Growing Stronger Together — An interview with Author Collective Triskele Books
Looking at groups like the Alliance of Independent Authors really makes me pause for thought. 10 years ago, people might have said that being an author was a solitary profession. Now, it might very well be one of the most social ones, especially if you’re an ‘indie.’
And I believe this is what everyone loves about author publishing: all the actors involved, especially the authors, are positive, energetic people. And they all share common issues, questions and worries. So quite naturally, they get together and discuss them. This is the premise on which author collectives are born.
Today, we interview JJ Marsh and the fellow members of Triskele Books, one of the leading author collectives in the UK, to learn how independent authors can grow stronger together.
How do you work together as a collective? Is Triskele an umbrella for the work you each produce independently, or do you collaborate on projects?
Both, but mostly the former. We’re a team of self-published writers who work like a small publisher. To date, we’ve published eighteen novels. Although we write in different genres, we all offer editorial advice; consult on cover design, blurb and puff quotes; market on a shared platform; organise events and take responsibility for raising our profile. What US collective Five Directions Press calls “sweat equity”.
How did you get together? What was the genesis of the collective? How long have you been working together?
We graduated through a series of online critique sites and finally found a home on a site where people took their writing seriously. A collective seemed the ideal ‘third way’ between trad publishing and going indie. Keeping to the highest standards, but maintaining full creative control.
In December 2011, three of us met in London and hammered out an ethos. Four years later, much has changed but the ethos remains the same:
- High-quality writing
- Professional presentation
- A strong sense of place
How do you guys communicate? Do you meet in person frequently? Do you talk online?
Based in three countries, we only get together two or three times a year. That’s when we talk strategy. For daily business, we use email or our private Facebook page. Complex discussions or differences of opinion are usually resolved via Skype.
What is, in your opinion, the #1 skill that you bring to the collective (if there is one that stands out)?
Gillian Hamer: The main skills I bring are organisation and reliability. I’m the financial guru of the gang so I’d hope trust is a pretty big asset too.
JJ Marsh: I’m the strategist. Forever hassling the others with “I’ve had an idea!”
Liza Perrat: Compiling and keeping updated book reviewers’ list, being the Goodreads guru and connecting with collectives.
JD Smith: It is definitely my skills as a graphic designer working on covers, formatting, website, marketing materials and the overall brand look.
Catriona Troth: I think my instinct is to be a community builder. I love making connections with other writers and finding ways of collaborating, as with the Indie Author Fair (see picture below). I have a passionate sense we’re stronger working together. In the long run, that’s how we’ll break down traditional barriers.
What makes Triskele work so well, in your opinion? The fact that you all have different skills? Or that you write in different genres? Or that there’s a true friendship between the five of you?
The professional approach. Yes, the skills balance, the breadth of genres and the genuine friendship are crucial factors, but we approached this as a serious business. Triskele Books is NOT a hobby.
If you had to pick one, what is the best thing about being in a collective with other writers?
Catriona Troth: You are not a lone voice. Not only is it a lot easier to get noticed as part of a group, but you feel less like a snake oil salesman promoting someone else’s work than constantly bigging up your own.
Gillian Hamer: SUPPORT. And under that umbrella – editorial, advisory, monetary, workload support. Perhaps most importantly, friendship.
JJ Marsh: People who, via encouragement and example, make me work harder.
JD Smith: Mutual support, both in terms of having other people to bounce your work off and also share all the disappointments and achievements.
Liza Perrat: Sharing a glass of wine, er… sharing all the different tasks related to publishing and marketing a book.
And of course, what’s difficult about it?
Gillian Hamer: Communication. Under that would fall sub headings of quantity issues and quality time we get to spend together. We’ve never had a problem we failed to sort out, but distance and difference can add extra stress. For me, the benefits outweigh any negatives, many times over.
Liza Perrat: Trying to participate as much as possible, so as not let the team down, whilst juggling everything else in life.
JD Smith: Not so much agreeing with one another but the vast amount of communication that inevitably occurs when things have to be approved or given the thumbs-up.
Catriona Troth: Apart from the workload, which can sometimes feel overwhelming, you do give up a certain amount of freedom. You can never say, stuff that, I’m going to do it my way. Every decision ultimately has to be subject to the agreement of the rest of the team. There’s power in that, but constriction too.
JJ Marsh: The constant yet necessary evaluations as to whether we’re still on the right track.
You’ve expanded the group I think once since you started – what brought this on? Do you want to keep expanding or do you worry you might lose yourselves in doing so?
One of our key aims is to support and develop writers – it’s how we grew. However, we need to balance the time and effort that goes into that process. So until 2016, we’re not expanding at all. We’re exploring potential collaborations and alternative ventures but sticking to our ethos, which means pouring all our energies into our own writing and trying to raise the bar.
Are there any other collectives out there that you think are worth mentioning? Are you looking into partnering with some of them for cross-promotion, or to create a collective of collectives?
Lots! We make a point of seeking other collectives and discovering how they do it. We interview them on our blog. We’ve built relationships with several and now you mention it, a collective of collectives is a terrific idea. Watch this space…
Do you have any plans for 2015? Tell us about them!
Connecting with readers – three new releases due out next year. Marketing opportunities – new formats, translations and a short story collection. Building relationships with writers via ventures such as IAF#15. Strategic alliances based on location. Getting sponsored by a Prosecco manufacturer.
But top of the list is writing.
We formed Triskele with one aim in mind: to become better writers.
What do you think about author collectives? Can Indie authors grow stronger if they get together and share resources? Do share your opinion in the comments below!