Author Collectives: The "Third Path" to Publication. Is it Right for You?

Liza Perrat contacted me a few months ago, asking for permission to quote me in a book about her author collective, Triskele Books. I've been fascinated by the idea of authors forming their own publishing companies, so I asked if she'd like to guest post for us. I was eager to hear more about her experiences and share them with our readers.

Some writers take to the "indie" route easily, but others prefer to work with a team, the way it's done in traditional publishing. But traditional publishing can be very scary these days. Not only is breaking in daunting, but "non-compete" and "in perpetuity" clauses, rigid rules, low royalties and glacial schedules can turn a lot of writers away from the whole process.

The author collective offers a way to have the best of both worlds. If you're a "team player" who wants the control indie publishing offers, but you don't want to go it alone, the collective may be for you. But you do need to choose your team carefully, and dedication is a must, as you will see from Liza's story.

The Triskele Books website is stunning and professional and the covers are beautiful. I could tell they have a team that includes a fantastic designer. Triskele was formed in 2011, by UK authors Gillian Hamer, JJ Marsh and Liza, who's originally from Australia and lives in France. In 2012, three more authors joined the team, Jasper Dorgan, JD Smith and Catriona Troth.

Although they write in slightly different genres, their books are aimed at a similar audience. All the books are "serious" works of fiction, mostly historicals, set in exotic times and places. They look fascinating.

They've also jointly written a non-fiction book that details their journey as a collective. The Triskele Trail A Pathway to Independent Publishing, which debuted in November.

As they put it, The Triskele Trail is a story about "a writers' collective who made some mistakes and some smart decisions; who discovered opportunities, found friends and dodged predators in the independent publishing jungle...This is not a How-To book. This is How-We-Did-It."

I'm so grateful to Liza for guesting for us while I recover from the flu and the loss of my mom. Liza has been amazingly gracious while I've been kind of a dragon-lady. Thanks a bunch, Liza! ...Anne

An Alternative Route to Publishing – The Author Collective
by Liza Perrat 

Once upon a time there were three authors. They met via an online writing group where they honed their writing skills, critiqued each other’s work, and where, attracted by the quality of each other’s writing, they gravitated towards each other. Around the end of 2011, each with manuscripts they believed were fit for the public eye, these three writers found themselves in a similar predicament.

‘Cross-genre won’t sell,’ Gillian’s agent said, of her historically-based crime thrillers with a touch of
the otherworldly.

‘Your crime novels are far too cerebral,’ one agent said about JJ Marsh’s European crime series.

‘Love it, but can’t see how to sell it,’ publishers told Liza’s agent, of her Revolutionary France novel.

Frustration at traditional publishing routes became a common topic of conversation so, spread across Europe and the UK, they got together and discussed their fears, hopes and plans.

At that stage, even as self-publishing was becoming an increasingly attractive option, the market was still littered with poorly-written, badly-presented vanity projects. They expressed their reservations about this, and about the lonely prospect of trying to tout their books in such a crowded marketplace, not to mention the frightening thought of taking on all that responsibility alone.

The idea of a team emerged. Sharing it between three, with that sense of mutual support, made it not only appealing but quite exciting. Apart, they were nothing, but together, they could make one hell of a team!

With all the administration of establishing a business, and because, legally, each member wanted to retain her own rights, they did not want to be a small press. So, they became simply a group of authors working as a team to promote their writing. Along the way, they picked up two more valuable members, and today the Triskele Books Author Collective remains a core group of five, inviting associate members from time to time, to publish under their label.

This is their story.

Getting the Author Collective off the Ground …

The three of us began by hammering out a philosophy founded on three principles:

To brand ourselves, we chose the triskele as our logo, with its three independent, yet connected,
circles. We had already designed our marketing materials when we realised that the triskele symbol is also an identifier for the BDSM community. What the heck, we thought … all welcome, BYO whip and chains!

The question of finances arose next. Even though each author retains her own rights and profits, for Triskele Books to get off the ground, there had had to be a certain financial commitment. We voted in our cash-savvy member as financial manager, she opened a bank account and we all deposited an initial float to cover website, promotional material, design and initial launch. She sends out bank statements for all expenses and, as and when we need to add funds, we all chip in equal sums.

Our biggest mistake in the beginning was everyone trying to do everything. After losing a website, dragging books across London on a hot Saturday afternoon and putting noses out of joint by forgetting to use “REPLY ALL” for emails, we soon learned it was better to assign tasks to individual strengths. Each had a skill, and we should focus on that.

So, our admin girl now draws up monthly workplans, assigning each member –– based on her particular skills –– certain tasks, which the others know will be done to the best of her ability.

