And if authors were all in the same boat? #FutureChat recap

And if authors were all in the same boat? #FutureChat recap

Romancing the concept of working together
What professional career authors need to do, more now than ever, is work together, learn together, brainstorm together. Don’t let what you write (or what they write) keep you from interacting with other writers. Because if you’re writing thrillers or science fiction or courtroom dramas or romances, we’re pretty much professionally all in the same boat these days, paddling as fast as we can. We need, as career authors, as an industry – agents and editors and publishers -- to start paddling in the same direction if we’re serious about making it back to open water.
That observation comes from longtime romance novelist Kasey Michaels, who is a past president and conference wrangler for Novelists, Inc., an organisation of "multi-published novelists," writers who have more than one book in the marketplace. Michaels made the comment as part of a response to an article on how romance is viewed by some, and, in a way, she was ahead -- as she never fails to remind me that all of romance is -- of the current debate around the Authors Guild's opening to self-publishing membership. And when we asked the FutureBook community on Friday to consider "Authors United" -- or not -- and the Guild's move and its implications, an interesting thing happened. The chat kept going, right through the weekend. How we come to have an independent authors' wish list for the Authors Guild There has been movement. I'm going to start with "the later tweets," which sounds like a title Joan Didion might have given us, and ask you to consider where we are. Here is author Hugh Howey, whose criticisms of the Authors Guild as an organisation that serves establishment publishers instead of authors, are well-known and amply articulated in his writings on the topic: What Howey is referring to -- and that tweet is from the day after #FutureChat -- is a "Guild wish list" put together at the request of author C.J. Lyons, who is the first self-publishing author on the Guild's council. She jumped into that long-running conversation on 1 August after our actual discussion had finished up. And that, in turn, had been prompted during #FutureChat by author Barry Eisler, a #PorterMeets alum, who had positioned the question of author advocacy and the Guild's recent entry-requirement change with his usual helpful directness: Some of this was not carrying the #FutureChat hashtag, so it may not have been visible to the community. But what was especially good to see was an interchange running alongside the chat among some of these folks -- and then continuing later -- that, in part, recognised Lyons' gutsy effort in accepting the Guild's appointment to its council. Lyons is clear on why she thinks that independents need to consider working with the newly opening Guild, rather than resisting on the basis of past grievances. When Eisler asked why anyone would want to join, Lyons had an answer: Joe Konrath was as good as his word. The list he has produced is incisive, specific, and energised by the commitment he has to its 12 points.   The Guild, having placed Lyons on its council as it has done, will indeed be facing this now. She has signed on to Konrath's points. Reflected in Konrath's first entry is something we didn't see so clearly in our #FutureChat -- a recognition that there are things that the Authors Guild could do for independent authors. Konrath's first wish on the list is: "Support the authors in the Harlequin lawsuit and fight to get their backlist returned. Then do the same for all members who want to get their backlist rights returned." Konrath goes on:
It's no secret I got my rights back, and there are hundreds, if not thousands, of other authors who want theirs back, too. It's the single most asked-question I get via email, and my required response is that my publishers and I parted amicably, which is the limit of what I can say. I can't help. But the AG could.
That last line is what I'm interested in here. "But the AG could." That handily contradicts the opinion expressed by many independents that the Authors Guild (AG) is of no potential use whatever to them. Is it not even worth a try? During much of our #FutureChat, the tone might have been dismaying to those who felt that many minds were immediately closed to the idea of the Guild being changed by an influx of new, independent membership. Eisler had joined in with the worry that the Author Guild could be, simply, beyond redemption: Here is Bowker's Laura Dawson in New York, for example -- who is our #PorterMeets interviewee this week, as a matter of fact, on issues of data and identifiers. She was concerned that some #FutureChat participants seemed to think that the Authors Guild can't take a new look at itself: Reedsy's Ricardo Fayet in London, for example, The point was echoed by Ontario's Carla Douglas: In Los Angeles, James Scott Bell wondered how effective author-advocacy efforts might be on the business scale: A many-splendored #FutureChateau And at this point, others might have noticed that we were having one of those super-days of #FutureChat when we had at least two major trains running -- the term "madman" seems particularly apt: Wisconsin's C.M. Riordann had helped us open things up: Lots of answers. From Fayet: From Carol Buchanan in Montana: From Dan Holloway in the UK: From Tom Chalmers in London: From Joanna Penn in London: From the Science Fiction Writers of America's Michael Capobianco: Several other strains of the conversation were moving, as well, some spurred by our coverage of author Douglas Preston and the "Authors Unlimited" group he has formed to protest Amazon's sales-pages negotiative tactics during the long-running Hachette talks. From Roz Morris in London: And in yet another line of conversation, author visibility and branding were on the table. Morris, again, in London: Chalmers: Denver's Claudia Hall Christian wondered aloud less about traditionalists and independents getting together as "authors united" than about those on just one side of the fence: The big question about getting together And back on what had become the main focus -- the Authors Guild's availability to independent membership -- many voices would continue to mull things over: Camille LaGuire is in Michigan: And back to Preston and his "Authors United" effort, Bell in Los Angeles and The Bookseller's Philip Jones in London were trading notes: The FutureBook community and associated debate may move the needle a bit -- I did say "may," mind you -- on the persistent and sometimes troubling issue of discord in the author ranks at a time when working together could mean so much. More to come on that. And our thanks to all our FutureChat participants for a fine hour.
  Coming to our #FutureChat Friday 8 August: Data -- what does it mean in publishing now, and do we have a clue? Join us at 4 p.m. London time, 11 a.m. New York time, 8 a.m. Los Angeles, 5 p.m. Berlin, 3 p.m. GMT.