The indie author community has always provided a strong support network but now it seems that indie authors are banding together to publish each other. Author co-ops are groups of authors that volunteer their time and expertise to help other members publish or promote their work.
The popularity of these kinds of groups seems to be on the rise. Author co-ops were praised at the recent PubSmart conference and online cooperative communities for writers have popped up everywhere. Wise Ink actually hosted an author co-op event earlier this year.
As a business model, the co-op has been remarkably successful for organizations like The Book View Café, which describes itself as an “author-run publisher.” With 200 books published and 40+ authors, including Ursula K. Guin and New York Times Bestselling author Patricia Rice, the Café draws on its members’ strengths to offer every service a traditional publisher would. Check out this interview with the director, Chris Dolley to hear their fascinating story.
The Book View Café was formed by authors who had already been traditionally published but who wanted to publish some of their backlist titles. The real question is whether this business model works for indie authors who have never been traditionally published.
Here are some examples of indie author co-ops and writer collectives that seem to be making it work:
Indie-Visible was founded by two authors who simply had enough of trying to get their books recognized by the traditional publishing world. Now, they have a flourishing business entirely run by authors who help each other edit, design, publish, and promote each other’s work.
Word Branch Publishing does just that. A for-profit publisher, Word Branch’s editors, designers, and illustrators work for just a percentage of the royalties on books written by new and emerging authors. Although not a true author co-op, Word Branch demonstrates that authors and editors are more than willing to help each other succeed.
The Books of Excellence Author Co-Op for self-published writers is another possible opportunity. Although they do not publish books, the online community hosts author web pages and a weekly radio show used to promote their members’ books. There is a fee to join, however, and additional fees to list more than one book on the website.
Some things to consider:
Like Book View Café, co-ops tend to be POD publishers, although some are branching out into other forms of e-publishing and even print publishing.
Working with other authors can help increase sales over the lifetime of a career, particularly if you cross-promote.
There are often fees associated with joining a co-op.
A community of writers and editors ensures that high quality manuscripts get published.
By buying things like ISBNs in bulk, co-ops can also save their members money.
Co-ops are most successful when their members have similar points of view, genres, or levels of experience.
What do you think? Can an author co-op work for you?