UK: New Leadership at the Society of Authors

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The UK’s 12,400-member Society of Authors is getting both a new CEO and chairperson.

A scene from England’s chilly new year weather: Snow in the town center of Cheshire’s Nantwich on January 16. Image – Getty iStockphoto: Joe Morris

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

‘It’s Just a Shame We Can’t Clone Her’
Following up on our report in October that Nicola Solomon will retire in April from her 12-year tenure as CEO of the United Kingdom’s Society of Authors in London, there are two new points of leadership in that trade union for professional writers.

Earlier this month, it was announced that Anna Ganley will succeed Solomon in the top role at the Society of Authors.

And today (January 23), we’re told by the union’s administration that Vanessa Fox O’Loughlin—who writes crime as Irish bestseller Sam Blake—has been named the new chair of the society board, succeeding author Joanne Harris, who has served as chair since 2020.

Union Membership as Ganley Takes Over: 12,400

The Society of Authors’ membership has grown by nearly 40 percent during Solomon’s tenure from 9,000 in 2011 to 12,400 today, the staff tells the news media.

While perhaps not structured for as much legal activity on the part of its membership as the United States’ comparable Authors Guild, the Society of Authors has become a center of industry pressure and presence on behalf of  a writers’ corps that remains the largest unowned asset essential to the book publishing industry.

Anna Ganley

Anna Ganley, who moves into the CEO role later in the spring, is currently COO, the chief operations officer of the society.

In talking about Ganley’s appointment, Solomon has said, “From the first time I met Anna, her passion for the SoA and its members shone through, together with her intelligence, competence, compassion and vision.

“I said to a colleague at that time, ‘Anna is fabulous; it’s just a shame we can’t clone her. And I’ve seen no reason to change that opinion.

“We have worked together on modernizing the SoA and providing a better experience for members and empowering all authors. Anna has worked with great versatility and success in several roles as the SoA’s needs changed and I’m sure she’ll be a brilliant chief executive.”

Ganley began working at the SoA in 2005 as a maternity cover, and has worked as office manager, events manager, site Manager and head of staff before becoming COO in 2022.

Speaking of her appointment, Ganley has said, “As CEO, I look forward to rising to the challenges ahead, advocating on behalf of authors. In partnership with our brilliant staff team and experienced board, we’ll continue to collaborate with industry partners to protect the rights of authors, represent their interests and empower them to earn a living income on fair terms.”

She’s the current coordinator of the Authors’ Living with Disabilities and Chronic Illnesses (ADCI) Network and, on behalf of the society, she works as part of Creative UK’s Diversity Leaders’ Forum and Camden Council’s Inclusive Business Network.

As CEO, Ganley will work with the management committee (the Society of Authors’ board of directors), which comprises authors elected by and from the membership. In her executive capacity, she’ll be responsible for the priorities and goals of the organization and will be expected to implement strategies to achieve those aims.

O’Loughlin Moves to Board Chair

As mentioned, O’Loughlin’s new board chair position has been held by author Joanne Harris for two two-year terms.

Vanessa Fox O’Loughlin

The management committee meets six times a year to govern the direction of the Society of Authors. There are twelve elected members, alongside the chairs of professional and nation groups–including the Translators Association, the Children’s Writers & Illustrators Group, and the Society of Authors in Scotland. Together, these divisions are responsible for setting the strategies and policies of the organization.

O’Loughlin is the founder of the Inkwell Group publishing consultancy, the online writing resources magazine, and Murder One, Ireland’s international crime writing festival. She has served on the management committee since 2019 and was previously the chair of Irish PEN.

Joanne Harris

Meanwhile, it’s being pointed out that during Harris’ two terms as chair, membership grew by 13 percent to the current 12,400, as the group navigated the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic; awarded grants to authors in need and to support—new work; and campaigned on piracy, author incomes, artificial intelligence, credit for the work of literary translators, and more.

Reflecting on her time in the role, Harris—usually most readily associated with her 1999 release, Chocolat—says, “It has been an honor to serve as chair of the SoA for the past four years.

“I’m very proud of the progress we’ve made together: greater diversity and accessibility; online events; new prizes; the millions given out by the contingency fund; the steady increase in members.”

A Programming Note

Nicola Solomon

On London Book Fair’s opening day, March 12, at  2:15 p.m. GMT, four key speakers including the outgoing CEO of the Society of Authors Nicola Solomon, will join us when Publishing Perspectives moderates a Main Stage discussion, Copyright and AI: A Global Discussion of Machines, Humans, and the Law, an advanced-level conversation exploring the risks and opportunities amid the development of artificial intelligence.

In addition to Solomon, the session will feature:

As our readership knows, our policy on covering personnel changes in the offices of publishing and in industry organizations is based on two factors: the executive class of the roles involved and the potential international influence of those roles, in alignment with Publishing Perspectives’ key driver—the reportage and interrogation of issues and trends in the international publishing sphere. The work of the Society of Authors is frequently of clear prominence in terms of many internationally relevant author-advocacy issues, policy positions, and political activism, and hence a good fit for our editorial direction.

More from Publishing Perspectives on the Society of Authors is here, on the United Kingdom’s market is here, more on book and publishing awards programs is here, and more on authors and other writers is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.

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