For the fourth in our author collective series, we are happy to welcome the international group, Writer’s Choice, to the Triskele blog today. Member, p.d.r. Lindsay was kind enough to answer our questions.
1) Firstly, the most obvious question: what prompted you to found Writer’s Choice and when? How many members do you have?
Writer’s Choice sprang into being after I grumbled like mad with other historical writers in an online writers’ group. I had a novel which had been short listed in three competitions in the UK, been through Hilary Johnson’s Assessment Agency, been forwarded by them to a great agent and agency, been praised but not taken on. And the ‘Lovely but…’ continued with other agents. ‘Too old and lives faraway in New Zealand,’ it boiled down to. My nice first agent pointed out that he needed me to write ten books for him to earn any money and most agents want accessible writers. On top of which he told me he received between 6,000 and 8,000 queries a year and only chose maybe one! The traditional publishing route struck me as a numbers game.
My howls of outrage struck chords in other writers in similar ‘we love your book but…’ agent traps. We bemoaned the fate of the lone self-published author vanishing in the great Amazon slush pile. What we needed we decided was group power and so Writer’s Choice was discussed in August 2012 and finalized in October 2012. The group gradually whittled down to the three of us actively publishing. Others hover in the wings but have yet to commit. We are international and internet dependent. We have never met face to face, but our inboxes are filled with messages to keep us in touch.
2) Like Triskele Books do you each retain the rights to your own books, pay the costs of publication and receive the full royalties? And if so, what elements are done collectively?
As a group we decided that we would work to help each other produce the best book possible. This means we beta read for each other, edit and use professionals to story edit, copy edit, check cover designs. We do everything we can to help. The actual publication as an e-book and in print is up to the individual author, using CreateSpace or Lightning Source, Amazon or Smashwords or Kobo, whoever. And yes, each book, its earnings and rights are the property of the author.
3) One thing we’ve been working on at Triskele Books is how best to communicate between members –– email, Skype, Facebook? How do you work as a team, in terms of communication, and getting tasks done? And how do you resolve any differences of opinion?
We all have very busy other lives. We all live in different time zones. Two of us are technophobes. We find that emails are the best communication system for us. We are very careful to be professional and yet friendly. All emails go to all members. We nearly had a disaster over email chatting excluding one member.
Emails can be tricky because they are only words, without all those visual and tonal qualities we use to understand what is said. We quickly learnt to be very clear and spell out exactly what we meant, and to check with each other if we were not sure. In fact we are quite blunt at times in our emails, in a way we would not be if we were face to face.
We put Writer’s Choice work as our top priority. Thus when one of us has a chapter that needs reading it gets read quickly. We expect to help each other. We also expect differences of opinion. We are all opinionated characters, very different writers with different backgrounds and style. We listen to each other, but the final decision is with the individual author. We do, however respect each other so that if the opinion of the others is strong then there will be some accommodation.
A group of writers forming a publishing co-operative must trust that all members have the same high standard and will work as hard for all the books as for their own. It has worked for us.
4) What do you see as the benefits of being in a collective? Any disadvantages?
A lone self-publishing author disappears in the sea of self-published books. A group is much more noticeable. As a group we can spread the work, especially all those tricky, time-consuming things like PR and sales. As a group we can support each other, cheering and encouraging each of us through the writing process. It is a comfort to know that your colleagues also suffer from mid-novel blues or have a neat way of sorting out your problem.
Probably the most important thing about our writers’ publishing co-operative is our logo promising quality fiction and the development of a ‘brand’, Writer’s Choice, which readers can recognise and seek. Readers don’t often remember author names or novel titles, but they do recognise a logo and a promise.
There are two disadvantages we have met. The first is the number of people who want to join but who expect that other people will do all the work whilst they write. The second is the number of writers who want to use our group power to get good sales so that they can attract an offer from a ‘real’ publisher!
5) Do your authors use the same designer? And do you try and go for a shared look or feel?
Two of us use the same cover designer. She’s a gem and gets the nub of the story on to the cover really well. Our third member is a talented cover designer herself. We don’t go for a uniform look as the books are quite different, but all our books carry the Writer’s Choice logo. Interior design is for each of us to sort out for our novels. We must be thinking alike though as we often use the same fonts and headings.
E-book design is very much new territory but we are aware of needing to have visually attractive interiors, and are experimenting with fonts, headings and even sound. We use the same cover for our e-books as our print books.
6) Are you actively seeking new members? And if so, what sort of criteria must new authors and members meet, to become part of Writer’s Choice?
When we began we had a lot of people interested in joining us, but they fell away when they realised they would have publish their own books. Others wanted a firm written contract type agreement and we did not. We wanted total flexibility and trust. We couldn’t see the need for a contract when our books and royalties were our own.
Right now we might like a couple more members if the right people appeared, but we are not actively seeking more members. Finding people who will honour our Writer’s Choice promise of quality fiction, actively promote all Writer’s Choice books, not just their own, and put in the hours doing PR as well as PR research and PR experiments is going to be very difficult.
7) Would you like to tell us about your plans for 2014 and beyond?
In 2014 we will all be working hard on PR and sales. With Sharon’s success and George’s awards we are slowly building our reputation for quality fiction and will be hoping to reinforce that with readers. We realise it takes at least two years to make much impact but feel we’ve had a marvellous first year and that Writer’s Choice books will grow in reputation with readers.
