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.
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:
- Epub/Print Formatting
- ISBN info
- General Marketing
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Jordan 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