7 Tips for Indie Authors to Thrive Together: Care and Feeding of Your Writers’ Collective

by Joel Friedlander on February 12, 2014 · 8 comments

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By Jordan E. Rosenfeld (@JordanRosenfeld)

We had a great response from Jordan Rosenfeld’s article here last month about why authors would want to form a writers’ collective, but many of you had questions about how to do it. Today, we’re very pleased to share with you another article from Jordan offering her insight about how to organize a writers’ collective and make it work.


Recently I wrote an article for Joel, Why Self-Publishers Should Go it Alone, Together about the benefits of indie authors “going it alone, together” which suggested that by joining forces as a writer’s collective (or cooperative, depending on your definition) indie authors could collectively see better success and reap multiple other benefits such as moral support and a professional front.

Many readers of the article were thrilled at the prospect, and some even made strides to begin their own right after reading.

Feedback I received on Twitter and Facebook suggested to me, however, that I’d be doing everyone a disservice by not going further into the process and offering some hard-won tips I learned from co-founding my own collective. So let’s take a look at some of the factors that make a collective thrive and function rather than fail.

The Mission

It may seem obvious, but the first and most important key to success of a writer’s collective is to come up with a mission statement.

This statement will drive your plan and your vision far more than you may first see. And you may think that your plan is merely to promote you and your fellow authors’ books, but that plan still needs thought and care. Or, maybe you form a collective of one particular genre—all psychological thrillers, for instance.

Don’t keep that a secret from the readers who come to your site. Just as an author must brand herself, so must a collective. Make it clear not only to yourself, but in short, pithy tag-lines and in the name itself, what you are about.

Division of Labor

I believe the best collectives will thrive when you have all the key areas of publishing represented within your people. This doesn’t mean that every one you bring on will already be an expert in anything other than writing, but you will want to assign people areas to become versed in, so that you can benefit from shared knowledge and a division of tasks, such as:

  • Editorial,
  • Design
  • Epub/Print Formatting
  • ISBN info
  • General Marketing
  • Distribution
  • Social Media


The pre-publication checklist I built for myself over the course of my first year with my Writer’s Collective, Indie-Visible, for instance, is three pages long.

Suffice it to say I had no idea how much I didn’t know before I began to get informed and it would have taken me several more years to learn it all on my own.

The Decider

In a collective you share responsibilities but when it comes right down to it, you still need one person to make the final call, to push people toward their deadlines and goals. Otherwise you’re making decisions by committee, which leads to a lot of discussion, often arguments, but rarely concrete results.

You may call this person the Director, the Decider, the Chief, the Captain of the Inner Nerve Center or whatever you like but I highly recommend that someone is in “charge.”

Additionally, I recommend you rotate this role every month, quarter, or year so that each person in the collective (who wants to) gets a chance to wear the hat.

A Calendar

Once you know what your mission is, and you’ve assembled the right people to head up the required jobs, start working from a collective calendar (I like Google calendars because they’re sharable and everyone can add to them) so that you can all track goals and deadlines together and hold one another accountable.

Giving Back

A writer’s collective, ultimately, will have the goal of helping its authors sell books and gain an audience. However, if you’re always shouting “me, me, me” (or “us, us, us” as the case may be), readers will eventually not be able to distinguish you from the mass of others.

One of the best ways to draw people to you is to have something to say and offer back. A collective blog is a good idea, perhaps with tips for other indies, or a site where people can download free samples of the work. Possibly even a subscription service where people can get a discount if they buy your collective’s author works.

Whatever you decide, try to consider using your collective voice to benefit others in some way, too.

Business Time

The collective that I co-founded has so far remained a true collective of independents. (Someone pointed out that we might better refer to ourselves as a cooperative, and this may be true).

If you wish, at any point, to pool resources, or use your website as a gateway to take in income, or a subscription service, you may have to form a legal business (highly recommend an LLC for two or more partners) in order to make it work. I advise speaking to CPAs, lawyers and others in the know, but do keep in mind that in order to take in money for writing endeavors at least one person involved ought to have a business license and account.

If you wish to host events or use your collective name legally in conjunction with taking in money, you will need a business license/account.

