Happy Birthday to us! The Alliance of Independent Authors is ten years old this year. Ten whole years! Over in the AskALLi team, we're delighted to be reaching this monumental birthday, so today, and over the next couple of weeks we'll be taking a moment to celebrate the last ten years of work, publishing and community.
This year’s London Book Fair (5-7 April) marks ALLi’s tenth anniversary. Founded in 2012, in its first decade the premier membership association for self-publishing authors has already grown into an organisation with tens of thousands of members and subscribers across seven continents and achieved many remarkable “firsts” and successes.
ALLi’s most recent achievements include:
- Winning the Romantic Novelist Association’s Indie Champion Award 2021
- Topping the US Writer’s Digest “100 Best Publishing Websites for Authors 2021”, with its multi-award-winning Self-Publishing Advice Center
- Broadcasting more than 450,000 downloads of the Self-Publishing Advice Podcast
Today, we're going to hear from the ALLi team themselves on their highlights, the history of ALLi's creation as well as some of our valued members thoughts on what ALLi has done for them over the years.
The AskALLi Team Ten Year Highlights: Sacha, Sarah and Howard
Sarah Begley, Member care manager | Advertising manager | Publishing assistant
Responsible for: Our valued ALLi members; advertisements in The Indie Author and our partner directory; other assistance on ALLi publications.
Highlights: The growth of ALLi and the support it gives indie authors worldwide are phenomenal. I’m so proud to have been a part of it for the last eight years. One highlight for me has been working on and helping expand the advertising of our house magazine, The Indie Author. Also, putting the final polish on our wonderful self-publishing guidebook series, ensuring they get out to our members and the wider author community in tip-top condition. And lastly, a major highlight is being on the front line to help our members access the advice and resources they need for their author journey. Their appreciation is motivation in itself.
Sacha Black, Blog Manager
Responsible for: the blog!
Highlights: I’m always amazed and in awe of the work that ALLi does behind the scenes. For example, the ALLi team rallied around the #audiblegate issue, spending hundreds and hundreds of hours to protect the rights of authors. I’m also proud of the Ultimate Guide series we run on the blog. We try to produce high quality and in-depth articles explaining everything a new author needs to know about a topic. And I’m always amazed by the ALLi #selfpubcon conferences. Having been both a presenter and behind the scenes, I think it’s one of the best digital conferences around.
Howard Lovy, News and podcast producer
Responsible for: Producing all podcasts for ALLi, hosting the Inspirational Indie Authors podcast, and co-hosting the Self-Publishing News podcast.
Highlights: For me, every episode of Inspirational Indie Authors is a highlight. I’m lucky that I get to interview authors from around the world, and from diverse backgrounds, and hear their backstories—what road they took to get where they are. They inspire me in my own work. Also, I look forward to speaking to the brilliant ALLi news editor Dan Holloway every month for the Self-Publishing News podcast.
Let's Hear from ALLi Members
‘The best professional organization for indie authors’
Marie Long, romance author
“One of the best decisions I made was when I parted ways with another writing organization and joined ALLi. ALLi offers tons of awesome resources, discounts, legal and contract advice, IP rights information, a watchdog service. If you have a question or concern about anything, they will answer it. There are a lot of amazing, well known and six-figure+ authors who are part of ALLi. And I’ve never heard any drama with this organization. It’s all about authors helping authors.”
‘I feel motivated and empowered for all stages of the publishing process’
Barry Faulkner, crime novelist
“Before ALLi, I had six books out and was doing okay with sales on Amazon. But I knew nothing about editing, advertising, promoting and selling. I got burned by a vanity publisher and when I sussed them out, they gave all my books one-star nasty reviews. I had to take the books down, re-title and re-cover them, losing my 65 good reviews. I was pretty fed up, but determined to get back to where I was, despite others telling me it was a rotten industry and I should forget it if I hadn’t an agent to get a publisher.
Then, a writers group pointed me to the ALLi website. I started to use it a lot, so I joined – and it was the best thing I have done. My books have gone from amateur to professional. My sales are well up and I get the answer to all my writing problems, no matter what they are, in a couple of clicks. ALLi has renewed my enthusiasm and output tremendously. I wish I’d known about it years ago.”
TIA Editor, Roz Morris Talks to ALLi Founders Orna Ross and Philip Lynch
The 10 years of ALLi have been quite a ride for director Orna Ross and her partner Philip. Roz Morris asks them about a creative revolution
Roz Morris: What gave you the impetus to create ALLi? You could have set up a Facebook support group where we all swap expertise, but you made something much bigger.
Orna Ross: We always knew it would be bigger than a Facebook group. There was a need for a professional association for self-publishing writers that would put ethics and excellence at its heart.
And ALLi hasn't really changed much in terms of what we do and how we do it. We just do it for more people and we have more people involved.
Roz Morris: Tell me more about its origins.
Orna Ross: It came at an interesting time in our lives. We had moved from Dublin to London and it was my intention to write full time. I had no intentions of self-publishing. I was hearing rumblings about self-publishing but didn't think it was for me because it was all technology and I'm not very technical.
