In October 2012, I attended the annual conference of Novelists, Inc, one of the alphabet soup of writer’s groups (SCBWI, SFWA, MWA, and SinC) to which I belong. As I mentioned in this blog post, one of the hottest topics of discussion (and there were plenty of hot topics at that conference) was the concept of what came to be called an author “lifeboat.” The idea was for several authors with similar goals to join together in a mutual aid society of sorts in order to help one another promote. And although there were some fits and starts with the group I joined (because of shifting membership), we now have a vigorous “lifeboat” of eleven authors:
- Linda Barrett
- Jean Brashear
- Rogenna Brewer
- Ginger Chambers
- Annie Jones
- Julie Kenner
- Day Leclaire
- Barbara McMahon
- Lisa Mondello
- Debra Salonen
- Karen Sandler (this one’s me!)
So who are we? We’re all authors who started out publishing “traditionally” (i.e., in paper by NY publishers). We’re bestselling authors–NYT, USA Today, Waldenbooks. We pretty much know the publishing industry inside and out. And we’ve all branched out into independent publishing.
Some of us still sell and publish traditionally (including me with my Tankborn trilogy and Janelle Watkins mysteries) as well as publish independently (in my case, I’ve got six indie romances up for sale at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc). Some have made the switch to indie-only and don’t intend to sign another traditional contract. But we all want to increase our success as authors.
As part of our process, we’ve branded our group OnFireFiction, and already have a Twitter and Facebook presence set up, with a website to come. We’ve got a cool tagline (From smoldering to blazing–OnFireFiction) and are developing a logo. We’ve already produced our first joint project: Unsuitably Perfect, a compilation of three full-length romance novels by me, Lisa, and Barbara. We have other compilations planned with other combinations of our member authors, as well as a couple of themed anthologies that will contain new content by all of us.
How have we coordinated all of this, when only four of us live in the same state, and even those four are at least a couple hours drive from one another? We started with e-mail, then as mentioned in the previous blog post, we used a combination of a face-to-face meeting and Skype to help us get things off the ground. We eventually set up a YahooGroup for better communication, which not only allowed us to discuss issues like our logo, tagline, and brand name, but gave us a place to ask other members for retweets, Facebook posts, blog mentions and the like for special sales and new releases.
The next question might be why–why work together when we could be considered competitors for the same readers? Well, luckily readers don’t just buy one book, nor do they read only one author. If they read one author they enjoy, they go looking not only for more books by that author, but similar books by other authors. With our compilations and anthologies, we’re hoping that readers will get a taste of what we have to offer and will go looking for more of our books.
It’s early days yet, so it’s hard to judge how effective our team approach will be in increasing visibility and sales. But I will say one thing–it’s lovely to have all those shoulders to lean on, to have all those brains to pick. As a group, we encompass a whole university’s worth of publishing knowledge. We complement each other’s skills, and if one of us doesn’t know something, another most likely will. I’m much better at tech than marketing, for instance, so I’m glad to be the one to set up a Facebook page in exchange for hand-holding by one of the marketing mavens in OnFireFiction.
So, what do you think? All for one and one for all? Or is every man (or woman) an island unto themselves? Would you rather promote yourself on your own? Or are you ready to jump into a lifeboat?