Books on the beach sounds like a relaxing summer pastime—or maybe a cliché online dating profile, depending on who you ask. But in the case of the annual conference hosted by Novelists, Inc. (NINC), the concept has become a productive, professional five-day event that balances traditional and indie spheres, business and fun. And this year, with the arrival of Hurricane Ian three days after the final meetings wrapped up, it couldn’t have taken place at a better time.
Even though I attended this year’s NINC Conference for the first time as an industry guest, as a primarily nonfiction writer, I was still able to experience all it offered for attendees. The conference was held on St. Pete Beach, a barrier island on the gulf coast of Florida near St. Petersburg. Although the event officially began September 21 with registration and an opening reception, for those who arrived early, a group of attendees went on a pub crawl the evening prior, and another had a mini conference for their group.
Thursday, Friday, and Saturday were filled from breakfast to NINC After Dark with sessions, meals, and events, many of which were included and sponsored by various industry leaders. Many attendees scheduled meetings with the sponsors during their office hours and overall seemed to plan their time at NINC more than I’ve observed at other conferences. This surprised me at first, but it makes sense when you consider that these are very serious, business-minded authors. They are where they are in their careers because they have worked hard, and the conference is no exception.
Still, they played equally hard in the evenings! It was surprising yet a perfect balance that was better than any other conference I’ve been to in any industry. There’s a strong effort to provide something on site for everyone throughout the event, as they understand that the networking at more casual events can be just as important to an author’s career trajectory as the sessions. You can come and go as you like and tailor your conference experience to your needs.
Sunday morning, September 25, was the business meeting for members only, though many attendees were making plans to leave earlier than they had planned anyway because of the increasing threat of Hurricane Ian. Fortunately, all were able to leave in time, and the resorts appear to have survived well and will be ready for us in 2023.
What is NINC?
NINC is the premier organization for high-powered novelists. It was formed over thirty years ago and has grown into a global community of over a thousand authors committed to the business of writing. Originally just for traditionally published authors, the organization has since broadened their membership requirements to allow indie authors to join—now, around 85 percent of members are self-published, and 72 percent are traditionally published, according to the website.
With members that each have an average of fifteen years of experience in the industry and twenty-four published books to their name, NINC’s membership criteria are designed to maintain the focus on high-level conversations and information that comes with multiple, successful novels published. That said, they are a welcoming group of people and hope that if you don’t qualify now, you soon will.
They’ve had an annual conference since nearly the inception of the organization. According to Barbara Keiler, a former president, the event used to move from place to place until they eventually settled on their current location in St. Pete Beach, Florida, each September. The conference typically begins Wednesday evening and goes through the organization’s business meeting Sunday morning.
More than most conferences I’ve attended in various industries, NINC provides multiple opportunities for attendees to have quality conversations with sponsors and industry vendors. For several authors I met, this was key for their continued business success, and many were instrumental in getting features added to our favorite platforms that benefit all of us. Many of the sponsors and industry professionals have industry suite hours. These are similar to office hours, where attendees can get their questions answered by the representatives of the company. The companies also listened to the requests of the attendees—in fact, many new features are rolled out as a result of requests made at these meetings every year. And you can often catch them in the lobby or attending sessions and events as well.
Marketing and business development sessions were prominent, as were multiple craft sessions and roundtable discussions during NINC After Dark, when attendees grabbed a favorite beverage and dessert and sat ten to a table with others who write in a similar genre or had questions about a particular topic. The discussion was free-flowing and unscripted, with two rounds about an hour each Wednesday through Friday nights. Saturday night was a beach blowout with dinner and drinks catered on the beach.
Peer-to-peer conversations often occurred in the lobby and other areas of the venue. I overheard conversations that potentially shifted the entire trajectory of an author’s business and heard even more stories of such conversations in years past.
While I attended as an industry guest, I still came away with some great takeaways to apply to my own authorial journey. In Janet Margot’s session on Amazon Ads, I realized what I’ve done wrong in my Amazon Ads and feel confident that they will perform better for me in the future by applying what she recommended. I was excited, as were many other attendees, to learn that you can now go direct with audio as well as e-books with BookFunnel. I regretted later not going to the Google Play session, but heard many authors talking about their excitement over the rollout of new AI narration for audio and the potential for utilizing Spotify and Findaway Voices in their businesses.
Session topics ranged from marketing to tools and platforms, craft, business, and mindset and wellness. Multiple sessions occur at the same time, and it is often difficult to choose, but NINC secures official session notetakers who provide the notes of all the sessions to their members. I’d not heard of this service before, but I was impressed with the organization’s attention to detail in ensuring the best outcome for every attendee. In fact, many authors told me they don’t try to take their own notes at the conference, instead just jotting down task-list items inspired by the sessions.
As with any author conference, there is no substitute for being with people in the same place at the same time. NINC, as with most of the rest of the world, went virtual during COVID-19, and many attendees commented on how good it was to be with their fellow writers again. Often, while the official events are excellent, it’s the chance conversation held in between sessions that can make all the difference in the world to your career. And NINC 2022 will go down in many author’s careers as landmark events that made all the difference.
If you’re a novelist of at least two works more than thirty thousand words, be they traditionally and/or indie published, and meet their advance and royalty numbers—an advance of two thousand dollars if traditionally published, or income of five thousand dollars if indie—this is an organization well worth your time and investment, as is the conference. Set five thousand dollars as a royalty goal, apply for membership by May 31, and sign up as quickly as you can—if it’s anything like this year’s, 2023’s conference will be well worth the investment.