The Nitty-Gritty of our Author Collective…

For the actual book-writing aspects we basically hold each other’s hands throughout the process. We critique, edit and advise on each other’s drafts before they go for final professional proofreading. You might think that four editors could be counter-productive, but we all try and keep in mind what the author wants to achieve, and how we can help her to get there.

For marketing and promotion, we share the workload. In today’s crowded marketplace, an author has to shout pretty loudly to be heard over all the other voices, and it’s hard to keep thinking up new and witty things to say. Being part of a group means there is no lone wolf crying into the wilderness; we take turns out there, spreading the word, which leaves more time for actual writing. We argue. Not often, but we do. However, among five voices, we always find a solution.

Each writer self-publishes her own books. Choices regarding print and/or e-book, distributors, exclusivity or otherwise, translation rights, etc., are all up to the individual author. So far, we have all shared the same designer, but that’s not mandatory. Of course, we examine and discuss all the options together, but it’s as simple as that.

We have come to rely on each other for all these things, and take comfort in the knowledge that these mammoth tasks are far less daunting when shared. Not only that, but the pressure not to let the others down is even more of an incentive.

Tips for Writers Considering an Author Collective …

Founding a Collective is not something to be taken lightly, but with a team of like-minded, motivated people, it is becoming a truly viable option in today’s publishing world.

Our Author Collective Two Years Down the Line …

Eighteen months after launching the first three Triskele Books, our strategy seems to be working. In addition to practical advantages such multiple critiquers, editors and proofreaders, not to mention the emotional benefits of being able to crow or cry to sympathetic ears, the key gain has been the mutiplying of our marketing network.

We have launched our titles in sets of three or four, every six months. Each book carries an ad in the back for the others in its set, as well as a complete list of all Triskele titles.

People seem to respond more positively to the concept of a Collective rather than just another self-published book. Our sales are on the rise, we have supportive and enthusiastic readers, books ready to publish through to 2016, and a queue of authors
lining up to jump onto the Triskele team.

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.

Instead of feeling sorry for ourselves and letting out books stagnate on a hard drive, we have taken on the publishing industry, our way. Independently publishing novels to a professional standard has proved to be hard work, frustrating and exciting. We’ve shared the angst, the uncertainties, the mistakes, and learned a lot in a short time.

In conjunction with our latest release of Triskele Books at the Chorleywood Literary Festival, we’ve collated everything we’ve learnt –– our mistakes, our successes, our experiences ––into a short eBook titled The Triskele Trail.


What about you, scriveners? Have you ever thought of joining up with other writers to form your own indie publishing company? Have you had any experience with a collective that you'd like to share? Do you know of other successful collectives? Are you thinking of self-publishing, but have put it off because you prefer working with a team? 


Liza grew up in Wollongong, Australia, where she worked as a general nurse and midwife for fifteen years. When she met her French husband on a Bangkok bus, she moved to France, where she has been living with her husband and three children for twenty years.
Her stories have been published widely in anthologies and small press magazines. Her articles on French culture and tradition have been published in international magazines such as France Magazine and France Today.

She has completed four novels and one short-story collection, and is represented by Judith Murdoch of the Judith Murdoch Literary Agency.

Spirit of Lost Angels is the first in the historical L’Auberge des Anges series set against a backdrop of rural France, and published under the Triskele Books label in May, 2012. The second in the series –– Wolfsangel –– was published in October, 2013, and Liza is working on the third novel in the series ––Midwife Héloïse – Blood Rose Angel –– set during the 14th century Black Plague years.

Liza reviews books for the Historical Novel Society and Words with Jam magazine.

Contact and Other Information:

Twitter: @LizaPerrat

Book of the Week

Only $2.99 at Amazon US Amazon UK and Amazon CA

Once upon a time, there were five writers.

They believed there was a third way of publishing, somewhere over the rainbow. So they packed their books and set off to explore. This is what happened on the journey.

The Triskele Trail is a true story. About a writers' collective who made some mistakes and some smart decisions; who discovered opportunities, found friends and dodged predators in the independent publishing jungle.

Fourteen books later, here are the lessons we learned.

This is not a How-To book.

This is How-We-Did-It.

This is The Triskele Trail.

"Triskele stands out in the world of indie authors as an author collective that is focused and mindful of their writing, publishing and marketing processes. In this book, you'll learn their views on the fundamentals of being an indie author, as well as the benefits of a collective, who to trust on the journey, plus tips on time management and researching historical fiction. The Triskele Trail is a smorgasbord of useful tidbits and the book will definitely help authors make decisions in this rapidly changing publishing environment." –– Joanna Penn, Author of #1 bestseller How To Market A Book.

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