ITW’s History

Gayle Lynds & David Morrell
ITW Co-Presidents
January 15th, 2005

The beginnings of associations are often lost in the mists of memory and lack of documentation. Time passes. Leadership changes. People die. Since we’re writers, it seemed a pity not to record what we remember. Hence, this short history.

galye-and-davidInternational Thriller Writers, Inc., began with a dream. Until ITW, thriller authors had never organized. By nature, we tend to be loners, happy with our work and our families and a few close friends. But at the same time, because we’re a relatively small community in the vast world about which we write, we also yearn occasionally for collegiality. For years, we’ve said to one another, “Why don’t YOU organize us?” At which point, the thought was so overwhelming, the work involved so time-consuming, that we would gaze sadly around the group and shrug. There was no way.

Then in June 2004, Barbara Peters of Poisoned Pen bookstore and press in Scottsdale, Arizona, held the first thriller conference in the United States. She invited seven thriller authors – Lee Child, Vince Flynn, Steve Hamilton, Gayle Lynds, David Morrell, and Kathy Reichs – and one editor – Keith Kahla of St. Martin’s Press, Gayle’s editor – to give presentations about the various aspects of writing and publishing thrillers. In addition, the dynamic Clive Cussler spoke at the luncheon.

Barbara had only two weeks in which to publicize the event, thinking she would be lucky if 100 people registered. In the end, some 125 did, and to everyone’s surprise, not all were there to learn about writing. Many were readers who wanted to meet some of their favorite authors.

For the first time, there was concrete evidence of what most of us had suspected – there was a demand among fans for a thriller authors’ organization, too. If we held conventions, not only we but readers would likely attend. If we awarded prizes – there have never been awards specifically for thriller books, stories, and films in the English language – there would be interest not only among ourselves but also among readers.

On the last day of the conference – June 27, 2004 – in the sunny restaurant at the Biltmore Hotel in Scottsdale, several of us stood around talking about this. Gayle Lynds mentioned that she thought the conference indicated the time had come to create an association for thriller writers. Adrian Muller, who is a journalist and freelance conference organizer, pointed out it should not be limited to the United States. Barbara Peters said she would be willing to hold another, larger convention.

Realizing that she had almost committed herself, Gayle announced, “I can’t organize this.”

Her husband, Dennis Lynds (A.K.A. Michael Collins) inserted instantly: “She can’t.”

Barbara smiled. “Pull in David Morrell. He’s perfect.”

Adrian volunteered, “I’ll send out emails to every thriller author we can find to see whether they really do want to form a group.”

A few days later, Gayle and David had a very long telephone call, discussing their workloads and a potential thriller organization that would be international in scope.

“I won’t do this alone,” David said.

“Neither will I,” Gayle agreed.

“And if this thing flies, I won’t sit on any board of directors,” David continued.

“I don’t have time either. Besides, I hate meetings.”

Over the summer, Adrian, David, and Gayle talked and exchanged emails. Adrian arranged with Al Navis, who was orchestrating Bouchercon 2004 in Toronto, to assign a room in which thriller authors could meet. On September 1, Adrian sent out a mass email to test for interest.

The response was astonishing. Author after author emailed to say an association was a great idea – Ted Bell, Steve Berry, Jack Bludis, Ken Bruen, Jan Burke, Lee Child, Harlan Coben, David Dun, Barry Eisler, Joseph Finder, Bill Fitzhugh, Brian Garfield, Tess Gerritsen, Peter Guttridge, Raelynn Hillhouse, CC Humphreys, Alex Kava, Paul Kemprecos, John Lescroart, David Liss, Francine Mathews, Katherine Neville, Ridley Pearson, Douglas Preston, Peter Robinson, M.J. Rose, Kirk Russell, Walter Sattherwait, Leslie Silbert, Jenny Siler, Brad Thor, Eric Wilson, John Morgan Wilson, and Marcus Wynne.

The meeting was held October 9th in the Toronto convention center as scheduled. After a short introduction, Gayle asked the assembled group, which also included some editors and agents, whether they wanted an organization and would support it. There was complete silence. They frowned, looked puzzled, and gazed at one another and then at Gayle and David.

“So what do you want to do?” Gayle prompted.

“Why do you think all of us are here?” someone asked.

“Of course we want an organization!” said another.

Enthusiasm exploded through the room. And that’s how ITW really began.