But I did notice that author friends who were doing it were having a great time. Other author friends were finding things harder and harder, being dropped by their publishers after two or three books. I myself was not in a good place with my own publisher.
The arguments about self-publishing were heated on both sides. There was a stigma. And for a lot of authors, getting a publisher was a hell of a struggle. That was seen as validation of your work. So to put your stuff out yourself was taking a step back.
But self-published authors were selling loads of books, putting what they wanted on the covers and doing things the way they wanted. They could publish fast instead of waiting 18 months. They were creatively energized while the authors who were traditionally published were almost constricted.
This was really interesting to me. And I thought, the only way I'm going to know about it is to try it.
Roz Morris: Did you have any misgivings?
Orna Ross: I did. I had to fight very hard for the publishing deal I got. It took me 54 rejections, then my journey to publication was painful. I had a lot of bad luck and a lot of bad treatment. I did get a very good contract in the end, so it was hard to turn away from it.
So I made a tiny poetry book and put it on KDP. I chose poetry because I thought nobody would buy it and I thought I was going to make a mess. To my shock people did buy it.
That was an aha moment. People were buying it and I still had all the rights, I could do more with it, such as print on demand. I have been an agent and I knew the importance of rights.
I then put out a little meditation booklet. And it sold.
Then I went all in. I got my rights back from my publisher. They’d changed everything when they published, without even talking to me. The title. They gave my books unsuitable covers – neon pink with a headless woman running around in a see-through dress. They were trying to shove me into a square hole and I was round. So I took back my rights, chose my own cover and the book went up the charts. In those days, if you had a good cover it was so easy to sell well.
That changed everything when I saw what was possible.
So I looked around, wanting to join an association. I like people together in a group. I think they're much more powerful. And I couldn't find one to join.
Phillip and I talked because he brings everything that I don't have – the business foundations. I'm a typical creative and sit around making things up. He keeps us grounded.
Philip Lynch: I must say it's easy to do the grounding role. The thing that’s most difficult is having complete ideas. And when I first heard Orna’s idea it was astounding – clear-sighted and complete – the watchdog, the partners’ involvement. All that ALLi does now was in her original vision.
She was extremely excited. It was clear that writers had an unfair deal from trade publishing. They were contributing most and everybody else was taking, taking, taking, the publisher sat on the rights. Then the books might get a few days or weeks on the shelf. But here were these digital technologies that were allowing writers to address these injustices.
This was a game changer for all of us.
The other thing for me, which was important, was that we’d got to a stage in our lives where we weren’t aiming to earn a living from it. So we wanted to set up as a nonprofit. We instantly both felt that. And that seems to get buy-in from everybody – ethical authors, ethical partners.
Orna Ross: That was super important. At that time, the self-publishing sector was rife with sharks, in the vanity press world. It was important to us that ALLi was a not-for-profit thing.
We’d build resources and services and get them to people who’d spread the word. We’d knock on doors and tell people what they should be doing.
The AskALLi Team Ten Year Highlights: Dan, Michael and John
Dan Holloway, News editor
Responsible for: Self-publishing News weekly column
Highlights: For me the highlight of the last quarter has been seeing a new stage in the discussions about how writers get paid – with subscription arrangements, advertising share models like YouTube’s, and the third model offered by Spotter, which pays creators an up-front amount as a licensing fee for their back catalogue. What that means is that creators get the money to develop new projects, and Spotter takes the ad revenue generated by the videos already in existence at that point for a 5 year period, without taking any of the intellectual property.
Michael La Ronn, Outreach manager
Responsible for: growing ALLi membership, leading the ALLi Ambassador team, and representing ALLi in the community at key events
Highlights: Learning more about the industry. ALLi is truly a global organization, and working with the team has exposed me to ways of thinking I would have never considered otherwise. Also, international conference calls with ALLi team members and partner members across the globe are always a fun experience.
John Doppler, Services Watchdog
Responsible for: Scrutinizing publishing and related services for quality, integrity, and value
Highlights: The creation of ALLi's “Best and Worst” service ratings has been a significant achievement, one that has guided countless authors in their searches for ideal service providers. We've now evaluated well over 1,000 companies. And every time an author writes to say “thanks, this information saved me from a disaster,” that's another new highlight.
Let's Hear from ALLi Members
‘ALLi got me a refund from a problematic publishing services provider’
Kali Harmen, mindset coach, holistic health therapist and memoirist
“I was trying to publish my first memoir, and signed up to a publishing house before finding ALLi. That’s why I didn’t know the publishing house was on ALLi’s watchdog list. I had no end of problems with the publishing house, which refused to publish my memoir unless I used a pen name. I was not prepared to do that and spoke to ALLi. ALLi helped me get a full refund, which I am very grateful for, and I can now use one of the approved publishers and feel reassured that the same trouble will never happen again. I thoroughly recommend using ALLi before going ahead with a publishing package if this is your first time publishing.”
