To Author Co-op or not to Author Co-op

Guest Post
by Paty Jager

Traditional publishers have known and used the power of cooperative marketing for decades. Business savvy independent authors are now joining together and forming co-ops to meet their needs for shared technology, publishing, and/or marketing.

What is an author co-op? It’s a group of like-minded authors who band together to promote their books, brainstorm promotion options, and provide support in this growing and changing atmosphere of publishing.

Each author co-op has its own expectations of the members and individual methods of running their organization.

I’m part of Windtree Press. This group has fourteen authors. They write a gauntlet of genres — non-fiction, children’s, YA, mystery, romance, and women’s fiction. The authors hail from across the globe.

Having multiple authors at one site, like a co-op, makes it easier for a reader to find books in similar genres without thousands popping up as happens on larger venues. And chances are, if the reader liked one book by an author in the co-op, they are more likely to take a chance on a book by another author. This is one way an organized group can cross promote and develop metadata.

Each co-operative sets up how they want to work. Some want a sale point for their books, some prefer to act as a landing place for readers to find multiple genres, and some concentrate on becoming a friendly place for readers to pop in to learn about the authors and their books.

Together, authors can set up signing events, buy multiple ISBNs to make them less expensive, and get books into places like Overdrive, for library lending.

When choosing an author co-op, be sure to find out what will be required of you. One organization may ask for a fee for website upkeep. This could entail adding books as they are released or if it’s a selling site, to upload the information for selling the books. Formatting and publishing the co-op authors’ books could be included in that fee. Others use “sweat equity.” Authors in such groups are required to upload their own information and keep their pages up-to-date. The editing, publishing, covers, and uploading to venues is the author’s responsibility. Sweat equity could also require authors to take on jobs that help with the promotion, expansion, and learning for the authors in the co-op.

There are co-ops which use a barter system where authors help each other with their strengths. For example, they may trade editing for cover design, or formatting a manuscript for editing of another.

Does the co-op you’re looking at hold meetings? If so, how often? Are they in person, online, or by conference calls? If in person, consider travel time and expense.

Where there is a diverse group of writers in an organization there is a lot of collective wisdom, experience, and expertise that can be tapped into and shared.

As a collective, authors can put a co-operative logo on the spines and on the copyright page inside their books. This information about the co-op and links will take readers to the website, which then helps to cross promote with all the authors of the co-op.

Before joining a co-op there are pros and cons you need to consider.

Pros:

  • A web presence
  • Cross promotion and networking
  • Metadata development
  • Discounts for multiple ISBNs
  • Upload to Overdrive for library distribution
  • Freedom to decide what, when, and where you publish
  • Group signings
  • Cooperative promotion
  • Learning opportunities
  • Camaraderie

Cons:

  • Costs: Depending on the co-op there may be some costs.
  • Share the work: A writer may not have the extra time to give sweat equity.
  • Frustration at members saying they’ll do something and not following through.
  • Differing opinions and goal of members.
  • Possible trips to meetings.
  • Staying up on the communication/emails.
  • Uploading your own work to the website.

I believe an author co-op is the way to go for self-published authors. A lone author has an uphill battle with promotion, networking and keeping up to date with this changing industry. Being part of a co-op gives a writer a stronger platform and brings together collective ideas. It’s like being part of a publishing house but staying in control of your product.


Award-winning author Paty Jager is a member of national and local writing organizations. She not only writes the western lifestyle, she lives it. Even after publishing seventeen novels, four novellas, and two anthologies, ideas for more books and characters pop into her head daily. Besides her passion for writing, she enjoys helping other writers. You can learn more about Paty at her blog; her website; and her Amazon Author Central page.

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25 thoughts on “To Author Co-op or not to Author Co-op”

  1. Interesting points. And working together can be more efficient than working solo. The problem I have is that many times I have followed the advice of better selling indie authors and it hasn’t worked for me. Or I spend so much time helping others, they get the sales and they don’t do a lot of helping in return. I don’t belong to an official co-op but have just worked together with other authors on things. Just what I have found.

    1. Karen, I believe the thing that makes a co-op work is having all like-minded people involved and working for the good of all. We pick our members by their caliber of writing, their career ambitions, and their “play well together” mentality. I’ve been in groups before where you go in with good intentions and feel sucked dry when you finally crawl away. That’s not a good or healthy relationship. I hope you find the right group of writers to help you achieve your goals. Thank you for commenting!

  2. I have always seen this as the future of indie publication and began my company with that vision in mind. There’s just one thing, if writers were prone to cooperate? Many of them wouldn’t be going indie, like herding cats, if you know what I mean….Still, where there’s a will…

    1. Teresa, I agree, there are always those people whether they are writers or any other occupation who can’t follow orders. Usually those are the same people who take affront when they are critiqued and can’t see where their baby has a problem.
      I’ve also found that many writers in genres outside of romance do have a harder time “playing well with others.” Fortunately, many in our co-op are romance authors and we get along well. Any career minded, goal oriented writer will see this is the way to help them achieve their goal. They learn to be a team player and help one another. Good luck with your herding. 😉

  3. One thing which is missing from your description of a writer’s co-op, Ms Jager, is quality control, which is vital if you want decent sales and happy readers.

