In Self Publishing, every author is responsible for each of the steps of the publishing process. That’s very interesting, but can also be exhausting. So why not share the work with fellow authors? In the interview, JJ Marsh from Triskele Books explains us the Do’s and Dont’s of forming an author collective.
Jill, what I noticed first on your website is the author collective
you mention. What exactly is an author collective?
The hardest thing – harder than agreeing on ethics, choosing a name, crystallising a mission statement, designing a logo and making decisions across three countries – is explaining what we are.
We look like a small press, marked by distinctive visuals and a cohesive identity. We behave like one, actively using the Triskele brand as a trusted stamp of quality. But we’re five individuals working together to promote writing we believe in. There are no contracts or legal bindings, we each keep the rights to our own work and our own profits, and the whole thing is built on a bedrock of trust.
How did you chose the partners (or did they choose you)? What are the main points to think about when choosing partners?
The five of us (Gillian Hamer, Liza Perrat, JD Smith, Catriona Troth and myself) met on a peer critique site. The virtual connection was a necessity – we’re spread across Europe, from Anglesey to Zürich. Despite the differences in our genres, we gravitated towards one another, attracted by the quality of one another’s writing. I had no idea what these people looked or sounded like in reality, but I knew the one thing that mattered. They were damn good writers.
But while good writing is the foundation stone of our collective, there’s more to it. Hard-work, commitment and imagination are essential. Plus each of us brings a particular skill to the group, such as design, administration, financial acumen, marketing and media, etc.
In which aspects do you work together? What do you share? What do you avoid sharing?
We write individually but help one another in the editing process. Although each author is the creative director of their own book, we share opinions on cover design, paper quality, blurbs, etc. Marketing, administration and promotion is a team effort, as is maintaining our blog. We worked together to create The Triskele Trail, which is the practical story of how we became independent publishers. Not a How-To book, but How-We-Did-It. But we trust each other to perform a particular role within the collective, so avoid interfering with that.
How do you work together? Do you meet sometimes, or does it all happen on the web?
Email and a private Facebook page for daily business, Skype for meetings and important decisions, and we meet at least twice a year for our book launches. Last month we launched three new books and appeared at a literary festival, where we offered ourselves as a Human Library. We spent three days together and achieved a huge amount. We also drank a lot of Prosecco.
Where there errors, lessons learned in the first months of working together? What would you do differently when starting again?
Oh yes, there were plenty of errors. Too many to recount. But they were all surmountable. The one thing that almost drowned us was all of us trying to do everything. It was impractical and inefficient and caused us far too much work. We had to learn how to allocate responsibilities according to skills. Now we operate more smoothly and with much less stress.
How important is Triskele, the brand of the collective, how do you
develop and build it?
The brand is vital to help us stand out. The UK publishing market is very crowded, and self-publishing still hasn’t shaken off the stigma of poor-quality vanity products. This is why we work so hard to get our books to a professional standard. Triskele has built a reputation for quality, and we develop that by appearing at book fairs and literary festivals, making connections with pioneers in the field (such as yourself), continuing to learn about publishing and talking to our readers.
Do the members of the collective still do books of their own?
Interesting question. Because of the way the collective is structured, the books are still our own, but also under the Triskele umbrella. There’s nothing to stop any one of us publishing without the Triskele team, but I can’t think of a good reason why we would.