Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Indie Authors' Co-op for Print books?

By Judith Yates Borger

A couple weeks ago I met with a few other mystery authors who were fed up with the gauntlet they had to run to get a book published in paper traditionally. About a year ago two of them had waived their middle fingers at the big guys and set up their own company. They contracted with the very same distributors who had peddled their traditionally published previous  books to the likes of Barnes & Noble, and, sadly, now defunct Borders. They got a deal with the same folks who had printed their previous books. They got reviews in places such as Booklist. They contracted with a cover designer and an editor. Basically, they did everything their paper publisher had done on their previous books and left them with a paltry royalty.

Now, they get monthly sales reports instead of the semi-annual-who-knows-if-they're-true numbers they had previously received from their publishers. They sell their mysteries for $15 and earn $5.50 per book in royalties. There is upfront financial investment, instead of an advance to earn back, but they start making some reasonable money after they've sold 1,000 books.

"I'm working with the editor, the cover designer, setting up my own promotion," said one of the authors. "But I was doing all that before when I had a 'publisher.' "

His motivation was not to make a lot of money -- although that would be just fine. No, what he likes most about the arrangement is that he has control over his work. Not to worry about a publisher who has final say on the cover or the title of book, or who doesn't have the courage to go into a second printing.

Of course, there is risk involved. What if the distributor goes belly-up? Or the printer gets struck by lightning?  Although the reports just funnel through the lead member authors are responsible for their own bills. Still, the other authors have to write well enough to not bring ill will on the others. No one wants guilt by association.

I've been looking around to see if any other authors are doing the same. I found a news item about one group near Seattle that has something similar going, but I haven't seen anything else.

These authors want me to join their authors' coop. What do you think? I've had two books published in paper by a traditional author, an okay-but-not-great experience. I'm working on my third book now. Should I go the coop route? Join up with these guys, whose work I like?


  1. I would look at their print sales numbers and see how much you stand to gain. But if you don't make a profit until you've sold a thousand print books, that could be a tough barrier in this declining print market.

  2. I love all the new possibilities that are out there now for authors to get there books to readers. This sounds like it could be a viable option, but why not just truly go Indie?

  3. Just one more indication that the industry's in an ever-changing state of flux. Seems every time I turn around there's something new coming around the corner. What I love most is that the power is being taken from the power brokers, the big publishing conglomerates.

    I'm a firm believer that there's strength in numbers and could easily see something like this working down the road--after all, co-ops aren't a new concept; they've been successfully augmented for years. Why not here as well?

  4. In a heartbeat. Do it and publish to all the electronic platforms, and see for yourself. It could be great, it might be the same or a little worse, but you'll own your work in perpetuity and not have to worry about it reverting.

  5. I've been out of town this week so couldn't get to the Internet easily. (Only on my phone, which makes comments labor intensive.) Thank you all for your responses.Sales for the author with three books out are very good. Not so sure about the author with only one book. I've read all there work and it's just fine, better than some traditionally published things I've seen (and this is a surprise?) Anyway, the idea of having much more control over my print work is very appealing, especially since I've gotten so accustomed to controlling my ework.

  6. I'm very curious to know how this idea develops for you, Judith. It's intriguing...


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