Friday, 19 June 2015

Toolbox for Author Collaboration: Part 3


There is no doubt that there is power in authors working together – whether it is through big organisations like the Alliance of Independent Authors, or small collectives like Triskele Books. Working together can reap huge benefits but – a bit like a marriage - it not something that can be undertaken ‘unadvisedly, lightly, or wantonly’.

Every collaboration is unique, dependent on the personalities involved and what they want to achieve, but each one must ask itself similar questions and overcome many of the same challenges.

Our new series of short articles aims to provide some of the tools you need to plan your own cooperative ventures, be they long-term collaborations or one-off projects.

Series 1: Setting up a Collective

  1. Deciding on your objectives / Choosing your travelling companions
  2. Sharing the work / Making a plan / Making it watertight
  3. Spreading the word / Building communities / Keeping it fresh
Series 2: Harnessing the Power of the Group

Maybe you have now set up your author collective, or perhaps you are still thinking about what kind of collaborative project you could undertake. In part two of our short series of articles we will explore ideas for harnessing the power of the group – and provide some case studies of those who have tried it already.



Triskele partners with Words with Jam, June 2013
One of the biggest reasons for working collaboratively with other authors is that you can make a bigger splash working together than you can as an individual author. So how can you spread the word about your new venture?
  1. Who do you most need to reach? How are you going to engage with them? 
  2. What is your window on the world? Will the group have its own website / Facebook page / Twitter feed (etc)? How will they be used? 
  3. Pool your contacts. Who do you each know (book bloggers, reviewers, booksellers, journalists, fellow writers in similar genres ... ) who could help champion your project? 
  4. What sort of environment (virtual or real) do you each operate in most effectively? Perhaps one of you has a big Twitter following. Another may be great on Facebook. Someone else prefers dealing with readers face to face, in book groups or writing festivals. Another has great contacts in local bookshops. How can you harness all that?* 
  5. What is there in the ‘story’ of your collective or project that might capture media or press interest? It may be difficult to break down barriers in the national press, but what about local or special interest media 
  6. What are your priorities? Do you want to focus on making a big impact around a particular event or launch? Or do you want to find ways of keeping yourselves in the public eye over a longer period? How can you make best use of your shared resources to achieve those aims? 
  7. Once again, it’s important to make a plan.

The best decision we made was to build some really strong relationships with our local media, particularly the local paper, The Chichester Observer, and local radio station, Spirit FM. In our case this was of vital importance as we wanted a geographical tight group that could support each other with library talks, book launches, editing workshops etc. I know your group in particular is international but for the Xmas Market, for example, it was easy to spread the cost of hiring a stall for 4 days (approx £400), spread the workload of manning it in the middle of winter, and the logistics of who could collect the books at the end of each day, who had a spare power extension or a money belt. We set the geographic spread relatively wide to 30 miles and that has meant we were able to grow to 17 authors and 2 authors-in-waiting after a year. We sold £650 worth of books by the way.


Reader Engagement at our first Indie Author Fair
[photo by Ruth Jenkinson]
Indie authors are some of the most generous, supporting people we have ever had the pleasure of working with. As Triskele we have learnt that everything we do to build links with author authors and to create author communities is repaid to us many times over. The connections you make with other writers will stand you in good stead all of your writing life.

As part of an author collaboration, you have already built an author community. But you are also well-place to reach out to other authors. Here are a few ideas of how you might do that:

  1. Interviewing other authors (or hosting their posts) on your blog. (Do you have an angle that makes your blog special and keeps people coming back?) 
  2. Reviewing books. Do you make a point of reading books by other indie authors and sharing recommendations of those you genuinely loved? Can you encourage others to share their recommendations? 
  3. Sharing information about indie authorship. It’s amazing when you look back to realise how much you have learnt just from the process of publishing one or two books. At the same time, there is always more to learn. Join the Alliance of Independent Authors and take part in their online forum and other activities. Share what you have learnt on your own blog. 
  4. Indie authors are often starved of opportunities to sell their books directly to readers. As a collective, you may have the clout to secure a space at a local lit fest, set up your own Indie Author Fair, and invite other authors to join you. (Read about Triskele’s first experience creating an Indie Author Fair here.) 
  5. Can your group help guide upcoming indie authors on the path to publication?

A View from Triskele:

From time to time, we have taken on associates, people whose writing we love and whom we all want to work with. Our associates receive editorial support and a guiding hand through the process of self publishing for the first time, and their books are marketed alongside Triskele’s other titles. In return, associates are expected to play a full part in Triskele’s general marketing duties, and to help drive new ideas and initiatives. One of the greatest compliments we ever received was to be described as the Wu-Tang Clan of Indie Authors!


Monitoring, Reviewing Revising

Even if your project is relatively short term, you will want to review what you are doing from time to time, so assess what is working well and what hasn’t been so effective, and to see what you could do better.

If your collaboration is longer term, you’re going to need to find ways of keeping it fresh and exciting.

Early on, in our first article, we suggested that, before you even set out, you should ask yourselves, “How will you know if you have achieved your goals? What is your measure of success?”
  1. So now your project has been running for a while, it’s time to look back at what you said then and take stock. 
  2. Have you achieved your goals? Wholly? Partially? 
  3. Can you pinpoint anything that has been particularly successful? 
  4. What hasn’t worked so well? 
  5. What obstacles have there been that you didn’t anticipate? 
  6. If your project is still on-going, what can you do to build on your successes? What can you do to turn round what has been less successful? 
  7. Has the group reached its optimal size, or do you want to consider expanding? (If so, you may want to look again at the ‘choosing your travelling companions’ post.) 
  8. If your project has now come to an end, make notes of what went well and what didn’t, and keep a record for next time. 
  9. Make sure you get everyone’s opinion, because everyone will see things slightly differently. 
  10. Try and get a perspective from outside the group too, if you can.
If this is a long-term collaboration, then every once in a while (perhaps once or twice a year) you will need to take a step back and see what new projects you could engage in that will:
  • Keep you in the public eye 
  • Keep the group looking innovative and exciting
Over the next few months, we will be bringing you some case studies of projects that different author collectives have engaged in, which we hope will fire your imagination.

A View from Running Fox Books:

It’s said that necessity is the mother of invention. But for us at Running Fox Books, necessity became the mother of re-invention—a new look at our brand from the perspective of readers. 

In December 2014, it became necessary for us to migrate our website to a new home, something that forced us to take a fresh look at how we presented ourselved.

What followed was an intensive couple of months in which we rethought the entire Running Fox concept. From the perspective of the author members, we knew the benefits of a collective; in fact, I’d written an article on collectives for the IBPA Independent. But what about readers? They don’t care how books are published. They just want a place to find good books—in our case, good Alaska-inspired books. Close to two million people visit Alaska each year. Big Five publishers don’t get that market. But we authors do.

As we thought about what we could offer readers that they couldn’t get elsewhere, we landed on the concept of an author-curated bookshop with features that strengthen the author-reader connection, among them a passage picker; a book-your-trip (literally) feature; a matchmaker tool, author confessions, and author insights.

The first phase of our new and improved collective is the website, newly launched. The next phase will involve growing our stable of authors to include those who’ve published traditionally and are looking for ways to extend the shelf-life of their titles. The third phase will involve partnering with groups that have good reach with the Alaska visitor market.

Our focus as a collective has always been to aggregate our marketing efforts. With the help of Cindy’s creative approach to the user-experience web design, we’re now poised to do that in bigger and better ways.

1 comment:

  1. Great series. Thanks so much for organizing it. Sharing on social media!