Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Publishing Your Way: The Author Collective

The new IndieVisible graphic, featuring renderings of its members

For a recent article published in the IBPA Independent, I interviewed representatives of several author collectives. What I discovered was too exciting to keep to myself! Here, the first in a series of interviews on author collectives, featuring a Q & A with Chelsea Starling of IndieVisible

Who started your collective? What was the initial impetus and vision behind its founding?

Indie-Visible 1.0 began in October 2012 with Jordan Rosenfeld and myself as the founding members. After a year, with a collective of about fifteen authors, things weren’t moving along as we all hoped they would, even though a handful of our members were able to publish books during that first year. Our membership activity slowed, and we lost focus along the way. Also, we had two distinct camps of writers in the group - half of us were more literary-minded and half of us were genre writers.

Our vision for Indie-Visible became split and Jordan and I had a meeting and agreed to disband, realizing that our different visions were making forward motion impossible- everything had slowed to nearly a halt for about a year. Jordan began a new collective called Scarlet Letter Writers, and I kept Indie-Visible.  Two of our original members, Christina Mercer, and Victoria Faye stayed on, and we began thinking big. On a long road trip, my mind went on wild brainstorm session, and I called Christina. For three hours, we hashed out a new outline for how we’d like to see IndieVisible grow, and decided to make it our mission to find all of the people we needed once we got to Nashville in June to attend UtopYA Con. 

When was the collective started? With how many authors and books represented?

IndieVisible 2.0 began anew in June, 2014. At UtopYA Con, we found a handful of incredible women to join us in creating the new vision for the collective. We added cover designer Regina Wamba of May I Design, blogger Toni Lesatz of My Book Addiction, blogger Maria Pease of The Paisley Reader, editor Crystal Bryant of The Plot Ninja, Marketing Diva, Beth Isaacs of True North Publishing. Our numbers have risen over the past few months, and we are now eleven incredibly talented women, with author James Matlack Raney being the first dude to join our ranks, making us a dirty dozen. Many of our members are in the process of prepping debut novels for publication, while some have published entire series, trilogies or multiple books.

You’ve recently undergone a major reorganization. What’s the reason behind that, and what results do you hope to see?

We are actually incorporating IndieVisible in January, 2015 as an LLC. My vision for IndieVisible is and has always been to create a way for authors to quit their non-writing day jobs and get paid to write, and we’ve finally found a way to do that. 

IndieVisible 2.0’s focus is on promoting Children’s, Middle Grade, YA and clean-ish NA fiction. (No erotica). The biggest issue we’ve been trying to solve is how to get books directly to the kids, tween and teen audiences. We’ve finally solved that problem with our Adopt-an-Author program we’re Beta launching in February 2015, which will pair indie authors with classrooms around the world, delivering books and exciting interactive reading/writing courses that will incur no cost to the schools, and will give our participating authors a nice income to afford more time to write.

With the reorganization, many authors and books are now represented?

Our current members are as follows:

Chelsea Starling, Christina Mercer, Crystal Bryant, Heather Sutherlin, Victoria Faye, Regina Wamba, James Raney, Kristen Day, S.M. Boyce, Maria Pease, Beth Isaacs & Toni Lesatz. We also have partnerships with a handful of awesome bloggers and freelancers, who will be bringing our two blogs: ReaderHub and PubHub to life at indie-visible.com. Some of us have published a handful of books, some entire series, some are still working on debut manuscripts. Regina is a book cover designer and photographer, who has created some gorgeous journals with our branding wizard, Victoria Faye.

How does the collective reach readers? How are the books published and distributed?

We will be reaching readers via our ReaderHub blog and through the program we’re launching in February. We have a collective reach that is pretty huge, so we’ll be sharing across all of our social media platforms. We’re also staring an Indie-Visible street team in the spring, which will be run by our marketing diva, Beth Isaacs. 

What distinguishes your collective in the marketplace?
Our collective is different than many because we have members who are bloggers and freelancers in the industry in addition to authors. IndieVisible 2.0’s new website will give indie authors a single place they can visit to find and hire reputable freelancers to build their own dream publishing team. Readers will be able to interact with writers via our ReaderHub blog where we have a team of bloggers creating fun content, book recommendations, and interactive contests. We are also different because we are building a business around our collective that will ultimately offer significant financial support to authors who work with us in the Adopt-an-Author program. 

How do you vet membership? What’s required of authors who participate? What benefits do participating authors enjoy?

At this point, I have been the sole Collector of Awesome People. I have chosen each member based on a gut feeling that they would fit into our team, and so far I have been fortunate enough to have assembled the most incredible group of superstar humans to carry this project forward. Authors who are interested in joining our Adopt-an-Author project once we’re past the beta phase will be vetted via an application process. Benefits to authors joining this program include direct contact with readers across the globe, and financial security that will allow authors to afford plenty of time to write, which is always the most challenging aspect of being an indie author.

What are the challenges of running a collective? What advice would you give to authors who either want to start a collective or join an existing one?

Our collective model is wild and unconventional. We are creating something that doesn’t exist yet, and with the creative minds on board, it’s been really fun. Our biggest challenge is going to be making the transition from everyone volunteering their time, to being able to pay our people for the efforts they contribute. We feel like we are on to something pretty special, as we have been able to navigate a handful of time zones and even countries with our members in an organized manner. We have a facebook group where we all keep in touch, weekly meetings which are either recorded or detailed minutes are taken by our resident Virgo/Bookkeeper, Christina Mercer. My advice to people starting a collective is to choose people to join the collective who share a vision, and be sure there is a leader who isn’t afraid to lead. Every collective has its own purposes, and ours is definitely outside the box, what we’re doing isn’t for everyone.

What are the advantages of a collective over a traditional publishing arrangement? What advantages does a traditional publisher have over a collective?

It’s hard for me to answer this, as I’ve not experienced a traditional publishing arrangement. For us, we have become such good friends, we are all wonderful collaborators, so ego doesn’t get in the way of what we do. We have a “lift as you climb” mentality, which is a phrase we learned from Janet Wallace at UtopYA Con, and there is something absolutely magical about working with such positive, uplifting people. We are all rooting for each other, celebrating each other’s individual successes, and looking for ways to make something amazing that can help other authors, whether they are brand new to being indie, or want to join our Adopt-an-Author program. And we’re making an amazing way for readers to find fantastic new books, and have a chance to interact with authors in fun new ways. 

What do you think the future holds for author collectives?

The publishing industry is experiencing so many exciting new changes, and I believe that author collectives will continue to pop up and establish themselves as a legitimate part of that landscape. It’s an exciting time to be a writer, to be an indie, and to be a reader, and author collectives are definitely a great way to create a solid community in what has historically been a lonely vocation. I love my team, I love what we’re doing and I wouldn’t have it any other way!