Friday, 16 March 2018

Thinking of Forming an Author Collective?

A group of authors keen on self-publishing and forming an author collective, recently asked Team Triskele for some tips. Here are our (collective!) answers:

JJ Marsh, JD Smith, Gillian Hamer, Catriona Troth, Liza Perrat


Intro by JJ Marsh & Gillian Hamer

Before answering these astute and vitally important questions, we need to state right from the start that we don't know all the answers. Many collectives we've spoken to have fallen at financial or personality hurdles while we've managed to survive and thrive. We're not quite sure how, as we've had a fair few scrapes and stumbles along the road.

One thing we knew from the off is that we liked each other's writing and respected one another's critical perspective. But whether that would make us good business partners was anyone's guess. Triskele came into being as an act of trust - three independent partners, working together, sharing costs and maintaining individual rights.

Now we are bigger and more experienced, we are an officially registered company with a bank account and administration system. But more important than all of that, we're friends, fellow writers and a well-honed editorial team.



Did you set a maximum number of members of the co-operative at the start? If so, how many?

Liza Perrat
LP: No we didn't. We started off as three members from an online writing group, hence the origin of our 3-sided Triskele logo. It wasn't planned as such, more like an organic gathering of like-minded authors, all at a similar stage of the writing process and wanting to self-publish to the highest possible standard, and to help each other reach that goal. Very soon after, we welcomed two more members, whose work we also admired, and who had similar passions and goals. Personally, I think five is a perfect number. Enough people to take up the slack when someone is "out of order" for whatever reason. And that means four fresh pairs of eyes on each manuscript too, which I believe is a good number for an overall critique, and not too many that you end up with too many conflicting opinions.



How do you deal with approaches from writers who want to join your collective?  

JDS: Currently we aren't actively open for submissions to join our collective. Mainly because we work well as a small team and have built up a huge amount of trust between us when it comes to advice and critiquing, and we don't want to spoil that balance. However we do encourage other authors who like the idea of a collective to create their own, find a bunch of friendly writery folk you get on with, whose work you admire and whose opinions you value and support one another. Writing doesn't have to be solitary and the support of a good network of friends who share the same passion as you makes for a great team.


Did you sign up for a fixed duration, or can members leave when they wish, subject to removing the imprint name from their books? 

JD Smith
JDS: It's not something we've ever really discussed. We've all been part of the collective for a long time, when we published our first books. There's certainly no fixed duration, but of course any books published outside of the collective wouldn't feature our logo, for example. I personally published a book on cover design which doesn't fit the Triskele Books brand, so I did that as a standalone project and it doesn't carry the Triskele logo. Even so, my fellow members supported and helped me in its creation.


Do you put the collective’s name on the books, e.g. spine, title page, copyright page? 

JDS: We put the name/logo on our title page, spine, back of the book and then we also have a joint mailing list which we encourage readers to sign up to in the back of all of our books.


Did you formulate a written agreement? Including which points?

LP: We have no written agreement as such. At the beginning, we had many Skype chats (since we live in different countries), and several face-to-face meetings to define our goals and working methods. This is revisited and overhauled from time to time, or if a problem arises.



How do Triskele manage their joint funding? What rules and regs do they have in place to make it run smoothly?

Gillian Hamer
GH: Well, I am chief treasurer or top accountant or head of finance or what you will! Basically I just oversee the financial aspects of anything we arrange - be that physical launches or online competition, I just make sure the books balance. I pay the bills as they come in and ensure I send out invoices when required. I keep records of everything and share them with the other members so everything is transparent and I hope to think by now they trust me enough that they rarely bother checking!


I guess that in relation to charges, such as web hosting, website design, promotions, ISBNs UK, etc, a member is in charge of all financial transactions, like in an association? Keeping accounts and such?


GH: Part of my role as detailed above is to keep the bank account in the black, and to ensure we have enough in the kitty to pay for the yearly fees that roll round. If we need extra funds, say to hire a venue for a physical launch in London, then every member involved in that particular event will all contribute equally. We are a Limited Company in the UK now, so I do use my book keeping skills from my day job to ensure we keep everything legal and above board.


How do you ensure everyone abides by the rules and pulls their weight?


Catriona Troth
CT: I am not sure if I'd say that we have rules, exactly. But we do expect everyone to pull their weight. We have a pretty regular pattern of things we are each expected to contribute to, and a work plan (refreshed weekly) that sets out what's expected to go into each of those slots. Nominally, once every five weeks, when our turn rolls round, is when we make sure we have completed everything we are supposed to have done. In practice, most of us probably do those things as and when we can fit them in.

