Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Author Collectives: Notting Hill Press

Formalizing the ways in which they support one another, authors worldwide are forming collectives. For an article published in the IBPA Independent (before I joined the staff), I interviewed representatives of several author collectives. The authors I interviewed were so generous that I determined all the details should be shared!

 Here, the fourth in a series of interviews on author collectives, featuring a Q & A with Michelle Gorman of Notting Hill Press.

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

Talli Roland, Belinda Jones and I started the collective as a way to share independent publishing expertise between a small group of hybrid authors. The idea behind Notting Hill Press is to have a hybrid publishing model that combines the best of traditional and independent publishing. We call it ‘the third way’.

It’s important to say that this isn’t a business model because it’s not a “business”. The collective is a group of authors who have come together to pool their knowledge and experience about independent publishing. We are all hybrid authors, which means we’re both traditionally and independently published. So all of us work with the big publishers on some of our books and independently publish others. This might be because our publishing contracts cover certain geographies, for example, my book, The Curvy Girls Club, is published by Avon (Harper Collins) in the UK, and I independently published it in the US. Or we may have a contract for a specific genre. For instance, Belinda Jones and Victoria Connelly have contracts with Hodder and Avon respectively for their women’s fiction, but independently published non-fiction this year. Or perhaps our contracts are for full-length fiction, like Talli Roland, who publishes with Montlake Romance (an Amazon Publishing imprint) and has released her Christmas novella independently under Notting Hill Press.

Each author runs his or her own independent publishing business exactly as they would if Notting Hill Press didn’t exist, except that he/she has the support and access to the expertise of the other nine authors. So when one of us runs a Facebook advert, for example, or a Bookbub promotion or puts a book into Kindle Unlimited, we share the results with the others. In this way we know what works and what doesn’t.

We also share resources - we’ve pooled a list of the best cover designers, line editors, copy editors, eBook creators and paperback options. We know which journalists, magazine editors and bloggers are nicest to work with and which ones provide the best reach (as I mentioned, we quantify and share the results of publicity and marketing initiatives wherever possible).

And we share the administration of the collective – one person looks after the website, another our twitter account, another handles Facebook, and when we publish a new book we share the promotion (e.g. contacting bloggers to offer review copies, chatting about the book on social media and working with Amazon to feature the books in their various promotions).

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

We started in 2012 and have 10 authors in total. Each author brings his or her business experience, professional contacts and promotional support to the group while retaining publishing control and royalties for their books.

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

We reach readers via social media (Twitter and Facebook), both through our individual brands and via the Notting Hill Press brand. We put out two Notting Hill Press newsletters a year listing the upcoming publications and offering advance review copies. Everyone publishes his or her own books on each eBook distribution platform (Amazon, iBooks, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, etc) and decides whether to produce paperbacks. The members of the collective have complete control of their books and make all their own decisions.

How do you vet membership?

We’re not looking for new members. We chose the existing authors because they’re all women’s fiction/romcom authors with very strong reputations who are supportive of other authors. And most importantly, they’re very nice people who we knew we’d like to work with. We have a few rules that all boil down to the same thing: professionalism. The books published under the Notting Hill Press umbrella must be professionally designed and edited and we have to conduct ourselves professionally at all times. This means that we use social media to sell books but as a way to engage with our readers. We don’t respond to negative reviews or criticize other authors (or anyone!) on social media.

What are the advantages of a collective over a traditional publishing arrangement?
      It isn’t an either/or decision – we do both, depending on what’s right for each book.

For more on author collectives and other publishing alternatives, see Deb's book What Every Author Should Know, No Matter How You Publish, available in print and $2.99 e-book.