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Author Topic: Cooperative self-publishing  (Read 2877 times)

Offline JamesLatimer

Cooperative self-publishing
« on: July 08, 2014, 11:24:46 AM »
I guess this topic questions the definition of self-publishing, in a way, but I've been thinking recently about how self publishing works and how communities (like this one) could be better leveraged to help authors make (and sell) good books.

Self-publishing, by definition, can be a fairly lonely game, with a lot of voices screaming into the void (just check out the "Self-Published and Small Press" forum).  I've posted before about how it would help to have better spaces to publicise good work (http://fantasy-faction.com/forum/advertising-your-novels/indie-review-siteaggregator/), and recently others have posted about their ideas to get community involved in peer-review (http://fantasy-faction.com/forum/links-competitions-and-'stuff'/inkling-scrolls-a-new-fantasy-writers'-workshop-and-social-network/). I have published my only book so far through a community site (Autharium) but found the community not all that supportive or critical, and the quality suffers.

I was just wondering if anyone else was interested in cooperative publishing or whether most are content to be lone wolves?  Anyone have experience with this sort of thing already?

By cooperative publishing I mean a step beyond self-pub distributors like Smashwords, but not quite at the level of a small press (though it begins to resemble that).  Something with a level of peer-reviewed editorial control of the outputs (details still percolating), but by distributing through a large and probably anonymous community allows for more rigorous feedback for authors.  The site would attract authors by guaranteeing peer review (rather than just taking chance on beta readers) but they would have to agree to beta read in turn before their comments were returned.

I would also envisage quite a large number of submitted books being rejected by the community (too derivative, too generic, poor quality) but the whole idea is to lift everyone on a rising tide, not bar people.  And you'd have to work hard to avoid the circle-jerk (which is why I think anonymity would be good).  I've even wondered if there would be ways to generate money to be used on those services worth paying for, like covers and editing.

I know it might be hard to convince authors to subject themselves to this when they could just publish direct, but the idea would be that the book would be better at the end, and this would help in several ways:
1) Author has better book, gets better reviews, sells more.
2) Co-op publisher name on book is (minor) stamp of legitimacy, especially as reputation grows: book sells more.
3) Network of authors and connected community members increase reach of publicity: books sells more.

In some ways, I think this middle ground could be the future of publishing.  I know it looks a lot like some small/indie presses work, and maybe I'm reinventing a wheel that doesn't need it.  However, as I see it the difference would be that it would draw upon a bigger community to reduce the workload, increase the reach and improve the reliability of the results. 

Any thoughts?

Offline JamesLatimer

Re: Cooperative self-publishing
« Reply #1 on: July 14, 2014, 05:08:30 PM »
I can see that nobody is interested, but I found a site which seems to have a system like this set-up (it's unusual you have an idea not on the internet): http://www.scribophile.com/

Anyone have any experience with it?  I found it via the fantasy writers subreddit (which I also didn't realise existed). 

Offline xiagan

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AW: Cooperative self-publishing
« Reply #2 on: July 14, 2014, 05:26:06 PM »
It's not that I'm not interested, it's just that I'm not at that point in the process at the moment...
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Offline Doctor_Chill

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Re: Cooperative self-publishing
« Reply #3 on: July 14, 2014, 07:26:21 PM »
I think small press, when done correctly, efficiently, and consistently, has the ability to set a standard for publishing. But I think Angry Robots and Night Shade Books are the best example of how this can go wrong very easily. Which is why you need something smaller than that, and I think you're on the right track.

Quote
Something with a level of peer-reviewed editorial control of the outputs (details still percolating), but by distributing through a large and probably anonymous community allows for more rigorous feedback for authors.

The problem with this is that you want the feel of a small writing group but the effect and guarantee of multiple people critiquing your work. I've sent my work to a few places like this. YouWriteOn is a big offender. They are primarily about receiving critiques, not giving them. That's why I stay on this forum critique board, not because I expect a critique for a critique, but because I want to help others. And by editing other people's works, I can become better. I don't think a lot of newbie writers have this mindset, sadly.

This might be totally different than what you want, but I'd like to see a community, a "publisher" if you will, that maintains the freedom and camaraderie that a tight knit group of authors can establish, but with a boost to marketing and, not a bar, but a push toward the condition of novels. (Condition's not the right word.)

Basically, you have a group that helps each other and critiques newer people coming in, but helps everyone grow by reviews, general publicity, and seeing other's perspectives. I think it can work, but I know it'll take a lot of work to find the right people.

