NIP–Austin Alternate Format Meetings

by Tosh McIntosh

When I first joined NIP in 2002, a typical meeting might have over 20 members in attendance, and a relatively large percentage of them were actively submitting for roundtable. With a maximum of 22 scheduled slots available per year, the opportunities for being critiqued were limited, and we never had time to discuss writing topics in a less structured format.

My first 9 years in NIP were devoted to the goal of legacy publishing an agented manuscript, and the second item in the business portion of the standard NIP meeting handout still reflects that common objective: Announcements, rejections, publications. At almost every meeting, someone would report receiving a reply from an agent, most often in a form rejection letter. Bright spots occasionally appeared as a request for additional material, and we usually responded with a round of applause.

Amazon’s launch of the Kindle on November 19, 2007 passed without so much as a ripple in the legacy-dominated waters of NIP. It didn’t command much attention until March 2011, when our moderator began the meeting with this icebreaker question: “Would you consider self-publishing your novel?” I didn’t record my answer, but I think I had recently announced that out of my latest batch of five query letters for Pilot Error, I had received requests for three full manuscripts and one partial. Suffice it to say, I didn’t want to bail on my dream of becoming a real writer while being so close to entering the on-ramp of the super highway to legacy publication.

About a month later, with only one agent still considering a full manuscript, I shook hands with the most probable reality, that she would ultimately decline to offer representation. It took about 8 months to teach myself how to produce and upload to multiple sales outlets a digital and print edition of my debut novel, indie published in November, 2011.

During my 17 years in NIP, membership has remained about the same, but typical attendance has dropped to about half of what it once was. Combined with a decrease in the number of members actively submitting, we’ve had to address the issue of how to deal with open slots.

When I suggested that we try an alternate format in lieu of roundtables, I honestly didn’t think the idea would be well received. If memory serves, I announced the first one with a statement to the effect of, “I’m going to be here, and anyone who wants to join me is encouraged to attend.”

At the time, we averaged less than 10 members at roundtables. Imagine my surprise when we had to add chairs to accommodate the 14 that showed up, and subsequence experience has proven the continuing popularity of periodic free-for-all discussions on any number of writing topics. Fast forward to today, when the open slot issue appears to be more prevalent than ever, and one of our members suggests the topic of indie v. legacy publishing.

While considering how best to structure the alternate-format meeting on September 22nd, I realized that with the preponderance of indie-published authors in our ranks, we’ve spent way more time talking about how to indie-publish a novel than the pros and cons of that choice relative to legacy.

And that, dear reader, is the driving factor behind my recent decision to republish a number of posts from the Austin Indie Writers blog, all written during the time of transition from focusing on the challenges of legacy publication to those of indie.

My introduction to republishing the posts mentioned their timeless quality, and I believe they still contain valuable insights for today. That said, anyone considering the question of indie v. legacy for the first time should be well-informed of current industry trends.

It probably comes as no surprise that I’m not keeping up with the legacy side of this comparison, for two reasons: 1) I personally have no interest in dealing with agents and acquisition editors, and 2) as an indie advocate, I strongly believe that four indie bloggers have for years been the most vocal with offering sound advice.

In my next two posts on the NIP website, I’m going to republish a couple of dated (but still highly relevant) articles from two of these indie proponents. My purpose is to forward the following warning to any author considering legacy publication:

If you think that agents and editors are your friends and will fight to protect your interests ahead of their own, take the time to read these two long posts and then ask yourself this question:

Do you really believe that since these post were first published, the legacy publication industry has become less inclined to put authors into indentured servitude and keep them there in perpetuity?

I submit that the answer is abundantly clear in the writings of the following authors:

J.A. Konrath

Barry Eisler

Dean Wesley Smith

Kristine Kathryn Rusch

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