Those in attendance were Natalia Aponte, Gary Braver, Debbie Carter, Lee Child, Lori Dandrea (A.K.A. C.J. Lyons), Wes DeMott, David Dun, Barry Eisler, Joseph Finder, Maggie Griffin, Peter Guttridge, Raelynn Hillhouse, Gregg Hurwitz, Alex Kava, Christopher Keane, Susanna Kearsley, Christine Kling, David Liss, Dennis Lynds, Gayle Lynds, Heidi Mack, Bruce Makous, Chris Mooney, David Morrell, Adrian Muller, Katherine Neville, Richard Pine, Lewis Purdue, Christopher Rice, M.J. Rose, Joel Ross, Leslie Silbert, William Staeger, Rich Thompson, and Angela Zeman.

The group voted on several items, which are described following this history, in the Executive Summary. One of those issues was a steering committee to form the organization.

“This is it,” Gayle said, “I can’t continue on. No steering committee for me.”

“This has taken a lot more work than anyone expected,” David explained. “I can’t sit on a steering committee either.”

Contrary to their objections, the membership chose for the steering committee Gayle Lynds and David Morrell as well as David Dun and Joe Finder. Many people volunteered their time and resources – Gregg Hurwitz, Alex Kava, Lewis Perdue, Richard Pine, M.J. Rose, and Will Staeger, to name a few.

The next day, most people flew home from the convention, exhausted from four days of intense Bouchercon activity. But waiting in the Inboxes of all of the steering committee members was an email from David Dun, who not only writes adventure thrillers but is an attorney, explaining what we had to do to get a thriller organization up and running. At which point, all of us rolled up our writerly sleeves and went to work.

In just nine days, we had a website at www.thrillerwriters.com, courtesy of David Montgomery, who had registered the address months before, and Lewis Perdue, who designed it and took it live. Lew also opened a Yahoo groups chatroom for us.

On November 29, forty days after the Bouchercon meeting, we were ready to let people know we had an organization registered in Delaware as well as bylaws and a full board of directors, and that it was time to join. We emailed a report of what we had accomplished, plus an Executive Summary of our first bylaws to everyone who had expressed interest. Taken together with this informal history, these are the fundamentals of ITW’s roots.

What’s been most fun for all of us has been the resounding excitement and support. It’s been less than two months since that email went out, and already we have 70 members and some $30,000 in our treasury. As of today, we have heads of several committees – Marketing, M.J. Rose, chair; Membership, Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, co-chairs; Publications, Steve Berry, chair; and Website, Raelynn Hillhouse and Lewis Perdue, co-chairs.

Literary agent and member Richard Pine found us a fine accountant, Richard Koenigsberg of Spielberg, Koenigsberg, & Parker. We have an anthology in the works of original thriller stories, of which James Patterson will be the official editor. We’re talking with Barbara Peters about our first convention, to be held with her in June 2006. And with BEA’s help, we’ll hold a cocktail party at the Algonquin Hotel for the media in early June to officially announce ITW’s birth.

It’s been a busy, fun, and exciting ride. None of us would have missed it, especially Gayle and David.

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Thriller Writers Organize To Raise Recognition of Genre

November 29, 2004
Letter from the ITW Board:

Dear fellow thriller authors and industry professionals,

What an exciting and energizing meeting we had at Bouchercon. We wish all of you could have been there. The amount of enthusiasm and ideas was beyond anything that Gayle and David had envisioned. The group came to a quick consensus that a thriller authors organization was both wanted and needed.

The steering committee you elected – David Morrell, Gayle Lynds, David Dun, and Joe Finder – has been hard at work. Unfortunately, Joe has now had to resign because of an unexpected avalanche of work. We miss him but are delighted to welcome three more authors to the committee – Lee Child, Tess Gerritsen, and M.J. Rose. That brings us to a total of six authors on the committee.

Following this note is a more formal Executive Summary, which recapitulates the voted decisions at the meeting as well as describes the structure that we’ve put in place. We want you to know that nothing is engraved in granite. Everything can be amended or changed. This is simply what we believe will give us the sort of sound, democratic foundation on which ITW can build and grow.

We always welcome your comments and ideas. There’s more about that in the Executive Summary, too.

Basically, we’ve incorporated and adopted bylaws. A small thing to say, but behind that are many, many hours of work. We’re particularly grateful to David Dun, who lent not only his time and intellect and legal experience and author’s enthusiasm, but his firm’s staff and expert attorneys. One of the results is that the steering committee is now a formal board of directors, and that your dues and fees are tax deductible as a business expense.

