Essentially a collective is a group of writers who band together for one or any number of purposes.Oneof the primary reasons many form a collective is to declare a certain level of quality for their work, given the reputation that many indie writers have. Collectives can be created for certain genres, like a fantasy writers collective, or a collective of thriller writers. (Would that be a murderofwriters, like a murder of crows?)Those within the collective also provide mutual support, something for which every writer longs. Members of the collective can cross-promote with one another, lightening the marketing load while expanding their fan base. In one collective some members of the group also provide reviews or recommendations of other authors to their fans. Collectives can also act like publishers, with a logo and a certain style or guarantee of quality, thereby giving their authors the ability to be able to go into a bookstore and say “I’m with… ” and the bookseller will know that certain things will be a given – quality, professionalism, etc. Most have a shared webpage with links to the books the authors have available. However, since it’s a collective and NOT a publisher, the author retains all rights, and can leave the collective at any time.Some collectives may have dues or fees, but the one in which I participate has neither. If there are set-up fees or whatever, those who can give, do. (Of course, over time, if some members don’t contribute, they will be asked to – with consideration of circumstances.)One thing a collective is not, is a co-op. Sadly, those have gained a bad reputation of late. Although the collective I’m a part of does have editors, cover artists, and book formatters as part of the group, there’s no requirement for any of the members to use them – only that they must be professionally edited and the covers should be as good as the author can provide. Nor do the authors edit the books of other authors (unless the author is also a professional editor)One word of caution – if you elect to create a collective, choose your partners carefully. As in life, whoever you associate with will reflect on you, some in a positive way and some in a negative. Be careful of drama queens or kings, because they can disrupt the whole group. Remember that this is a business decision, not a personal one.So, how does one create a collective? Most of it is easy. It’s just intention. Send an invitation or bring it up in a group of colleagues. Create a Facebook or other group, and make it private so all of you can speak freely. Decide on a name and whether you want to create a logo (I do recommend this for easy identification). Discuss what you want the intent of your collective to be. (Those who’ve read my blog posts probably know what some of my criteria were.) Decide if all a member’s books or just some of them must be part of the collective. (That may require adding logos to books or covers, which can be time-consuming and requires re-uploading your document.) Discuss what day will be your ‘official’ opening date. Make certain everyone is on board and agrees. Decide whether you’ll add new members to the collective or not, and under what circumstances. In my group a member can propose, but the majority of members must agree. Ditto with asking a member to leave. Don’t rush. You’ll find that some members may think it’s a wonderful idea, especially if there’s no work required. Once there’s work involved – cross-promotion, adding excerpts, etc. – it can be a different matter.
Someone will need to be the designated techie, or you’ll have to find – and pay – someone to set up and maintain your website. The fees for hosting, etc. shouldn’t fall on any one person. You’ll also need an open Facebook page where you can display cover art, links, events, etc., and a Twitter hashtag.
So, the final question is, why create a collective in the first place?
To many, the world of indie/self-publishing is like the Wild West. It’s very romantic but not very practical. As with Indie writers it’s sometimes hard to tell the good from the bad. While no one wants a return to the gatekeeper mode, they did have sheriffs back then to keep the peace, and it’s not an all or nothing proposition. This may be one way to help readers find writers genuinely committed to the idea of producing a novel of equal or better quality than produced traditionally. (I have to be honest and say I’m REALLY tired of the ‘traditional publishing is just as bad’ argument, because it’s not true. Three mistakes in a 100,000 word document is pretty good odds. Unlike three mistakes in the first paragraph of one book I read.) In any case it’s like giving a trophy to the kid who showed up at baseball practice every Saturday but didn’t really try – it’s not entirely fair to the ones who did and do.
There are some who really want to see the indie/self-publishing world get at least a little organized. Collectives might be one way to do it.