The publishing landscape continues to change but what doesn’t change is the author’s need to write and connect with readers.
We all need to be responsible for our own careers and sometimes that means getting together for a mutually beneficial goal. Here are 7 benefits of being part an author collective from Triskele Books, an collective made up of six writers.
(Currently, all members are female, hence choice of gender pronoun. However, Triskele is not exclusively women – our first male author is already climbing aboard.)
A collective provides the best of both worlds: a sense of unity, but at the same time, freedom. We each retain the rights to our own work and make our own decisions regarding the practicalities of getting the book out there; ebook or paperback, exclusivity or variety, and marketing choices. And each author retains her own profits. The collective helps the writer realise the dream but doesn’t dictate choices. We write historical fiction, crime, literary fiction, so it’s obvious one size will not fit all.
From the outset, we agreed on a mission statement. We wanted Triskele Books to represent three things: high-quality writing, professional presentation and a powerful sense of place. All of us feel location is central to our story-telling. No one wanted to be associated with a sub-standard, badly edited, amateurish piece of work. So we forced each other to raise the bar as high as possible, used a professional designer to create a logo, covers, and website and established a recognisable brand. This has proved useful in marketing our first releases but also in attracting new writers for the future.
Going solo is a long, hard slog and it’s easy to become disillusioned. But when there are six of you, someone’s always cheerleading, rousing those suffocated or stressed. And when friends and family begin to yawn, you can always depend on the collective to understand. Sharing the fears, mistakes, uncertainties and embarrassments is not only easier than angst in the attic, but everyone learns from one another.
(4) Twelve-eye principle
Six people proof-reading and offering blurb advice could be confusing and counter-productive, but we maintained the original idea – what is the writer trying to achieve and how can we help her get there? All marketing material is checked and approved by everyone, which may slow the process a little, but ensures we are all happy with the way we are presented.
We are scattered all over: London, Zurich, Oxford, Lyon, Birmingham and the Lake District. There are overlaps, but we each have individual networks. Some friends may not fancy my contemporary Swiss-set crime novel, but might find Liza’s epic tale of revolutionary France more toothsome. And we are all looking in different directions, spotting marketing opportunities, events and organisations, and ways of becoming involved with readers. What one of us misses, another will catch.
Money is a serious consideration. We’re not a business, and have no plans to be. However, the complexities of the financial side scuppered many noble ideas before ours. Once we’d established that quality would be a key standard, we recognised that would mean a cash commitment. We contributed an equal amount to the Triskele coffers to fund our website, bookmarks, posters and launch party, and our most practical member takes responsibility for handling the bank account, keeping us updated.
Since launching Triskele, we’ve spoken to other writers who’ve formed collectives, some successful, some less so. But everyone agrees on the issue of trust. Triskele members met on an invitation-only online critique site, a safe haven for those who wanted honest but constructive feedback on our work. We “knew” each other as writers, and our friendship and our collective grew from trusted opinions and valued integrity. Naturally, disagreements arise, but fundamentally we know we all want the same thing.
Yes, the above is all very practical, but on a personal note, I’d also add passion. Getting a collective off the ground requires a great deal of energy, imagination and bloody-minded determination. Collectives need two things: clear eyes and fire in the belly.
What do you think of the idea of author collectives? Please do leave a comment below.
The Charter, by Gillian Hamer
Behind Closed Doors, by JJ Marsh
Spirit of Lost Angels, by Liza Perrat
Top image: Varicolored ropes from Bigstockphoto.com