Friday, April 11, 2014

Author Cooperatives - Part 1: The Basics by Maggie Lynch

Therese & Morgan say: As the buzzwords and publishing options continue to change at warp speed we know there are more than Marketing Myths to be debunked. One of those new buzzing options is that "Author Co-Ops are The Thing." Fortunately, our friend Maggie Lynch was pleased to share her wit and wisdom on author cooperatives. Maggie is one of the founding members and key organizer of Windtree Press, a publishing and marketing author cooperative. This first post presents the variations of co-ops for authors to consider. Thank you, Maggie, for your time and expertise!

Maggie Lynch says:

Just like Goldilocks, writers find themselves in a predicament when they are exhausted from completing their book and hungry to find a publishing home that will yield financial results and maybe even some literary awards. The process of sending out manuscripts to editors and agents often results in cold rejections. If one gets a contract, or decides to self-publish, that too has its own problems. Many authors feel burned when the reality of financial return and literary reward doesn’t materialize or meet their expectations. They don’t see the desired return-on-investment for all their work in preparing the manuscript. So, how do you find a path that feels just right? One that will keep you writing the next book instead of crying into a porridge that is too cold or too hot? Or feeling that you will starve before you find a good, nurturing environment? One way to navigate the new publishing landscape is through creating or joining an author cooperative.

What is an author cooperative?

Author cooperatives are simply a group of authors who get together and form agreements about their goals and how they want to achieve them. The vast majority of author cooperatives are formed purely for marketing and promotion. Think of them like an author street team. The members agree to pool financial resources for advertising, and to talk about each other’s books in their social media outlets. Of course, they also share knowledge and provide support in the journey to publication. This is a fairly simple cooperative model and only requires that a group of writers get together, set some goals with a subsequent budget, and make a few rules on how they will work together. As it is focused on marketing and promotion, this type of cooperative can be used for both traditional and self-published members. There are some things to consider if you form or join an author marketing/promotion cooperative.

A second type of author cooperative is an author publishing cooperative. Please note this is different from a term you often see from self-publishing middlemen, “cooperative publishing.” Those middlemen (Lulu, Book Baby, etc.) charge a fee for taking your manuscript, getting it into shape and distributing it for you. I would prefer they call it contract publishing, but it is very different from what I’m discussing here.

An author publishing cooperative is focused on the self-publishing efforts of its members. It is controlled by the authors who are members of the coop. In this model the members agree to publish under a specific press name. They agree how all the aspects of publishing will be handled: editing, cover design, distribution, marketing, etc. Some publishing cooperatives do this by a work exchange. That is the Book View Café model. Some members do editing, others do cover design, others do formatting, etc. The press keeps afloat by taking 5% of all book sales in all distribution outlets. Book View Café currently has over 200 books in its catalog and 49 authors.

Another publishing model is to charge a fee to each member who joins the coop. That fee allows the coop to hire editors, cover designers, marketers for the press as a whole. This model varies from taking a percentage of all sales (ranging from 10-25%) or charges substantial fees in order to maintain the cadre of professionals needed to produce a book. An example of this cooperative model is Word Branch PublishingIt is a cooperative in that all members, from editors and book designers to the authors themselves, take a percentage of the sales. Word Branch currently has 18 authors and 36 books in their catalog.

A third model is to have the coop members take care of the publishing elements themselves, do their own distribution, and use the cooperative press as a vehicle for direct sales and marketing. In addition, the members also operate like the marketing/promotion cooperative in terms of joint promotion and live events. That is the model of Windtree Press. There are no fees or percentages taken by the press, but the cost of the publishing process is borne by the individual members. The press recommends professionals for each stage of the process where the member needs assistance. The press generates revenues for advertising and promotion via anthologies and other cooperative story generation. Windtree Press currently has 11 authors and over 70 titles in its catalog.

Next week (Part 2), Maggie will discuss how to join an author cooperative.

Author Bio

Maggie Lynch has never missed a chance to learn something new. With degrees in psychology, counseling, computer science, and education she has had opportunities that have taken her around the world, including Europe, Australia, and the Middle East. Her current publishing credits include five non-fiction books, a number of science fiction short stories, and seven novels. She has scheduled five more novels to be published this year.

Now able to spend full time journeying into her imagination, Maggie writes romance and science fiction under the name Maggie Jaimeson, and young adult fantasy under the name Maggie Faire. Her non-fiction is written under Maggie McVay Lynch.

Communicate your special needs well in advance. Do you need a second chair at the signing table for your spouse or assistant? Do you need a projector, screen, or computer for your talk? Do you use a wheelchair and need help setting up? Do you need an easel for your signs or props? Do you need to leave right at 6:00? Do you need to be paid on the spot for books you supply? Figure it all out in advance and tell the bookstore — preferably in writing (email or letter).

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for having me on your site. You are right that "author cooperatives" is a buzz word these days. I think it comes from the knowledge that it is hard to do it all yourself. By the way, Windtree Press is up to 14 authors now.