The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines professionalism as: the conduct, aims or qualities that characterize or mark a profession or a professional person. So, how does this relate to an authors’ collective?
For years, self-published novels evoked to me images of poorly-written, shoddily put-together books. Unprofessional products. Something I certainly did not want for the months, or years, of slaving over a novel.
Several years ago I was fortunate to join an online writing group, and thanks to the keen editorial eyes and unfailing support of the members, my writing improved. After endless revisions, I finally had a story I believed was fit for the public eye, and happily packed it off to my agent. But she was not able to arouse the slightest interest from any of the big traditional publishing houses. So, what next? If I wanted to get my book to readers, self-publishing seemed my only viable option. But I wanted a professional-looking book, in content, design and marketing –– a task that, alone, seemed beyond my reach.
At that point, two writers from the online group in a similar situation approached me. We discussed our fears: homemade covers, poor typesetting, unprofessional presentation and inappropriate marketing. Not to mention the sense of isolation. None of us wanted this; we wanted to create books that would be indistinguishable from those professionally produced. After months of planning and discussion, sharing everything between three seemed far less formidable, and the authors’ collective, Triskele Books was born.
How could this collective help us obtain a professional product?
Firstly, we decided we needed a brand; a recognizable logo backed with a strong theme. We came up with the Triskele logo, the origin of which represents what we stand for: three independent circles resembling three scrolls, joined to create something entirely new. Since we all share a passion for “place” in our story-telling, the location theme seemed suited.
We discussed quality of content and design. To maintain our professional brand, we’ve provided mutual critiques, editing and proofreading, all of which are more efficient as a collective, rather than one’s own unobjective eyes. We pull apart each other’s work, argue over it, whilst trying to keep in mind the author’s individual style and vision. After final revisions, we proofread one other’s manuscripts. We employed a professional designer for personal websites, the collective website, cover designs and typesetting –– someone with valuable publishing experience who had insight into our personal desires whilst creating a unity for Triskele Books.
And what about professionalism in terms of marketing and networking?
The advantage of a collective in this respect is sharing workload. Each member takes on certain tasks, which the others know will be done to the best of her ability. We rely on one other, and take comfort in the fact that these daunting tasks are more manageable when shared.
But surely a professional product costs money?
Yes, creating a professional product necessitates a financial commitment. This is a collective, each author retaining her own rights and profits, but for it to get off the ground, we all contributed an equal sum to cover website, promotional material, design and launch funds. When we need to add funds, we do so. Absolute trust in the other members is essential, and none of us would have taken on such a project without total trust in each other, both on a financial, and an emotional, level.
So, what’s happening now?
The first books are on sale! We’ve celebrated our launch, and I think the other girls were as proud as me to show off our professional “product”. Now, flailing about in the tide of marketing, we are finding the collective more valuable than ever. We share helpful sites, information and opportunities, and each book displays an ad for the other two, thus promoting all three at once.
We hope to recruit more Triskelites –– authors with the same commitment to professional quality; a book won’t be published under the label without the full backing and agreement of each member.
Independently publishing novels to a professional standard has proved to be hard, frustrating and exciting work. We’ve shared the angst, the uncertainties, the mistakes, and learned a lot in a short time. We’ve gained valuable advice from successful independently-published authors, swapped marketing and networking opportunities. We’ve grown to depend on each other whilst retaining our individuality. And we believe we’ve found a way to blend professionally-published books with independent publishing.
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Liza Perrat is an Australian author who trained as a midwife, and now lives and writes in Lyon, France. Her short stories have won several prizes, notably the Writer’s Bureau annual short story award of 2004. Her stories have been published in various anthologies and small press magazine and her articles on French tradition and culture have been published in international magazines such as France Magazine and France Today. She has completed four novels and is represented by Judith Murdoch of the Judith Murdoch Literary Agency. You can read more about Liza on her website, her blog, the Triskele Books website, and her Amazon.com Author Page.
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