Coming soon will be a fuller mission statement, the formation of committees including an awards committee, the discussion of fund-raising and corporate sponsors, the issue of whether we’ll have a convention in June, and many other exciting details. If you would like to volunteer for anything in particular, please let us know.

ITW very much needs a treasurer. If you are a CPA or accountant and would be willing to take this on, please give a shout. David’s staff will have everything in order, so the treasurer won’t be in the position of starting from ground zero.
And finally, we invite you to send in your $50 – the annual dues amount that was voted into place at the meeting for both Active and Associate members. If you join promptly, you’ll be an “original” member, meaning that you were here at the beginning with us. We enclose an electronic application and instructions for mailing your dues. You have helped to create ITW, an organization that we hope will have a long and distinguished life.

By the way, as decided in the meeting, an “Active” member is a thriller author who is commercially published. (For a more detailed description, please see the bylaws as described in the Executive Summary.) An “Associate” member is a professional in the industry – for instance, an agent, editor, publisher, bookseller, reviewer, or publicist.

Whether Active or Associate, if you sign up now, every time your name is listed on the website or in ITW printed literature, an asterisk will follow your name, with original member” footnoted in explanation. We hope we will have many original members, and that you will be one. If you have really caught the vision, we have also provided for large contributors – Founding Sponsor ($5,000) and Charter Sponsor ($1,000) and Charter Member ($500.00). All have special forms of recognition, too.

Please join us. And if you could make your check out for a larger amount, and become a Sponsor or Charter Member, ITW would be grateful. Your payment will help ITW to get up to speed quickly, give us more options, increase our ability to make an impact in the marketplace and with readers, and create a base of financial power that will help us speak loudly on behalf of our particular art form.

And finally, to let you know support is already starting, it’s with great pleasure we announce our first Charter Sponsor – Tor Books. Our sincere gratitude goes to legendary Tor publisher Tom Doherty and editor Natalia Aponte Burns for their interest and vision and $1,000 check.

To join, simply fill out the application form.

Best wishes, (in alphabetical order)

Lee Child, David Dun, Tess Gerritsen, Gayle Lynds, David Morrell, and M.J. Rose
Board of Directors, International Thriller Writers, Inc..

Executive Summary
An Update on Events Since Toronto Bouchercon

November 29, 2004

The purpose of this Executive Summary is to apprise you of events since the group’s first official meeting, on October 9, 2004, at Bouchercon in Toronto, Canada, facilitated and organized through the generous efforts of Adrian Muller. At the meeting, David Morrell and Gayle Lynds met with some thirty interested thriller writers and industry professionals regarding the formation of a thriller authors organization. Several matters were voted upon. The following items were decided and passed by majority vote:

  1. A steering committee would be formed of Gayle Lynds, David Morrell, and David Dun.
  2. The steering committee would create and put into motion the organization’s basic structure.
  3. The Dues for Active and Associate members would be $50.00 each per year.
  4. We would endeavor to have a June conference in Arizona if Barbara Peters would host.
  5. The temporary name would be Thriller Writers Association. The Board subsequently voted to change it to International Thriller Writers, Inc. We cannot use Thriller Writers International because of legal restrictions against using International at the end of the title.
  6. Adrian Muller would serve as Executive Director.
  7. There would be two classes of membership. The first class is Active members – professionally published authors – and the second class is Associate members- professionals working in the field.

Following the meeting, the elected steering committee determined that the most appropriate way to form the association would be through a Delaware corporation that qualifies as a tax exempt mutual benefit corporation under the Federal laws and the laws of the state of Delaware. The difference between a mutual benefit corporation and a charitable corporation is that payments to the association must be for a business purpose and then they are tax deductible. If we were a charitable organization, then any donation would be tax deductible. Normally, people paying money to our corporation are in the publishing business, and there is some business benefit to making those dues payments and the like. Therefore, those payments are tax-deductible. The corporation would itself never have to pay income taxes if it had a profit at the end of a year.

Becoming a charitable organization involves legitimately asserting a primary purpose that confers a public benefit, within the meaning of the tax code, and we are not forming this entity with such a purpose in mind. However, we are happy to discuss the issue with anyone who is interested and to explain the difficulties. We are mindful of information that MWA is trying to become and remain a public benefit entity. To do this successfully, they will need a goal that is charitable such as, for example, teaching kids to read.

We determined that a mutual benefit corporation under the laws of Delaware would probably make the most sense for our group. We therefore formed a Delaware corporation and had the steering committee members appointed as directors.

