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Guest Post: How Author Collectives Boost Self-Publishing

Triskele Books is a team of six, three of whom are publishing books this summer. We Indie Authors self-publishing as collective Triskele Booksall have day jobs and different skill sets but what we share is that  we’re all writers.

Together, we make one hell of a team.

The motivation behind the birth of Triskele came after a series of online conversations over a few months, culminating in a meeting in a posh London hotel to decide if this idea really had legs. We’d known each other online for about six years and although we lived in different countries, we were all firm friends, comfortably part of a closed critique group, Writing Asylum.

It became clear we’d all reached a similar level with our writing: of a publishable standard or not far away. Gillian and Liza both had agents who were putting in a lot of time and effort into not getting deals, while Jill banged her head against the agent wall, facing excuses from ‘the economy’ to ‘the writing’s too cerebral’. Traditional publishing seemed to think we were too risky.

That’s where the idea started. If Jill wanted to be cerebral, Gillian wanted to cross genres between crime and paranormal, and Liza to tell the story she wanted to tell about revolutionary France – then we’d have to go it alone.

Alone but also as part of a team of six.

SELF-PUBLISHING TOGETHER

From the off, we were determined our brand would shout quality. We did not want to be associated with the poor image of self-publishing that had given us all serious doubts for many years. So, from our website to our promotional material, from our editing to our interviews, everything would be shared, agreed, proofed, reproofed and then checked again. Nothing would represent Triskele without being seen and vetted by people whose talent and commitment we trusted. Thanks to the remarkable creative design skills of one of our members, Jane Dixon Smith, we had one huge box ticked.

Having a team hell-bent on the highest standards is what has made Triskele Books a success. It’s early days, and we are only just about to launch our first three books – Behind Closed Doors by Jill Marsh; The Charter by Gillian Hamer and Spirit of Lost Angels by Liza Perrat – but already we have one eye on the future. Second books are planned, taking new writers onboard is under discussion, and being able to publish what we want to write rather than what suits the current marketplace is what drives us forward.

We have put in a tremendous amount of work, both in getting the books to the best they can possibly be, and the endless rounds of networking, promotion and online publicity required to spread the Triskele word.

But there is already a huge sense of satisfaction that we have turned negatives into positives, and instead of feeling sorry for ourselves and letting our books stagnate on a hard drive, we are doing it our way. This is probably the biggest motivation for each of us – actually seeing a book we love and which has been such an intrinsic part of our lives out there in print and looking damn fine.

And for any other writer in a similar position, if you’re lucky enough to be surrounded by people you respect and trust enough to be in business with (and be clear this is very much a business commitment) then give it a go. Sharing the workload whilst retaining the profits, not to mention the invaluable support in the highs and lows of being a writer, make collectives a truly viable option for future publishing decisions.

Guest Post By Gillian Hamer, one of the Triskele authors. Gillian, Jill and Lisa are now, all three, members of ALLi. For more information about their titles, launching this weekend, contact Triskele Books.

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16 Responses to Guest Post: How Author Collectives Boost Self-Publishing

  1. John Potter May 30, 2012 at 2:15 pm #

    Amazing. Just looked at the website and the books. Very refreshing to see this level of quality. I’d be really interested in hearing how you worked the finances between you? Did you all invest the same amount etc? How you hired in copy and proof editors? 
    Really looking forward to reading these. 

  2. Dan Holloway May 30, 2012 at 3:08 pm #

    A fabulous initiative that has the feel of many of the high quality very focused small presses emerging – the mix of quality and ruthlessly pursuinga  niche is a killer combination – very very best to you!

  3. ornaross May 30, 2012 at 3:18 pm #

    Hear hear!  Author collectives like this are the way of the future for many indies, I’m sure.  Gill, do you guys want to share GDs about costs, service hire etc?

    • Dan Holloway May 30, 2012 at 3:28 pm #

       A propos this – and Gill’s comment about having different skill sets – when I started the Year Zero Writers collective in 2009, the original plan was for us to use a barter-based credit scheme to pool our skills. I still think if you get the right people together this would work really well. I grew up in Stroud, a hippy mecca and one of the first towns to develop a fully-functioning LETS system (http://www.gmlets.u-net.com/home.html),  and ever since it’s struck me as a really good basis for collectives to work on

  4. Sheila Bugler May 30, 2012 at 4:10 pm #

    A great article and a great website – the books look gorgeous.

