This is Connie J. Johnson’s second post in a six-week blog tour with the Northwest Independent Writer’s Association.
I usually write in a variety of genres. For my books, I write fantasy and self-publish through an indie publishing group. I also write short stories to submit to magazines and anthologies. Some are literary, some are contemporary, and of course, many are fantasy. I’m also a poet, and it’s as a poet that I have had the most success, oddly.
I love publishing. Submitting work to a traditional publisher or agent involves as much effort as publishing your own work.
I write work that is not what large publishers are looking for as they are for niche markets. My Tower of Bones series is an RPG-game based epic fantasy. My Billy’s Revenge series is an alt-medieval mashup. I had a bad experience with a small press, which led to twenty-five of their authors, myself included, leaving them.
We didn’t want to go it alone, but we had no faith in small presses at that point. So, in May of 2012, we formed an indie publishing cooperative, Myrddin Publishing Group.
Membership is restricted, and any new prospective member must be voted into the group. We don’t seek new authors, and as a company, we hold no money or royalties. Each author has sole responsibility for their book, receive their royalties directly from the point of sale, and must market their own work.
The publishing co-op model we use is quite simple. We pay $25.00 a year to be a member. That money goes to pay for our website, which is our store. One of our members lives in Wales, and her husband is employed in internet security. She manages the site, and her husband is our IT man. However, each member is responsible for creating their own author page on the site, listing their books, and keeping their author page updated.
We have a nominal leader since every group needs a person in charge. She lives in New Jersey, manages our tiny bank account, and pays any fees Myrddin might have accrued. She makes a full report of how the money was spent every quarter. Usually, on the website or for a service to benefit the group.
When we first started in 2012, we bought 1000 ISBNs. A retired bookkeeper in Essex, England, manages those for us. In 2012 those ISBNs cost us $1000.00, and we divided up the costs ($40.00 for each of us).
What I bring to the group is my ever-evolving editing skill. I edit or beta-read for them as needed. I also create book covers, digital maps, banners, bookmarks, and logos when needed.
Things to consider if you want to start your own publishing cooperative:
- Not every member will be an active participant, so as time goes on, you may find yourself doing more work than you want and getting little in return from some. However, others will step up and do the best they can, which makes the group functional.
- A group charter laying out member responsibilities, and what sort of behavior is expected or discouraged is a good idea. That charter should explain clearly what the group will do for its member authors, and how membership is obtained.
- You need two Facebook pages, one private for group discussions, and one public for posting entertainment pieces, such as memes, conventions, trade shows, information about events individual member authors will be at, or forthcoming book releases.
- I suggest that you have two or three people in charge of posting things on the Public Facebook page and several other people in charge of your group’s Twitter and or Instagram account.
- Someone with bookkeeping skills needs to be the financial officer who manages the groups’ funds, with two assistants to review the financial records and ensure transparency. Post them regularly so the member authors know how the group is doing financially. The assistants should be authorized to step in if the financial officer is unable to fulfill their duties for any reason.
- All decisions should be voted on by the group. When things need to be discussed that affect the group as a whole, my co-op will hold a “meeting thread” over the course of a week on our private FB group page. That is where we decide what we want to do with the fee-money.
- Research publishing names and don’t use one that is already in use as it may be trademarked.
- A benefit of the group should be access to services. Editing, beta reading, proofreading—these services are why a co-op is a good thing and should be traded freely.
- Some members may have skills in graphic design and will design book covers, or logos.
- You must be able to politely express that you can’t use a service, such as a cover design you don’t like. At that point, be prepared to quietly seek a professional outside the group.
Remember, all of these are time-consuming services that the providers are not earning money for, so be gentle with those who are helping you. I can’t stress this enough: Even if you don’t use a service that was offered to you, be a good friend and give back to them when it’s their turn to seek services and help.
There are sometimes hiccups in the group’s overall Zen. As I said above, each member of our co-op is responsible for listing their own books on the website and keeping their author page updated. But at times, we have problems with people not being able to figure out how to update their books on the website. They may panic. Their frustration may boil over. One of us is always available to help.
Also, it’s easy for non-bloggers to forget to write a blog post when it is their week. In general, people sometimes get sidetracked by life and forget what they’re supposed to do for the group.
These are all minor irritations, and I wouldn’t trade my group. The wonderful people I am partnered with have become my dearest friends and collaborators, people who have made the last seven years a wonderful adventure.
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Connie J. Jasperson is a published poet and the author of nine fantasy novels. Her work has appeared in numerous anthologies. A founding member of Myrddin Publishing Group, she can be found blogging regularly on both the craft of writing and art history at Life in the Realm of Fantasy. You can find her books on her Amazon author page: http://bit.ly/CJJASPauthor
Follow Connie J. Jasperson on Twitter: https://twitter.com/cjjasp