Trust

Lastly, it’s important to invite in people you feel you trust. If you’re bringing someone in because they have something you want but you aren’t sure you can rely upon them, it’s better to opt for a reliable strong learner.

So, do you think you’ll be starting a writers’ collective? I’d love to hear about your plans in the comments.

author platformJordan Rosenfeld is the author of the novel Forged in Grace, and the writing guides Make a Scene: Crafting a Powerful Story One Scene at a Time, and Write Free: Attracting the Creative Life (with Rebecca Lawton). Jordan’s essays and articles have appeared in numerous magazines, and she teaches via online writing courses and webinars. She has two writing craft books soon to be released with Writer’s Digest Books: A Writer’s Guide to Persistence: A Toolkit to Build & Bolster a Lasting Writing Practice (Spring: 2015), and, with Martha Alderson, “The Plot Whisperer,” Deep Scenes: Plot Your Story Scene-by-Scene through Action, Emotion & Theme (Fall, 2015). Her first romantic suspense novel (pen name J. P. Rose) Night Oracles, releases Spring, 2014. www.jordanrosenfeld.net

Photo: bigstockphoto.com

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    { 6 comments… read them below or add one }

    Gary Bonn February 17, 2014 at 12:30 am

    Thanks for that, Jordan.

    A long, long time ago, from several different countries, a group of writers formed WriterLot.net ( a site dedicated to publishing a free story/etc. every day).

    Three years ago, Firedance Books Ltd came together, more or less from that group. Although we developed without a model as such, it’s no surprise that the outcome is much as you’ve described above. A blog that talks about the business process/writing/editing and other topics has been well received – and we suspect that is due to the discipline of knowing your peers are going to read what you’ve written.

    I’d stress that it is an enormous amount of work, but also that the depth of respect, trust and admiration within the group is one of the most wonderful things that’s ever happened in my life. Despite members living so far apart, we have developed wonderful friendships.

    Critical to our process is the role of the Book Manager.

    You don’t publish your own book.

    Another member champions it. (I’ve had two failures! – books passed back to me because they are considered far from ready). It takes huge amounts of respect to listen to your colleagues in this way – but is crucial to maintaining and raising standards.

    The outcome is excellent reviews for each book we publish.

    I strongly advocate this, or a similar system

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander February 17, 2014 at 1:10 pm

    Gary, the use of a Book Manager to “champion” your book to the rest of the cooperative sounds like a great idea. Having to prove that your book is ready to publish would be a great gift to many writers who are working on their own, and the cooperative version of an “editorial conference” I’m sure would be very attractive to many. Thanks!

    Reply

    Jordan February 17, 2014 at 5:59 pm

    Gary, I, too, think this “Book Manager” is a very good idea. In fact, it’s a brilliant idea. We certainly do a lot of championing of our author’s books, and act as PR and marketing reps on each other’s behalf when it works.

    Reply

    Anna Castle February 15, 2014 at 2:45 pm

    Thank you so much for your inspiring article! I am slowly nudging my critique group toward something more like a cooperative. We have a group blog, a nice name, and an imprint logo (because of course, that should be first!) Two of us have already self-published first novels. I’m getting ready to launch my first in June. Others will come along in the next few years with collections of short stories. I just finished reading Joel’s extremely helpful article about ISBNs for self-publishing authors and I’m wondering how to put these two concepts together. I’m sure we want to keep the association as informal as possible from the legal standpoint, but we all write crime fiction, so we could leverage each other’s marketing efforts to good effect. Could we all use the same publisher identifier without incorporating or forming a legal partnership? Sort of like starting a very small press with no staff or CEO? Thanks to both of you, Jordan and Joel, for your very helpful guides.

    Reply

    Jordan Rosenfeld February 17, 2014 at 5:58 pm

    Anna, those of us who publish under the Indie-Visible logo use the same logo. You can go in on a package of ISBNS, but whomever purchases them is legally the owner of the ISBNS–so it comes down to trust. You could probably write up a simple agreement with the purchaser of the ISBNS that says they will gladly release your individual numbers to you with no ownership…

    Reply

    Jordan Rosenfeld February 12, 2014 at 6:52 am

    Thanks again, Joel.

    Reply

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