Friday, 19 December 2014

CHINDI - Author Collectives VI

by Liza Perrat

For the sixth in our ongoing series of Author Collective interviews, I am pleased to welcome Chris Casburn (writing as Christopher Joyce), member of CHINDI, a Chichester network of independent authors.

LP: Who had the idea to set up CHINDI, and when?

CC: Myself and fellow local author Jeremy Good discussed the idea of setting up a group of local indie authors in January 2014. Our local paper, The Chichester Observer, is very supportive and had already featured 2 or 3 other authors living in and around the city. Jeremy had also made contact with a few others from social media sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook. We contacted these people and six turned up on a wet and windy evening.

We met a further two or three times, decided on a name for the group and before we knew it we were at our first event to coincide with World Book Day in March 2014.

Jeremy Good

LP: Can you tell us a bit about how the network functions?

CC:The main aim of the group is to share the pain and costs of marketing. We each have different strengths. Some are great at social media, others have useful contacts with venues and local media, we all share a common desire to get our books out to our readers. In addition, we have approached the process in different ways. Some favour Matador whilst others are loyal to Createspace, Lulu or Ingram Spark. This means that there is usually someone in the group that can advise of the mistakes to avoid based on their own experience. We meet monthly to plan activity which has included: a library talk of self publishing, a wine and words evening with 4 authors reading, exhibiting at the Winchester Writers Conference, our first stall at this year's Christmas Market in Chichester, running a free promotional link on our local radio station, Spirit FM.

LP: How many members do you currently have and what must each member bring to the table? How do you know if someone is a good “fit” for CHINDI?

CC: There are now 18 members in the group and more are expected at the next meeting. We accept all genres but expect the production values of the book to be high. As we expand, we are planning to tighten up on this to ensure that the reputation of the group remains high. Each member must contribute to the group in some way. This might include: setting up a website, recording videos and setting up a YouTube channel, being the 'manager' of an event, designing and distributing leaflets, manning a stall, writing press releases etc. It's worked pretty well so far but as membership grows we may need to allocate roles in order to prevent duplication of effort.

Guests at the CHINDI Wine and Words event

LP: Are all your members independently-published uniquely?

CC: Some of our members are hybrid authors but most are solely self published.

LP: Like Triskele Books, do all the CHINDI authors each retain the rights to their own books, pay the costs of publication and receive the full royalties? What elements are done collectively?

CC: All authors retain the rights to their books and full royalties. Our group is more of a marketing forum than a collective. We are currently focused on our first Christmas Stall. The costs for 4 days is over £400 so clearly prohibitive for any single author, but by sharing the costs we're hoping to get sales and increase awareness. Several authors have contributed books to create a prize of over £100 and 'books for all the family' to attract visitors to the stand.

LP: What do you see as the key benefits of being in a cooperative? Any disadvantages?

CC: The experience has been very rewarding knowing that there are other writers facing the same issues. It's really hard to keep the momentum on your own but by sharing the marketing burden (and costs) it becomes easier. Chairing a meeting with 18 creative egos is not always easy and there is not always total agreement on specific activity. But so far only 2 people have left the group over the last 11 months. It's not for everyone, as it's not like ALLi where you pay quite a large membership fee and expect all sorts of benefits delivered to you. We currently have no fee and you pay with your time and input. This inevitably means that some 'pay in' more than others, but I think that's inevitable.

Book bundle of authors' books as a prize at the Chichester Christmas stall

LP: How do you see the future of publishing generally?

CC: I see the next few years as one of further change, which is quite exciting. Amazon is likely to dominate although I'm not sure how successful the Kindle Unlimited programme has been. More self published authors will hit the headlines and the ghost of vanity publishing will hopefully disappear. New initiatives such as audio books through ACX are exciting and several of us in the group are at the early stages of getting our books recorded. I'd like to see Indie Bookstores be more supportive of Indie Authors. We only have one in Chichester that we have failed to win over so far - but we haven't given up yet.

Thanks so much for answering our questions, Chris, and we wish you all the best with your writing, and with CHINDI.

Christopher started work on the first book in the Creatures of Chichester - the one about the stolen dog was released just before Christmas 2012. His second book, The Creatures of Chichester - the one about the mystery blaze was released in October 2013.

Christopher lives in the centre of Chichester and also runs a garden design business. He's been a teacher, marketing director and even made Venetian Blinds as a young Twoleg in Newport, South Wales. He dreams quite a lot and plans to write at least six more books in the Creatures of Chichester series. Book three The Creatures of Chichester - the one about the curious cloud is out now.

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