We drafted and adopted a set of Bylaws which you can view on our brand new website, www.thrillerwriters.org, thanks to the generous work of fellow thriller author Lewis Perdue. The website was secured and donated by reviewer extraordinaire David Montgomery. The Bylaws enable the Board to appoint officers, most notably a treasurer. In the meantime, David Dun has been appointed Assistant Treasurer, has opened a bank account, and has commenced keeping the books. We hope soon to appoint a Treasurer from among your ranks. The Board is delighted to report that we have all of the paper work ready for the Treasurer.

As you will see on the website, the Bylaws are a very long document. We hope that you will read them. However, to make life a bit easier for you, here are the highlights….

The corporation is run, in an immediate sense, by the directors and the officers, and in a more general sense by the membership. There must be a minimum of at least six directors. Currently the directors are (in alphabetical order) Lee Child, David Dun, Tess Gerritsen, Gayle Lynds, David Morrell, and M.J. Rose. Initial Directors were chosen as a “steering committee” at the Bouchercon event, and the other nominees could lawfully be chosen by the directors under the Bylaws. We voted into office three very fine authors, Lee Child, Tess Gerritsen, and M.J. Rose, with a wide range of relationships and experience.

The Bylaws allow for more than six directors, and no doubt there will be discussions about increasing the size of the Board over time as the organization grows. The advantage of having a small number in the inception is that decisions can be made quickly and easily without meetings and complicated conference calls.

The directors have elected as co-presidents David Morrell and Gayle Lynds. And as vice president, David Dun. David Dun is acting as Assistant Treasurer just until we find a Treasurer.

Directors serve for a term of two years with the exception of three directors to be elected in 2006 who will serve for a term of one year (2006-2007) so that we can ultimately achieve staggered elections. The virtue of staggered elections is that there will always be some directors with at least one year’s experience. Directors may serve a maximum of two terms, and then they must step off for one term. Thereafter, they can be re-elected to the Board, and once again the two consecutive term rule will apply. The purpose of this provision is to ensure that the organization does not become calcified and run by the same people all of the time.

Because directors cannot remain directors more than two terms without stepping off the board, a smaller board makes sense. You can see that over a period of time there would be quite a number of directors.

Directors may be nominated through the nominating committee. The nominating committee will be comprised of at least six active members, no more than two of whom will be existing Board members. The vote of any four members of the nominating committee will be sufficient to nominate an individual for director candidate. Finally, individual active members may petition to be nominated for director candidate, and they need only acquire five percent of the voting power of the organization on their petition in order to be a candidate. Through this method, the democratic processes have a maximum chance of working effectively. Once nominations have occurred, a vote will be had and the available seats filled. The directors with the most votes win. In other words, in the case of a six-director board and a three-director election (because of staggered terms), the votes would be tallied, and the top three vote getters would become new directors.

The directors have broad powers but have no power to amend voting provisions of the Bylaws without the vote of the membership. Therefore, control of the corporation and control mechanisms cannot be changed without membership vote. Directors may increase the size of the Board (the number of directors allowable,) but they may not decrease the number of directors allowable at the time they seek to amend the Bylaws. To have fewer directors would require a vote of the membership.

There are many other provisions in the Bylaws that you may wish to study, but those are the fundamental principles setting forth the democratic nature of the organization.

We have three classifications of contributors in addition to Active Member and Associate Member. One is a Founding Sponsor; another the Charter Sponsor, and the third is a Charter Member. Founding Sponsors may be up to twenty-five in number and must sign up within one year. For the next decade, Founding Sponsors will have their names on the letterhead of International Thriller Writers, Inc. All official e-mails will have the Corporation’s letterhead. Founding Sponsors will also be listed on every conference brochure or pamphlet. Charter sponsors will be listed on every brochure or pamphlet produced by the association whether or not they attend the event, but they will not be listed on the letterhead. Charter Members will be so noted on every author listing of the membership and will be specially listed in every conference brochure in which they are a participant. To become a Founding Sponsor requires a payment of $5,000. To become a Charter Sponsor requires a payment of $1,000. To be a Charter Member requires a payment of $500.00. Original members will be those members who sign up during the first six months from the date of organization, which was October 17, 2004. On any official list of members, an asterisk will be placed by the names of original members, and there will be a footnote indicating that the asterisk represents original members.

All officers and directors must be Active Members, which means they must be professional writers with the exception of the Treasurer who may be an Associate Member. The only other exception is the Executive Director who has certain enumerated duties in the Bylaws. The Executive Director need not be either an Active Member or an Associate Member. He or she has no vote on the board. His or her duties may also be undertaken by the President in the President’s discretion.