This just in: the internet is not only changing the world, it’s changing the publishing world!
Okay, that’s pretty old ‘news’. But that doesn’t mean we writers have a firm grip on the new world order in publishing. In fact, with so many publishing options and terms to learn and understand – traditional big 5, small press, indie publishing, self-publishing, KDP, POD, Amazon sucks!, Amazon rules!, hybrids of any or all of the above – sometimes we just want to crawl back into our cozy little writer beds, pull the covers over our heads, and not come out until someone somewhere has tamed this publishing beast.
Yeah, that’s never going to happen. And waiting or someone to rescue us isn’t really the style of the ladies on this blog, anyway. The best we can do is partake of our favorite anxiety-reducing substance (my personal recommendations, which you’ve heard before: wine, chocolate, Bourbon), research out the wazoo, and in the end, hope we’ve made the choices that best suit the very individual needs of each of our careers. So in the interest of making your head explode sharing information, I present to you a concept that might be as new to you as it was to me until a few weeks ago – a writers’ publishing consortium.
I learned about this publishing venue through a friend who is a member of the Book View Café. As you can see from their website, this group is ‘old news’ in that the consortium is now five years old. In fact, I’ve known about the website for some time, but thought of it as another book-buying outlet. While this is its function for most visitors to the site, the group behind the Café is a consortium of approximately 50 authors. The consortium is in fact a publisher that combines aspects of both traditional and self-publishing.
Traditional publishing aspects of the consortium. This group of authors provide each other with traditional publishing services such as critiquing, editing, formatting, and cover art production. As a publisher, the group has access to review sites and publications usually off limits to self-published authors. And as a publishing entity, the group can place member books in libraries – a very important part of building an audience in the ‘traditional publishing’ world. This type of support comes with one feature of traditional publishing that drives staunch self-pubs to distraction: the notion of gatekeepers. To become one of the consortium’s members, authors must be previously published with traditional publishers, and must be approved by a majority of authors already in the group.
Self-publishing aspects of the consortium. Authors in the consortium are responsible for coordinating the services listed above for their own books, either through negotiating with fellow members who have skill sets for things like formatting or art work, or hiring their own editors, formatters, and artists for their books. Unlike traditional publishing where the author’s responsibility begins and ends with writing (although these days, extensive marketing has been added to the writer’s job description), in the consortium, each member is expected to volunteer their non-writing skills in (e.g., editing, formatting) to other authors in the group. But the extra work the consortium requires brings with it the rewards of self-publishing as well, including much more flexible publication schedules, much faster payment than traditional publishing, and a 95% royalty rate for direct sales (online retailers like Amazon and B&N still take their cut of books sold on their sites).
For a great summary of traditional versus self-publishing, and how keeping a foot in each world can provide important options for writers, I highly recommend Chuck Wendig’s take on hybrid authors. I suspect that if we stick with this writing gig long enough, most of us, at some point, will need to become hybrids to survive. Writers banding together as a publishing consortium to draw on each others’ strengths and skills could be another great way to get the best of both worlds.