‘Been with ALLi from the earliest days’
Linda Gillard, romance author
“In 2012, I was one of the first members of ALLi. I’m still a happy member. My writing career has had highs and lows and my ALLi friends have seen me through it all. I’m now published by Amazon & Piatkus but I self-publish most of my novels.
The benefits of membership have been immense. I’ve learned so much and the sense of solidarity has given me confidence. I’ve also had the opportunity to share my own experience and tips. There’s a lot of give and take, so if you’re new to indie publishing, you don’t have to re-invent the wheel. Whatever you need to know, someone in the group will be able to advise. To begin with I thought membership would be a luxury. I now think it’s a necessity.”
The AskALLi Team Ten Year Highlights: Dan, Robin and Debbie
Dan Parsons, Content production manager
Responsible for: ALLi guides and other content
Highlights: I can pinpoint two highlights. ALLi’s might shone especially brightly in the bid to pressurise Audible to improve terms and provide more transparency during AudibleGate, at a time when Amazon is more powerful than ever. Together, the community continues to achieve impressive feats. My other highlight was the moment when ALLi member Rachel McLean won the 2021 Kindle Storyteller awards. Rachel has gone on to become one of the UK's most popular authors, dominating the charts and raising awareness for what's possible in terms of writing quality and business opportunities if you self-publish at a professional level.
Robin Philips, Webmaster and tech support
Responsible for: Website maintenance and general tech help
Highlights: For me, seeing the inner workings of such a supportive organisation is a highlight. The whole team cares deeply about indie authors, and that comes through in everything. I recently worked with ALLi to create a template licensing agreement for members. Co-operating on that was great fun and very interesting.
Debbie Young, Special projects
Responsibilities: Facebook forum moderator, UK ambassador, co-author of ALLi guidebooks and anything else that's needed from time to time. Previously I was editor of the Self-Publishing Advice blog.
Highlights: A highlight for me in ALLi was launching the Opening Up to Indies guidebook at the London Book Fair in 2014.
As a self-publishing author, though, many of my highlights were also personal. Publishing two series of novels, being shortlisted for the Bookbrunch Selfies prize, launching the highly successful Hawkesbury Upton Literature Festival in Gloucestershire, UK, which has showcased dozens of indie authors to a highly appreciative audience. And helping a dying man in his 90s to self-publish his memoirs, which were later a great comfort to his widow and his family and friends.
Back to our Founders and Roz Morris
Roz Morris: Moving on, what’s got easier for indie authors in the 10 years?
Orna Ross: Well, it's much easier to publish a book.
The tools are fantastic now. Whenever I hear anybody complaining about print on demand or whatever, I feel like a grandmother saying to her kids, look what you've got.
But publishing is not just book production. It’s also marketing and promotion. And that's harder, because there are far more people in the field and they’re doing it really well. There are far more amazing books that we never get to read. So marketing and promotion gets harder as the production gets easier.
Roz Morris: Let's talk about the ALLi team. You've got ambassadors, advisors, staff… How many people are working for ALLi?
Philip Lynch: The nature of this ALLi is that we need a lot of specialists. For the blog, for the news, the watchdog… Also, our administrators. We’ve got probably 10 people who work on something for ALLi every month, but not full time. Then we've got people who contribute ad hoc – editors, designers. That really starts to spread out.
The two people who are full time in the job are me and Orna.
Orna Ross: And then we've the volunteers. The ambassadors are a voluntary role.
Philip Lynch: We have very few volunteers now. We did in the early days because we were so small that we weren't paying ourselves. But as time went on, we were able to pay ourselves and others. So now it’s self-sustainable, which is a huge milestone in the overall development.
All that development is mainly coming from Orna, who is a fount of all ideas. She’ll notice that other writers’ organizations have a gap, and she’ll reach out to them and offer a category of membership to fill that gap. We’re preparing a newsletter specially for their needs and they’re saying, yes, give it to us. We'll be very interested to see what happens because we’ll reach a huge audience through organizations that are not traditionally in the author-publishing arena.
Most of the ALLi income comes from memberships. There's a very small amount from advertisers, so we're not reliant on any sponsor. We set up that way deliberately. This lets us get partner members that are ethical because we want our author members to be exposed to good people. I sometimes have to remind partner members that we're not offering them a big marketing opportunity. We’re author centered and they have to agree to be vetted, so we know they’re good enough to be in our lists. But if they have a reputation of being good, they’ll be exposed to tens of thousands of members.
But we also reach tens of thousands of authors that don't pay anything. We’ve got probably one of the best free offerings in all of publishing. So we rely on people coming in every year, and longer-term dedicated members to keep the whole thing on the road.
Roz Morris: On the subject of members, I want to mention the sense of community and goodwill.
Philip Lynch: That goodwill is huge. People bring their willingness to work for ALLi. They bring great skills.
Ending with a Thank You
Which is a beautiful place to end, I think you'll agree.
From the entire AskALLi team, we want to extend our thanks to you, the readers, members, contributors, partners, organizations, supporters, friends, colleagues, and family members for ten years of support. You help to make our organization what it is today. We're indebted to you and raise a toast to you and the next ten years of ALLi.