At the beginning of the year, I emailed a group of writing friends who’d all – at one time or another – turned to either micro press or indie publishing and asked them if they wanted to join me in a collective. I told them that I didn’t need another critique group (I’m already in two), but that what I really needed was marketing support and camaraderie. Soon after, Space City Scribes was born.
Since then, our little group has gained momentum, adding to my career in so many ways. Beyond the great marketing advice I receive every month from these ladies, I also get the support I need to continue my climb up Mount Independent. Tough reviews? Unsuccessful promo? Apathetic book bloggers? I have a group of sympathetic listeners at my disposal who’ll lend me an ear or give me advice. They’re also here to cheer me on when I’m triumphant (which, despite my constant self-deprication, does happen occasionally). So! If you’ve been thinking about starting a collective, here are a few things to consider:
1. On-line vs. Off-line: I started my group with people I knew in my hometown. We get together once a month in a coffee shop to trade tips on marketing, book bloggers, pricing, etc. I really love these meetings because they’re not just about business. They’re about lifting each other up and congratulating each other – something everyone needs. We also participate in many “off-line” marketing activities around town that help us hand-sell books. On-line groups may not have the same face-to-face benefits, but they can also be productive. If you live in a small town with very few fellow writers, you may want to try connecting with some through a regional writing organization or an online forum for writers – after you get to know them first!
2. Genre-specific vs. “Mixed Bag”: My group is more of the “mixed bag” variety. Some write for the adult market, some for the kid lit market, some for both. This does make things difficult at times. Ideally, you should build your group based on genre so that there’s as much cross-promotional leverage as possible. However, we make things work just fine in our group. We couldn’t really call ourselves “mystery writers” or “children’s writers,” so we settled on “Houston writers.” It perfectly describes our mission: to engage in marketing activities around the Houston area and the larger book community. “Mixed bag” groups also have a broader range of skills than genre-specific ones. For instance, one of our new kid lit writers turned to a veteran for advice about school visits (which she’s done ad infinitum). So if you can’t find enough people who write in your genre, think about reclassifying your group to match a broader definition.
3. Your Goals: If you aren’t already in a critique group, you may want to add this as a condition of membership. But if you’re up to your eyeballs in critique partners, then stick to marketing. Believe me, there will still be plenty of work for your group to do! While we don’t do traditional critiquing in Space City Scribes, we DO critique things like website redesigns, cover art, book blurbs, etc. Because we’re all actively engaged in selling books (and not submitting to editors), we have the experience to know what works and what doesn’t.
If you’re still wondering what a collective can do for you, take a look at some of the things ours does:
- split costs for book fest tables, making them cheaper
- act as a “street team” for book launches, tweeting, FB posting, and blogging for each other
- share marketing successes and failures – sometimes knowing what NOT to do is just as helpful as knowing what TO do!
- instruct each other on different technologies (web platforms, graphic design software, movie making software, plug-ins, etc.)
- instruct each other on off-line techniques (school visits, book signings, book club visits, etc.)
- create anthologies (ours will be available for pre-order in a matter of days) to share our different reader bases
- band together for book signings
- present content to the public to raise our visibility (we each talk about our various specialties)
- act as “first audience” for book covers, websites, book blurbs, book trailers, videos, etc.
- pool money for promos
- spread blog posts among the whole group, lessening the “content load” on each individual (vs. having to keep your blog fresh all by yourself)
- the list goes on…
Space City Scribes is still in its infancy, but I’m really happy with the momentum we’ve gained so far. It’s a lot easier (and more fun!) to climb Mount Independent with a team of specialists than to go it alone. Why don’t you give it a try?
Your turn. Have any questions about starting your own author’s collective? Are you in one currently and want to share your results here? I’d love to hear from you!