- by Laura Resnick
For my sins, I am the current president of Novelists, Inc.
The Big Kahuna. The head hauncho. She Who Must Be Obeyed. The big cheese. The boss.
Or, as president-elect Kasey Michaels calls me, Fearless Leader.
I joined Ninc when I was twelve. (That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.) I’ve been in Ninc since its first year of existence, which is long enough to know where the bodies are buried. Indeed, some people think that’s how I got to be president. (How I actually got to be president is that I was temporarily living in Jerusalem in 2006 and going crazy, because Jerusalem is an insanity-producing environment. Consequently, my judgment was compromised, and I was ripe for the plucking when Ninc asked me to serve. In retrospect, I think I have grounds for a lawsuit.)
So what is Ninc all about?
Ninc was founded in 1989 as the only organization in existence (and, indeed, is still the only organization in existence) which focuses exclusively on the needs and interests of career novelists.
Other writing organizations focus primarily on a specific genre, and/or primarily on helping aspiring writers get published, and/or primarily on helping new/inexperienced writers understand the fundamentals of the publishing industry. These are valuable organizations, and most Ninc members do belong to other writing organizations, in addition to Ninc. (I, for example, being a fantasy writer, am also a member of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America.)
But Ninc’s founders recognized that there was no organization that focused on the needs of career novelists; on writers who had already broken into publishing, sold a number of books, and had career concerns, craft challenges, and professional questions that couldn’t be addressed by the organizations that already existed.
If you were trying to make the leap to a six-figure advance with your 20th book deal, you didn’t get much out of a conference offering workshops on how to create compelling characters or how to write a query letter. If your romance career had crashed and you were now trying to start over, as an experienced novelist, in another genre… then your longtime genre-specific organization was not very useful to you anymore, professionally speaking. And if you were making a full-time living writing a mystery series and also a fantasy series, you might not have that many advocacy issues in common with the writers of literary short fiction or the authors of the occasional nonfiction hiking book, in a big, national, generalized writers organization.
What Ninc brings together is writers who are all experienced professionals writing book-length popular fiction as a career, regardless of genre. What we share in Novelists, Inc. is a level of professional interest, commitment, networking, experience, and information that meets the needs of a writer who is already doing this as a career, rather than aspiring to do this or dropping out after selling just one book.
We have the highest bar for membership qualifications of any prose writers organization in existence: A prospective member must have published (not just sold, but published) two novels with a qualifying market. The reasoning behind this is that, in truth, a surprisingly large number of people publish just one novel, then disappear completely from the profession; and, however sincere, talented, and dedicated a writer that person may be, that’s not a career novelist. That’s not someone grappling with the fiscal, business, and creative challenges of doing this as a career, a lifestyle, a vocation, a lunatic lifelong profession.
But by the time someone has clung to the merry-go-round fiercely enough to have published two novels… that’s clearly a career novelist, a member of the tribe, a fellow traveler.
That’s someone who’s got the true grit that it takes to be one of us.
Novelists, Inc. members are the endurance athletes of the imagination. We are the writers who will one day drop dead over the final pages of our 11th, or 30th, or 100th, or 150th contracted novel. (When asked what he’d do if he knew he’d die within a year, the late Isaac Asimov replied, “Write faster.”) We are the writers whose books fill the shelves of your local bookstores, and whose books readers go into those bookstores to browse, buy, read, and tell their friends about.
In my next Ninc blog, I’ll talk a little about what we do in Ninc. (Besides bitching about money, editors, agents, and publishers—all of which grumbling is, of course, the time-honored favorite hobby of writers.)