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 second in a series of interviews on author collectives, featuring a Q & A with J.J. Marsh of Triskele Books.
Who started your collective? What was the initial impetus and vision behind its founding?
The collective is formed of Gillian Hamer, Liza Perrat, Jane Dixon Smith, Catriona Troth and me, JJ Marsh. In 2011, several of us in an online writing critique group discussed collectives as the ideal ‘third way’ between trad publishing and going indie alone. So we met in London and hammered out an ethos: Triskele Books would stand for high quality writing, professional presentation and a strong sense of place, whilst maintaining full creative control.
When was the collective started? With how many authors and books represented?
December 2011. Three authors and three books.
How many authors and books are now represented?
Five core members and three associates, with a total of eighteen novels and one work of non-fiction, The Triskele Trail, which is the story of how we did it.
How does the collective reach readers? How are the books published and distributed?
We have a network of channels to reach readers: our blog, website, social media presence are all vital. We also create events such as the Indie Author Fair, and make appearances at conferences, book fairs, etc. In addition, we have an established profile in the shape of Words with JAM magazine (for writers and publishers) and Bookmuse, a review site for readers.
Publication and distribution is through all the ebook channels – Amazon, Smashwords, Kobo, Nook and so on, and print books through Ingram and Createspace. Audio is through Audible and independently.
What distinguishes your collective in the marketplace?
We have a strong brand and a high profile identity as a supportive part of the indie author community. Our books are gaining increasing respect as being well written and attractively designed, plus our USP is Time and Place - location plays a key role in all our work.
How do you vet membership?
Right now, we don’t. We recently took a decision not to take on any more associates for the moment, due to the high amount of work involved. While we are committed to supporting other writers and creating opportunities, our own writing must come first. So at least until 2016, we’re not seeking new members.
What are the challenges of running a collective?
• Significant workload - it’s not something that runs itself so requires a great deal of effort and energy. Play to your strengths and assign roles and responsibilities accordingly.
• Four-eye principle – we have to agree on everything that goes out under our name. This is time consuming and sometimes frustrating as we live in three different countries and two time zones.
• Commitment – start with a clearly defined sense of what the collective is and what you hope to achieve. When new opportunities arise, refer back to those original principles to decide what is right for the team as a whole.
What are the advantages of a collective over a traditional publishing arrangement?
• Creative control – we decide what we write, what our books look like and how they are marketed
• Timing – we can put out a book when it’s ready, as we’re not bound to a publisher’s schedule
• Editorial input – each of us benefits from four different editors and the commitment to the brand makes us raise our game
• Marketing teamwork - our geographical and genre spread means wider networks and greater awareness of opportunities
• We keep 100% of our own profits – there’s no middle man. Any expenses are shared equally
• Differing skill sets – we get to be publishers, marketers, financiers, speakers, editors, coaches and business people as well as writers
• Good fun! We all get on well and enjoy the collaborative process
What advantages does a traditional publisher have over a collective?
Probably only marketing budget. But you only benefit from that if you are one of the big sellers. Mid-list authors are expected to do the majority of the grunt work themselves, just as we do.
What do you think the future holds for author collectives?
I’m convinced this is the way forward. The collective concept is what traditional publishing used to be, and many small publishers still are: creative minds with a variety of skills coming together to support, promote and develop good writing. Not to mention finding new routes to readers. I foresee many great books emerging, standards rising and a positive, powerful force for readers in the hands of the authors themselves.
The Triskele Books blog contains interviews, advice, tips and a book club. Check it out here.