  5. JJMarsh May 30, 2012 at 4:22 pm #

    Hi everyone and big thanks to Gillian for the post!

    Jill (JJ Marsh) here, another Triskelite.

    You asked about how we worked the finances.
    The key issue regarding Triskele is that we’re a group of indy authors who retain our own rights.
    We share costs for promoting the brand but retain any individual profits from our books.
    We pool our skills and cooperate on marketing.

    Books
    We each chose how much we wanted to spend on copyediting, design and advertising.
    The only requirement was to make our books the best they could be.
    We supported one another in terms of proofing and copyediting, while some of us also chose to pay a pro.

    Triskele
    Collectively, we each contributed an equal chunk of cash to cover website design, posters and bookmarks, launch event and other costs to promote the Triskele brand.
    We trusted our financial whizz to handle the banking.
    We trusted our design whizz to come up with tailored images for the books and an identity for the collective.

    But the key thing is that we trust each other as writers.
    As Dan says, we haven’t “gone into business”.
    We’ve simply pooled our strengths, our work and our personalities; our networks, our ideas and our support.

    We’re launching this weekend and will share our experiences. Thanks so much for cheering us on.
    Jill

    • ornaross May 30, 2012 at 5:16 pm #

      Thanks Jill — inspiring stuff! — we’d love one of you to blog a diary of the launch — if you had time/space to do that.

      • JJMarsh May 30, 2012 at 5:34 pm #

         Can do, Orna. May well have a wee video for you too, if all goes well.

        • Orna Ross May 30, 2012 at 5:37 pm #

          Ooooh! multimedia, love it! Have a great event…. so sorry I can’t be there but will be sending good luck vibes from Sweden. 

  6. Liza Perrat May 30, 2012 at 5:24 pm #

    Thanks for the thumbs up Dan and John!
    John, as Jill said, we shared equally, the cost of the launch, promotion, website design, posters, bookmarks, etc.
    We each put a lump sum into the joint account and discuss/agree with each other when and how these funds are spent.
    We have each edited and proofed each other’s ms, as well as bringing in outside help.
    Luckily we have a designer who, we all agree, is fabulous, and takes care of covers, websites, artwork and typesetting.
    Pleased to talk more if you have any more questions!

  7. Melissa Foster May 30, 2012 at 5:50 pm #

    You set my head spinning. I LOVE this idea, if you don’t back down on quality for friendship. Sometimes it’s hard to tell people they must write “better” but it can be a necessary evil. Strong writers will understand that. I’m thinking now about how the World Literary Cafe can help you gals promote, complicated on one hand, not so much on the other. Super smart thinking either way – congrats! Love the power of people working together

    • JJMarsh May 30, 2012 at 6:08 pm #

       Thanks Melissa. To answer the friendship/quality question, I think all six of us would agree. We respected one another’s critical opinion first, which is why we became friends. We met as writers online. No face, no voice, just constructive criticism. We’ve clashed, sure, but we know that the only agenda here is making each other’s work better. You’re right, it’s a complex dance of intent, ego, understanding, genre and style, but ‘meeting’ via words has certainly worked for us.
      Thanks so much for your support!

  8. David Rory O'Neill January 13, 2014 at 10:36 pm #

    An inspired idea. Good luck to you all.
    Are there any ALLi members based in Ireland interested in doing something like this?
    If so please make contact.
    David Rory O’Neill.

  9. David Rory O'Neill January 14, 2014 at 12:54 am #

    I’ve just noticed this post is two years old! I feel kinda foolish for posting on this thread now. I’ didn’t notice the dates first time.
    Why is this on the ALLi Indi Authors Daily Jan 13th 2014. That’s a bit weird is it not?

    • Debbie Young January 14, 2014 at 12:22 pm #

      Hmm, good question, David! I’ll investigate… But don’t worry, people comment on older posts all the time, as they rise to the top in search engine searches. While sometimes the information is a little out of date (not least because our business changes to quickly), there’s a lot of good stuff tucked away there too!

  10. John Lynch January 14, 2014 at 10:42 am #

    We did exactly the same thing last year with Mandrill Press, a co-operative formed by writers who knew each other and valued the input each could bring. Although we are very different writers (as shown in my interview “You don’t write about sex” which is on the Mandrill Press website) we have found working together to be a great booster.

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