Sunday, March 10, 2013

Windtree Press Reborn as an Author Cooperative

I've always believed that cooperative efforts garner the best success.  There are some mechanisms for cooperative effort in a writing career. Organizations like RWA and SFWA and The Authors Guild have provided me with many educational opportunities, as well as practical assistance with things like contracts and learning the business. There are individual writers I've met who have personally mentored me through workshops or emails and made a difference in my writing and my career.   However, all of these cooperative efforts are ones of brief acquaintance via a paid workshop or an organizational meeting, or a critique group that works together and then goes its own way. In the end it reinforces the belief that ultimately we must all write alone, and therefore our success or failure is achieved alone as well.

With the rise of Indie publishing, this "alone" paradigm is magnified. Even the term Indie publishing or Self-publishing emphasizes the individual effort.  In fact, those who champion the Indie publishing choice often say things like "You don't have to put up with someone else telling you what your cover should be. You no longer have to write to the trend a publisher believes will sell. You can control everything." Indie publishing celebrates the rebel, the go-your-own-way writing ethos.  In some ways I am personally drawn to that and celebrate that I am finding a market for my stories that don't neatly fit in categories or genre guidelines.  But, I also know that 300,000 Indie books are produced every year and that there is a large segment of my readers who don't even know I exist.

I don't believe that writing needs to be a solitary effort where we succeed or fail alone. I also don't think that it works very well.  Furthermore, in Indie publishing  I think it doesn't work at all. Enter Windtree Press--a press that celebrates and promotes individual efforts while providing a distribution platform for books and a nurturing environment for shared expertise and cross-promotion. 

When I decided to begin my own Indie publishing efforts I knew I wanted to have a press name that would be the professional business entity for my books. I also realized early on that I wanted to work with other authors to cross-promote, to learn from each other, to rise together.  That was nearly two years ago.  Melissa Yuan-Innes joined immediately and together we distributed our titles. There have been bumps along the road. There have been authors who have shown interest but, for a variety of reasons having to do with career choices and life situations, didn't follow through. In the past two years I've learned a lot about the Indie publishing arena and the changing marketplace and technologies. I've also been immersed in studying the issues of discoverability and analyzing/watching what the big distributors are doing.

Three months ago I realized that to maximize profitability for authors and to have some miniscule amount of control over data, customer information, and reader/buyer habits, I had to provide a strong mechanisms for direct sales of Windtree Press products. I also realized that I did not want to run a "regular" press. I wanted to write and produce more work, and I also wanted to provide for and to receive back from a supportive community of writers with the same career goals that I had.  That's when the organizational framework for an author cooperative was born.  As I began to talk openly about this organizational structure and the desire to form a community of like-minded, career writers, I heard some excitement. I heard other Indie authors who saw the benefit in cooperating together and sharing expertise and costs for moving forward. Immediately, a third author joined the press, Paty Jager.  

The three of us have worked together over the past two months to flesh out the organizational structure, the decision processes, and the shared costs. We've also built, tested, and gone live with an e-commerce site.

We anticipate three or four additional authors joining in the next couple of months. I don't know how many we will end up with by the end of the year. It depends on who is ready, who is a good match and will work well with this growing community, who brings cross-promotional opportunities. It is exciting. It is, for me, a rebirth of community support of writer careers that is invigorating my writing and my optimism.  I hope you will check out the press as we grow. 

Interested in more details?  Watch the See Jane Publish blog tomorrow for more specific information on why an author would choose to join, or form her own, cooperative. Read more details about how the Windtree Press Author Cooperative operates.

Lots of exciting stuff! I believe we have tapped into a mechanism for surviving in this turbulent publishing environment. I know we will learn together and get better and better. I anticipate great things for the future.  I'd love to hear your views, your questions, your experience in comments below.


TeriBrownwrites said...

Maggie, I always knew you were Brilliant. Best of luck on your new effort and let me know if I can help... in April! ;-) HOnestly, I can't wait to hear more. Such an exciting time we live in!

Maggie Jaimeson said...

Teri, Thanks for your support. It is exciting times. Authors have so many choices and opportunities these days. It's just a matter of determining what is best for a particular book and a particular career.

I can tell you that I feel truly blessed to be surrounded by so many wonderful authors who care about each other and wish to help each other to succeed.

Collette Cameron said...

I find this very intriguing. Best of luck with this!

Susan said...

I'm sneaking in during lunch :) Great post. Also wanted to tell you I fixed my "problem". Will be contacting you soon.

Maggie Jaimeson said...

Collette, Thanks for stopping by.

Susan, really glad you resolved your problem. Those little technical things can be darn frustrating--even to a technical person like me.

jamie said...

Maggie, great post and the new Windtree site is fabulous! Your direction is spot-on. It seems like the music industry is always one step ahead of the publishing industry, and this is exactly what many bands are doing to build and further establish themselves as brands. Distribution models, and businessmodels, are changing in this digital age, and I am just so excited about the possibilities ahead. A resounding CHEER for you from this corner of the pond!!!

Maggie Jaimeson said...

Thank you, Jamie! Interesting that you compare the publishing changes to the music industry changes. Several others have said the same thing over the past year or so--but more in relationship to large publishers having their head in the sand in the same way large music companies did when digital options came along.

However, I didn't realize that bands were also binding together in groups for other distribution methods. It makes sense.

Paty Jager said...

I'm excited to be a part of Windtree Press and this new direction in publishing. Thank you Maggie for introducing me to the cooperative.

Melia Alexander said...

Maggie, you amaze me! Best of luck with the cooperative. I look forward to learning more about it. Heading over there now.


Karen Duvall said...

This is so great, Maggie! What a wonderful solution. I'm so happy for you all. Now you can get a better deal on Net Galley for making your books available to reviewers. That's such an expensive service, but I'm hearing more and more about authors joining together to share the costs. I've heard it's not easy to get indie pubbed books reviewed, so getting on Net Galley sure would help. Good luck to you all!