Joining International Thriller Writers (and a General Writing-as-a-Career Update)

Yesterday I came across a new (to me) writers organization: ITW (International Thriller Writers). I’m already a member of SFWA (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association) and SCBWI (Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators), having joined both soon after I first became traditionally published. I pay my dues each year to keep current on membership, but I honestly hadn’t thought much about it since I first signed up.

So it might seem like a no-brainer that I should have taken the time to see if there were other organizations more tailored to the genre I’m currently writing in, but I fit my writing in at the edges of my life (though it’s slowly but surely taking a more central position). I’m usually happy that I’ve had enough time to get my 1,000 words done and stay on track with my different deadlines. For the first long while, I also didn’t really make enough money through writing for me to take it much more seriously than as an advanced hobby. That’s steadily changing now, as I said, and a conversation with my agent yesterday brought much of that into focus.

As a librarian, I’m a longtime advocate for the power of networking. I’m well connected across the state, and I’ve done what I can to contribute back to the field and help librarians as a whole. I go to conferences as often as I can, and while I might not be the guy down at the bar getting to know every stranger’s name, I also rub elbows with a fairly wide range of people when I’m there. I know just how useful those connections can prove to be.

But as an author, I haven’t really treated the career in the same way. Conferences were something I’d do if I had time and I had someplace fun I wanted to go. (Well, unless my publisher was paying for the trip, in which case I’d willingly go just about anywhere.) I caught myself asking my agent, “Just why exactly would I want to go to these conferences, anyway?” and as he was answering, I heard him saying exactly the same things I say to other librarians when they ask why they should go to a conference.

It was enough of a kick in the pants to get me thinking again, and see what other conferences I might want to consider attending. Boskone is in Boston every year, but it’s also almost always around Daniela’s birthday, which was enough of an obstacle for me to just kind of not even think about it. There’s Worldcon, that bounces all over the world from year to year, and several other potentials. ThrillerFest was a new one to me, but it seemed like a natural fit. (I write thrillers now. The connection isn’t hard to make.) It’s also just down in NYC, which is a place I like to go to regularly anyway. Ideally, I’d be on programming at whatever conference I attended, just to get the most out of it.

Plenty of others, too. Lots of options of dates and locations.

Which is all a very long way of saying when I looked into ThrillerFest, I saw you had to be a member of ITW to present, and when I looked into becoming a member, I discovered that it was free(!) and I already qualified. This is a far cry from when I was first applying to SFWA, and it felt like I had to make a case for my qualifications. For ITW, I filled out the online form, pointed them to my books, and today I got the acceptance letter. (Every now and then I have an experience that reminds me I’m doing well as an author, or at least well for me. When they asked how many copies of my books had sold, I put in 100,000, and then immediately questioned if that could really be right. Some back-of-the-napkin math confirmed that, though when I took a bit more time to do it today, I’m pretty sure the number is actually above 150,000. Almost everyone I know and interact with views me as a librarian. It’s rare that I put on my author hat, so seeing that figure . . . Yeah. Good feeling. And a confirmation that my agent was right, and I should probably be taking all this more seriously. I’ve come a long way from being an aspiring author back in the day.)

In any case, I’m official now, and I’m looking at heading to some more author conferences. If I could do 2-3 a year, I think that would be about all I can handle, or at least, all I want to handle for now. And that’s all the time I’ve got for an update today.

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