In general, I dislike conferences. I’m an introvert who prefers a small, quiet dinner party to the massive noise and energy of a crowd. (You will notice I even walk on the beach when no else is there!) I love seeing old friends and talking to industry professionals, but the intense scheduling of conferences almost always triggers my flight instincts, so I only attend ones where I know I can get outside the hotel, explore, and relax.
The one exception to this rule is the Novelists Inc conference, and that’s probably because they avoid crowds, intense scheduling, and always hold their annual meeting somewhere that begs exploring. This year, it was in a resort on St Pete beach—in October, when the weather is perfect. And the meetings were fascinating exchanges between industry titans and my friends. Really, it’s hard to beat a venue like that. (some video interviews of authors attending: http://www.genreality.net/ninc-2 )
For those of you interested in the future of publishing—even NYC publishers agree that e-books have arrived. Sales of e-books have jumped from 3% of the trade market to 9% in the past year. They’re expecting the sales of digital books to expand exponentially after Christmas with the arrival of discounted e-readers. This is causing a tremendous shift in how publishers and authors interact and no one is entirely certain how the house of cards will fall. One thing we’re all agreed on—we want print books to survive. For now, publishers are using “agency pricing” for ebook sales in hopes of keeping bookstores and print books out there. That might work for another year, in my opinion, while new ebook reader owners explore all the free and $2.99 offerings available on the internet, while continuing to buy paper at discounted prices at Walmart or wherever. But the convenience of buying books without leaving the house is just too tempting for electronic books to be second string forever.
Since I spent as much of my conference time going to lunches and dinners with fun people instead of attending workshops, that’s the biggest news I have to contribute from the conference. I know we had everything from belly dancing classes to brainstorming with side trips on how to publish electronically—a panel that could have lasted three times as long and still not answered everyone’s questions. But as a result of these discussions, look for a lot more backlist ebooks in the future. (If you want to know where your favorite authors are publishing their backlist, I'd suggest bookmarking this page: http://backlistebooks.com/ It's a temporary site, but they're adding authors every day, and should be up full strength soon.)
I know it may seem odd to nonwriters, but networking and learning the business is as important in our isolated worlds as it is in the big “outside” industrial world. Are there any questions in particular you’d like to ask about what we learned at the conference? (Here's a list of our line-up: http://ninc.com/conferences/2010/index.asp ) Readers need to be really concerned about the future of books, because formats and distribution will be developing wildly over these next few years, and the consumer will be the ultimate judge of how we read in the 21st century.
Or maybe you just want to know our favorite restaurant in St. Pete. "G" Doesn't the scenery look absolutely idyllic? We'll probably be going back there next year. They have hammocks!