Sunday, 24 February 2013

One Year On - Lessons Learned

Lessons learned from a year as an independent authors’ collective
Triskele Books is made up of seven writers who formed a partnership in early 2012. So one year on, what went wrong, what went right and what would we do differently?

Triskele’s logo shows three circles: individual, yet connected. It reflects how Sheila, Jasper, Gillian, Liza, Catriona, Jane and I operate: with a sense of unity, but at the same time, freedom.

We each retain the rights to our own work and make individual decisions regarding the practicalities of publication; ebook or paperback, exclusivity or variety, marketing choices, etc. Each author keeps their own profits. The collective doesn’t dictate choices. The range of genres – historical fiction, crime, paranormal mystery and literary fiction – means one size will not fit all. The primary function of Triskele is support.

-       Lesson learned: “One of our smartest moves was to join The Alliance of Independent Authors. Not only has it given us countless benefits, but we feel part of a wider community. Indie authors are a friendly bunch.” - Liza

The seven of us are spread widely: London, Zürich, Oxford, Lyon, Birmingham, Wiltshire and the Lake District. Face-to-face meetings are rare, so we keep in touch via email and Skype. The demands of daily life and the solitude needed by writers can mean erratic and infrequent contact.

-       Lesson learned: “Regular meetings and remembering to Reply All is important to keep conversations inclusive and ensure everyone is up to date. Keeping us all in the loop is time-consuming but necessary.” - Catriona

None of us wants to be associated with a sub-standard, badly edited, amateurish piece of work. We encourage each other to raise the bar as high as possible, using professionals for both covers and formatting, employing a proofreader and promoting a recognisable identity. Triskele Books represents three things: high-quality writing, professional presentation and a powerful sense of place.

-       Lesson learned: “One of the best things we did was employ a professional designer to create our website, logo and marketing material. We now have a brand.” - Jasper

We’re not a business, and have no plans to be. Yet after establishing quality as a key standard, we recognised it would imply a cash commitment. Each contributes an equal amount to the Triskele coffers to fund expenses and Gillian - our most practical member - takes responsibility for handling the bank account, keeping everyone updated.

-       Lesson learned: “Other collectives have split up because of money issues. So we’ve always been scrupulously fair and transparent about cash.” - Gillian

As indie authors, we’re all watching the market, studying developments in publishing and looking for opportunities to be heard. Although individual interests vary, we spot when something is right for a colleague and pass it on. However, this approach can be rather scattergun as opposed to targeted, with all of us trying to do everything.

-       Lesson learned: “As we did with finances, we might have been more efficient if we’d nominated the most talented marketer amongst us to coordinate our efforts. Now, we’ve made a concrete marketing plan.” - Sheila

Ebook, print or both?
Print books have proved useful for Triskele for several reasons. While ebooks account for the majority of our sales, print has also been a success. Useful for reviewers and book clubs, print books are popular as gifts, as evidenced by a distinct spike in paperback sales around Christmas.
And we noticed a preference for particular formats in certain countries. Print is still really strong in Germany, France and Switzerland, for example, while the UK and US consume far higher numbers of ebooks.

-       Lesson learned: “With Print-On-Demand, paperbacks aren’t prohibitively expensive, and they’re also useful for giveaways and prizes.” - Jasper

Going solo is a long, hard slog and it’s easy to become disillusioned. But in a collective of seven, someone’s always cheerleading, rousing those suffocated or stressed. From ISBN numbers to semi-colons, from tax advice to plot holes, we help each other and share experiences. Trust is crucial. We met on an invitation-only online critique site, a place for those who wanted honest but constructive feedback on their writing.

-       Lesson learned: “We ‘knew’ each other as writers first, so our friendship and our collective grew from valued opinions and integrity.” - Catriona

Because of the way the group developed and its geographical spread, we allocated duties on an ad-hoc basis. Whoever volunteered to pitch articles, organise the website, arrange the launch party, write advertising copy and investigate readers’ sites got the job. And naturally, some things fell through the gaps.

-       Lesson learned. “If we were to start again, we’d allocate roles according to our individual areas of expertise. That way, we could be sure everything was covered and no one got overloaded.” - Jane

The future
We plan to stick with our established methods, but try some more experimental ventures concurrently. Six titles will be on display at the London Book Fair this April, and four new releases are planned for June 2013 – watch this space. We’re also excited about the potential of translations, audiobooks and transmedia storytelling.

-       Lesson learned. “We’ve made some mistakes and we’ve still got a lot more to learn, but I’m so pleased we’re in this together.” - Gillian


  1. Congratulations on your first year TB! Hope you enjoy many more!

  2. congratulations on a wonderful year!

  3. Thanks so much, guys, and thanks for reading!

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  5. Some excellent advice! I'll look out for your titles at LBF. Where will they be displayed?