    The writers’ co-op I belong to, and the ones we are linked with, all have their prime objective as the helping of each member to produce quality, well written, well edited, well designed books which give the lie to the Amazon Slush pile and the general opinion that Indie books are poorly produced.

    Oh yes, the group is great for PR and sales and spreading the work load but the best thing about a good writer’s collective or co-op is that it can help the writers produce quality fiction.

    I have not included our urls because I am not sure if one is allowed to self advertise on this board but peope interested in seeing what our groups do and how we do it can leave me a message and I will get in touch.

      1. Oh good! I got it right!
        One thing I forgot to add is that if one member does well it reflects back on all the members. We had a 1st prize in a novel comp and a high rank in the Amazon sales list for a few months from two members which made readers interested in all our books.

        Group power is great!

    1. PDR, Each co-op has their own quality control in place. Some have stringent guidelines for each books. Some have no control which, as you stated is bad for the rest of us Indie authors. In our co-op the author has to have been read by several members and their work deemed quality, both in the story and the editing. After that we expect the authors to always hold a high standard in their work. None of us has the time to read each book by each author.

      We agree, quality is what will bring readers back and that’s what we want at our co-op as well. In the workshops I give, I always tell the participants you won’t get a repeat sale if the first book isn’t a quality product.

  4. Thanks for an interesting and informative post, Paty. For me, time is the essential ingredient, plus a cat-like disinclination to be herded. 😀

    That said, however, I love some of the features you describe. I think if you’re lucky enough to join a group of like minded individuals it can be the best experience in the world.

    1. acflory, I agree. Finding a co-op that fits your needs and you enhance their needs,can be as hard as finding the right critique partner or agent. But if you find the right one, it can be a great experience. Thanks for chiming in!

  5. There’s many perspectives on Author Co-Ops and they are evolving and dynamic. At http://www.authormarketing101.com/ you can now see all three posts by Maggie Lynch on this current topic. Remember that this is a personal business decision regarding YOUR career.

    Paty is already a multipublished (and awesome) author.

    There is no one-path-for-all or magic button for success.

    1. Hi Terri,

      “There is no one-path-for-all or magic button for success.”
      I 100% agree with this. Everyone finds success in their own way. Thanks for commenting.

  6. Thanks very much for this Paty. I had no idea such things exist. I’m not sure if I’m a Neanderthal or a newb, but I’ll definitely be looking into coops.

    1. John, Author co-ops have just started forming and becoming something that Indie authors are seeing as an advantage for them. Thanks for reading and commenting.

  7. This was definitely an eye-opening post.

    Paty, could you maybe do a follow-up post on how you came to be affiliated with Windtree? Are you a founding member, or did you join later?

    1. Bob, Windtree Press was founded by Maggie Lynch who writes as Maggie Jaimeson and Maggie Faire. She had the wonderful idea of bringing authors together to give each other the added oomph they needed to be successful. The first year she asked two of us to join the co-op and help her work out the kinks and what we as a collective wanted to gain from the co-op and what we were willing to add to the co-op. I’m not super techie, so I appreciated Maggie’s technology help in formatting my books, uploading to sites, and metadata knowledge. The other member(s) a husband and wife brought promotion backgrounds and screenwriting (great at back cover blurbs). I am in charge of the co-op newsletter and hop on board with short projects.

      The first year we slowly invited writers who we knew were career minded and were putting out content on a regular basis. We informed them about the roles and jobs that needed to be taken on. We are now 14 strong and growing. In fact today we had a meeting and brought on more people to take up jobs, like making author audio interviews to put on the website and out in the universe, we’re doing Christmas and Valentines anthologies. Some hopped on to edit the anthologies, another(who makes a living writing and designing covers) will make the covers.

      You probably wanted a shorter version or a full info dump. 😉 I was asked to keep the initial post general in nature. If they okay a post that is just the nuts and bolts on how Windtree Press started and works, I’ll be happy to write another post.

  8. Paty, you did a great job of keeping it short but still getting all the important details. I am someone who has always believed that those who help each other see their efforts returned tenfold. Starting a co-op was one of the best decisions for my indie career. Sticking with choosing people who are not only good writers but also known for giving back to the author community has been critical for us.

    Thanks for sharing your experience.

  9. Thanks for a clear and concise post on author coops, Paty. What I saw personified from the meeting today is the extra-ordinary power of bringing together like-minded romance authors to raise the group as a whole. I left the meeting exhausted and exhilarated!

  10. I wouldn’t mind joining a co-op. I can see the benefits but, like Karen, I have also tried something similar and got tired of certain authors getting more attention than others. I felt like I was doing the work required and being snubbed. I wish I could find one that could be trusted.

    1. I think the key to a good co-op is getting like-minded authors together who are working for the good of everyone and not themselves. It takes finding the right people. Our co-op works because we’ve all been at this a while and know where we want to go with our career and many of us have known one another for several years. We know the personalities and have blended a good mix. I think it will take several authors who do know one another and have the same goals setting up a co-op and then bringing on board others you come across who fit the group.

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