That workplan is checked regularly, and if there are gaps that need to be filled, we get a nudge. Then at least once a year we do a big review of how everything has been going - if people have any ideas how things could be done better, or if anyone is struggling to cope. And we adjust accordingly.


How do you manage dispute resolution, in the event of a disagreement?

CT: Perhaps because our joint financial commitment is minimal, we have been fortunate not to have any really serious disputes. But of course we have disagreements.  The key is keeping channels of communication open, and talking things out, not bottling them up.


How do you split group responsibilities (website, FB page, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest...?)

GH: So, my other badge as well as finance is social media. I run the Facebook and Twitter accounts which are regularly updated daily or weekly. If I'm away or extra busy, someone else will always step in and help out. Other members take up the slack with Instagram and Pinterest when we have something to promote, and we all try to share our posts as much as possible. We took this approach as it got a bit confusing at times, not knowing who was posting what and when, so now if anyone has anything they want putting out on Triskele channels we share it internally first to keep things clean and ensure we don't duplicate posts.


What joint marketing activities do you carry out?

CT: We have the Triskele website and blog, which we use, among other things, as a showcase for our work. This year, for example, we have having a once a month feature on the blog focusing on one of our books in particular and talking about the inspiration behind it.

In addition to that, most years we try and do one Big Thing, where we are not necessarily pushing our own books, but promoting the Triskele name. We have run three so-called 'Indie Author Fairs' - pop-up bookshops where indie authors could come and sell their books directly to readers. The last of those was combined with a one-day Lit Fest, where panels of authors writing in different genres discussed their work. And this year we are running the second of two competitions to win a year's mentoring, with the aim of taking a finished manuscript and making it publication-ready, with editing, proofreading, page-setting, cover design etc. Our first winner went through the process, decided to try for an agent and got one in a matter of days!


What do you do about marketing when there are gaps in releases?

JJ Marsh
JJ: We try to keep a bubbling profile, publishing a blogpost per week under the Triskele name. We also publish articles on Words with JAM magazine for writers and reviews on Bookmuse for readers. Aside from individual promotions and advertising, we watch out for opportunities and alert one another. We all jump in and trumpet a member's new release and usually have a physical event each year to promote all our releases and drink Prosecco. Every week, one of us is on duty, stoking the fires.


In addition to a Triskele website, what other joint social media platforms would you recommend? 

JJ: We have a Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads and Pinterest presence in addition to the content delivery above. Others have had success with LinkedIn or Instagram - whatever feels right for you.

How do you co-ordinate your public face, i.e. website, blog, FB/Twitter, etc. Do you use a schedule? And perhaps use a shared Dropbox folder to share documents between all members?  
GH: I may have covered this in my previous answer, but we mostly use our private Facebook group for internal chats and shares, or we add things to our weekly round up emails, and edit them via Google. Nothing goes public until it gets the thumbs up! Website updates are agreed internally and then either myself or Jane will add new books or information as needed.

Indie Author Fair


Has your collective free short story anthology been a good draw and created traffic to your site with resulting sales?

JJ: Our three collaborative publications - A Time and Place boxset, A Taste of Triskele short stories and recipes, plus our collaborative non-fiction book A Pathway to Publication - all earn us a steady trickle of income. On top of that we use an Amazon affiliate code to bring in regular pennies. The great thing about the boxset and story collection is they don't need any maintenance. I'd be hard pushed to define which of our myriad funnels brings most traffic to our site, but people do come.


Self-publishing: A number of people mentioned that they’d find really useful a step by step guide to what needs to be done and by when, when you are self-publishing. 

JJ: Pick up A Pathway to Self-Publishing. You can get it for free by signing up to our newsletter. It covers everything we've learned and is constantly updated. Or poke about on our website and find many useful articles on your particular interest. Or join The Alliance of Independent Authors. Do Joanna Penn's Author 101 or David Gaughran's Let's Get Digital. 
There's so much information but all of it is constantly changing. This is one of the biggest advantages of operating as a collective - five minds watching, testing, learning, writing, reading and communicating.

Team Triskele colours


Final point: When we started publishing as a collective, it was almost unheard of. So we sought out other collectives to interview, compare notes and learn from each other. You can find all our interviews here and we would be so very pleased if you came back to tell us about your successes.

Thanks for the smart questions!
Jill, Gilly, Liza, Jane and Kat


3 comments:

  1. Thank you, your information is definitely helpful.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you for this, ladies. Very helpful and informative.

    ReplyDelete