formerly print authors who have made a conscious decision to self-pub only, or have watched their house and or line either shrink or disappear, who are now publishing any backlist they have and new material (many seeing an increase in sales, which is always nice when it happens). They are now one-person publishers.
And then there’s the increasing number of indie-first-and-only writers, also one-person industries, who have never worked with a print house.
Almost every author who self-publishes (backlist, front list), manages that work soup to nuts, conception to publication and promotion. They offer whole new opportunities for freelance editors, cover artists, technical and publishing support companies (converting files, uploading them, etc), metadata experts, sales trackers, etc. Targeting publishers, these days, print or digital, doesn’t mean just catering to the needs of big and small houses, tailoring plans for them. Now there exists an army of one-man publishing houses who are checking out the markets for their best deals as well – and, of course, sharing the merits or problems they encounter with their fellow NINC members. It’s that old saw: if you like something, you tell ten people; if you don’t like something, you tell everyone. Either way, NINC hears it all!
As one of the old war horses who has been around since manual typewriters and carbon paper, I am amazed by the new breed of writers and how evolved those who have been publishing for years have become, how quickly they’ve adapted to change. It’s no longer “Here’s my first-born, publish my book, please!” Today’s career writer is asking, “What can you do for me that I can’t do for myself? What do you do better (cheaper, faster, smarter) than anyone else, why should I sign with (hire, subscribe to, etc) you?”
Writers are not reacting anymore, they are becoming increasingly pro-active, increasingly knowledgeable, are in this for the long haul, and are in large part shaping much of the future of publishing.
NINC believes and is proving that the only way forward is for all of us to be paddling in the same direction, no matter the genre, no matter the delivery system. And, yes, that’s one of the reasons we meet in Florida. NINC is where print-only, hybrid and self-published share their knowledge. As one of our members, Jennifer Stevenson, said about the conference: “We talk about publishing very frankly and openly, about the way publishing is, not the way we wish it was. And…we work together. I feel that I have been present annually at the birth and rebirth of the publishing revolution. Literally, industry-changing things happen at the conference every year.”
As for what industry gets from our conferences? Joshua Unruh, Director of Marketing, Draft2Digital says: “[NINC] was one of our best experiences last year and we expect it to be again this year. It’s a real pleasure to have an audience of authors who are seasoned professionals and serious about the work of writing and publishing. Not that we don’t get that elsewhere to some extent, but that’s the whole point of NINC, and it shows.”
What new challenges and opportunities have arisen for authors?
See the above! Add in subscription services, royalty rates and e-tailer programs that sometimes change with the phases of the moon, piracy, plagiarism, on and on. Old problems, new twists on old problems, lots of new problems. Then again, also lots of new opportunities for growth and diversity. As always, knowledge is king, and so I’ll beat on the drum one more time: all genres, all delivery systems, are equal in NINC, all career authors of popular fiction are welcome in NINC, and together we have power.
What do you think is the most important thing for authors to focus on in the next 12 months?
Writing — that never changes. Networking with other writers of all genres. Delegating and farming out to allied industry if possible when it comes to the jobs they don’t like and that take too much time away from their writing. Good editing. Watching contract clauses like hawks and refusing to sign unfair contracts, be they with publishing houses, cover designers, e-tailers, and so on. Working with their publishers to revamp/reinvent/update publisher-held and currently unexploited backlist for the benefit of both parties, including cross-promoting (NINC members, with an average of twenty-five plus titles per member, have an intense interest in exploiting backlist). Paying attention to the expanding global market, audiobooks, emerging opportunities in POD. Learning how to watch sales and, hopefully, increase sales. Discoverability. Exploring new ways of promoting their work. Good old-fashioned networking.
And, of course, they don’t want to wait another twelve months to join NINC!
NINC 2015 Conference Chair
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