We have three novels coming out this year: Unforgiveable by Sharon Robards, Tizzie by p.d.r.lindsay and Four Nails by G.J Berger.
All of us are busy writing new novels. G.J. Berger is busy with a non-historical, something new for Writer’s Choice, a thriller. After that, he will return to historicals with a new novel in the Four Nails, Burnt Rocks series, telling about the rest of Lavena's life.
Sharon Robards is working on something new, but she always prefers to surprise us when she feels it is ready to show the world.
p.d.r.lindsay is working on a novel set in 1872, based in India and New Zealand. The working title is Revenge. She will also publish more short stories in the Writer’s Choice Shorts series.
Writer’s Choice hope to publish these novels in 2015.
8) How do you see the future of publishing generally?
The future of publishing? Oh how we wish we knew. As long as the likes of Amazon and Smashwords and Kobo play fairly with authors, traditional publishers will struggle, have smaller lists, become even more demanding of authors. Otherwise, there's no money in it for them or their authors.
G.J. Berger wishes he were a publishing god, he’d form a consortium of book publishers and set up his own Amazon for all his titles, all his authors. But none of the publishers has the know-how or clout to do that. Look at what happened to Barnes & Noble when it tried to compete with Kindle-a disaster.
The new analysis of indie book sales (www.authorearnings.com) shows that their percentage of all sales is considerably more than previously reported, and those sales are growing. Indie groups like ours are here to stay and so is Indie publishing. Whether the big traditional publishers will survive is another matter. Not unless they make some serious changes.
For more information on Writer's Choice: www.writerschoice.org
Sharon Robards: https://plus.google.com/102155324691387193934/posts
G.J Berger: http://www.gjberger.com
p.d.r. Lindsay: http://www.rowanlindsay.co.nz/
Burnt Rocks by G.J. Berger
Chosen as Best Published Historical fiction of 2012 by San Diego Book Awards. Winner of the Brag Medallion.
After three great wars, Rome has crushed Carthage. Now the undefended riches of Iberia beckon gold, tin, olives, wine, & healthy young bodies to enslave. Burnt Rocks tells the story of Lavena, last child of the strongest remaining Iberian tribal leader at a time when Rome plunders & loots her land. At times helped only by her father's favorite dog, a special horse, or guided by spirits of the earth & sky, she strives to unite her people & oust the Roman menace. Based on real characters, places, & events, Burnt Rocks recreates that shadowy history and eternal human nature rubbed raw.
Tizzie by p.d.r.lindsay
There's no slavery in the Yorkshire Dales, not in 1887, not ever. But loving families use artful schemes to enslave the innocent. Twenty nine year-old Tizzie is such an innocent. She has worked herself down to skin & bones as a dairymaid on the farm of her dear brother, Jack, his Scottish wife, Maggie, their three boys & one girl, Agnes. Expert at many things, though not in spotting conniving entrapment, Tizzie longs to see that young Agnes will not suffer her spinster fate. In trying to help Agnes find an education & avoid a life of drudgery in their male-dominated world, Tizzie begins to suspect & then uncover Jack & Maggie's treachery, & the family's plots to enslave & use up Agnes too. With only her wits to guide her, Tizzie tries to right years of wrongs & set Agnes free.
Jacob’s Ladder by p.d.r.lindsay
The whole country’s gone mad. King Charles I wants one religion and all his subjects must follow it. He is threatening to forcibly modify the Anglican faith. Half his subjects are protesting. He also wants money but Parliament want to talk to him about his taxes. He’s refused to call Parliament for eleven years, and has tried to browbeat Parliament by force.
It’s 1642 and England is in an economic and political melt down, as difficult a situation as today’s similar economic and political mess. The King won’t bend, Parliament won’t break, it’s an explosive deadlock. During those few chaotic months before King Charles declared war on his subjects there was, for those who dared to take it, the opportunity to get away with murder, in return for impressive rewards of power and influence, or wealth.
A Woman Transported by Sharon Robards
After only a year and a half, Writers Choice has its own first best seller on multiple Amazon lists, Sharon Robard's debut historical, A Woman Transported.
Isabel is faced with only one choice — fight her way out of the rookery of St Giles with her wit and beauty and somehow follow the ship that sent her mother to the sunburned convict land of Australia, or else die too young after a short life of wretchedness.
At the height of the convict transportation to Australia, an unseen boundary separates the poor from the rich. Isabel’s stunning beauty and strong will attract the attention of a wealthy man, but the upper classes have their own secrets, secrets entwined with hers. Daily, she has learned hard lessons on the mean streets of London, but they can’t teach her fast enough about the treachery of the wealthy. She must navigate both the gardens of the upper class and back alleys of the downtrodden in two continents. And she will, or die trying to find her mother
Unforgivable by best selling author, Sharon Robards
Seventeen-year-old Sylvia, like many unmarried teenage mothers across Australia in 1966, is forced to wait for the birth of her child in one of the homes & hospitals run by the Catholic Church. St Joseph’s Hospital, managed by the Sisters of St Anthony, has never had a girl walk out the front gate without first leaving behind her baby. But the sisters had never met Sylvia, defiant & headstrong & determined to keep her child.
Unforgivable is the story of a teenage girl & a young nun caught up in the great religious & social upheaval brought on by Vatican II, & a thriving adoption industry driven by society’s fierce disapproval of unmarried mothers.