Just hit by another idea: Self-publishing vs. Traditional is usual maintained because people think there is a difference in condition (still not the right word) for the content of books. But I think it's because there is less people , and sometimes professional, help. Writing a book is a hard thing, but editing it is harder. Letting fresh eyes see does probably more than you can ever do. Maybe that's just my experience.

Brian McClellan gave a few figures on what he thought the publisher took to have this end result. What it would take for him to self-publish and see the same results. I think that's blowing it way out of the water. Publishers pay 70K on a debut writer? I don't think so. If they do, I think that's a big waste.

Professional marketing, copy edits, and the illusion of a "bar" are the biggest things a publisher has to differentiate from self-publishing. That, and you pay out of pocket. On the flipside, you have control, and I think I'd rather have that when I know there's a cheaper (possibly even better and honest) way to do that with this model.

I think if you can find a few people who have to earn their own keep without any outside help other than a small niche of others, then you'll find a better craft. Supposedly. Competition is supposed to drive the economy, but that has become so twisted that we see piles upon piles of mediocre self-published authors.

I know that peer review, and consistent peer review, from people who know just a little bit about writing, can help over the long run than corporate greed.
« Last Edit: July 14, 2014, 07:38:41 PM by C.Hill »
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Offline JamesLatimer

Re: Cooperative self-publishing
« Reply #4 on: July 15, 2014, 04:56:10 PM »
The problem with this is that you want the feel of a small writing group but the effect and guarantee of multiple people critiquing your work. I've sent my work to a few places like this. YouWriteOn is a big offender. They are primarily about receiving critiques, not giving them. That's why I stay on this forum critique board, not because I expect a critique for a critique, but because I want to help others. And by editing other people's works, I can become better. I don't think a lot of newbie writers have this mindset, sadly.
I think we're largely in agreement, and my post was a big thought experiment so I was looking for reasons and examples of where it might have been tried and didn't work.  YouWriteOn sounds like one, and of course there's Authonomy which by all accounts has lots of back-slapping.  Autharium doesn't have a karma system or much activity in some areas, so quality control isn't great.  Scribophile I just found so I have no idea, and the Inklings site still isn't up yet but promises similar.  I think they are interesting ideas, so might give a few more a try.

At the core of any sites like these are the need for community.  In effect, if a bunch of us from here went and colonised sites like this, and attracted a lot of like-minded others, than we might be able to build a core community that might become self-sustaining.  You need a lot of time and dedication to keep these going, and as you say, few people might see the benefit of doing this work for others when all they want is feedback for themselves.  I'm not sure what advantage it gives over a more free-lance beta reader system, other than building community and--as you said--giving you a platform for promotion after publishing.

Your point about 'condition' is what I think I meant by 'quality'.  The big issue for self-publishing is still overall quality, and if you are going to build a serious cooperative small publisher you have to make sure the quality coming out is good enough to stake your reputation on. Which means you have ensure feedback on the site is honest and constructive, and not just a bunch of people patting each other on the back and collectively publishing a load of rubbish. This is why I thought some sort of anonymity and a robust karma system would be good (for example, Scribophile doesn't let you post until you submit some critiques).

Anyway, clearly the idea is out there with a few sites trying it out, so if anyone has any good or bad experiences, keep sharing them.

Offline JamesLatimer

Re: Cooperative self-publishing
« Reply #5 on: July 26, 2014, 02:47:43 PM »
Just joined Scribophile, and it seems well set up and fairly active. It doesn't offer the publishing side of it, like my idea, and it must be hard to get a novel through chapter-by-chapter, but I like the karma system.  May or may not post anything there, and I don't know how much time I'll have to critique, but it does seem like a viable way to get some feedback and help.

Anyone else active there?

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Re: Cooperative self-publishing
« Reply #6 on: August 01, 2014, 07:24:16 AM »
I think part of the problem with your idea is people. lol I know that sounds odd but people are funny about their work and more often than not they don't actually want someone to come along and say (even if it is said kindly with only good thoughts directing you) their work is crap...This is how self-publishing came about in the first place, the unpublished and unpublishable gathered together to show the world that their work was good enough and although it has come a long way from that point....It is still there a little bit and one can't ignore where or how something started as it will always be a part of it in some small way...

Oh and what would you put into place to protect the authors work from being seen as previously published or stolen? This would the big reason why I am not on any of those sites that you have mentioned. :)