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The Story of an Authors’ Collective: Triskele Books

JJ Marsh tells the story of the launch and development of the authors’ collective Triskele Books, drawing on their new book, The Triskele Trail, launched this month at the Chorleywood Literature Festival.

Cover of The Triskele TrailOnce upon a time, there were five writers. They believed there was a third way of publishing, somewhere over the rainbow. So they packed their books and set off to explore. This is what happened on the journey.

The Triskele Trail is a true story. About a writers’ collective who made some mistakes and some smart decisions; who discovered opportunities, found friends and dodged predators in the independent publishing jungle. Fourteen books later, here are the lessons we learned. This is not a How-To book. This is How-We-Did-It. This is The Triskele Trail. Here’s an adapted extract from the book:

Why a collective?

Gillian, Liza, Catriona, Jane and I met via an online critique site, each of us trying to take our writing to the next level. Our connection was virtual, (we’re spread across Europe from Anglesey to Zurich), but also very real. We gravitated to one another, attracted by two things: the quality of the writing and the critiques. I had no idea what these people looked or sounded like, but one thing was certain. They were exceptional writers whose opinions I trusted.

Traditional publishing was playing it safe. Gillian Hamer’s agent, despite her faith in Gilly’s books, couldn’t find them a home. Liza Perrat was having a similar experience with her first novel, Spirit of Lost Angels. I’d stopped trying to acquire representation after one agent said my work was too cerebral.

The alternative, self-publishing, began to gain ground, but still seemed full of poorly written, unedited vanity projects with home-made covers. Plus, the huge amount of effort required to market the book appeared an impossible task. It didn’t seem the right place for us.

Triskele team at Chorleywood LitFest

From left: Liza, Jane, Catriona, Jill & Gillian

We met in London to discuss our options. Catriona had floated the idea of a writers’ collective some months earlier, so we considered the viability of a team effort. Going the independent route together seemed more manageable. After an honest conversation about our fears of failure and inadequacies as marketers, we established our ideals – high quality writing and professional presentation. We committed to publishing the books we wanted to write, not what the market dictated. Finally we realised our books shared another common element – location. Seemed like a good place to start.

Next came the tricky question of how to define ourselves. We did not want to be a small press, with all the administration of establishing a business. And as we were based in three different countries, it was impractical. The key thing was to retain our independence but benefit from working together. So we established an author collective.

Triskele Books logoLegally, we wanted to retain our own rights, so we chose not to create a publishing house. Instead, we would just act like one. We were a group of people who could edit, proof, consult, advise, co-promote and market on a shared platform. Each of us could work as an independent entity but we’d all benefit from mutual support. Financially, we would contribute equally to any costs incurred, such as webhosting, print materials and the design of our brand.

The Celtic symbol of the triskele (pronounced trisKEEL – rhymes with Big Deal) shows three independent circles, joining to form something greater than its parts. Only after we’d created the logo and built the website did we discover the triskele is an identifier for the BDSM community. Oh well, we thought, might even gain us some new readers. All welcome, bring your own handcuffs.

Where are we now?

Collage of Triskele book covers and authorsTwo years on, we’ve grown. Catriona Troth and Jane Dixon-Smith (who also happens to be our designer) joined the core team, and Jasper Dorgan became an Associate. Between us, we’ve published seventeen books. We’ve earned seals of approval, awards for both our books and our covers and appeared at several literary events. We amassed terrific reviews and gained enthusiastic readers. We’ve made a few spectacular mistakes and had the occasional disagreement, but our collective determination to make this work has pulled us back on our feet.

We didn’t do this by ourselves. The encouragement and advice of other writers, especially the ALLi community, has been invaluable. In fact, passing on what we’ve learned is the main reason for launching The Triskele Trail, the warts’n’all story of how we did it. The atmosphere of the indie community is supportive, energetic, positive, professional and creative, values right at the heart of Triskele Books. Looks like we’ve finally found the right place.

(The Triskele Trail is now available as an e-book.)

If you enjoyed this post, you might like to read about the choices made by these indie authors

 

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12 Responses to The Story of an Authors’ Collective: Triskele Books

  1. Simon February 18, 2015 at 7:41 am #

    Don’t understand the derogatory use of “homemade” for cover art from someone promoting a self-published (homemade?) book… If you have seen books in bad covers, they are bad because they are bad covers, not because they are “homemade”… Why puff up writers working from home and bucking the system, but run down illustrators and designers doing the same thing? Not the first time I’ve encountered this attitude either – that writing can be wrestled away from the system currently in place and handled by anyone with grit and determination, but cover design is black magic that must adhere to “proper” standards and conventions… There is good writing and bad writing, and neither is automatically due to whether or not they are “homemade”…

  2. Marisha Pink February 2, 2015 at 10:26 am #

    Fantastic post and hugely inspirational! Meeting the Triskele gang and seeing everything that you have achieved definitely gives the rest of us something to aspire to.

  3. JJ Marsh November 27, 2013 at 5:07 pm #

    Thanks so much for all the positive responses!
    The number of queries we’ve had means we’re now looking into how to make this a print book, while maintaining the usefulness of links. There’s always a new summit to conquer.
    But it’s really important to state how much help we’ve had. From fellow writers on critiques sites like Pete and Dan, from so many ALLi members’ generosity in sharing experiences, not to mention personal support by turning up at our launch events! Also from authors who’ve previously published traditionally like Polly, Andrew and Annemarie. The Triskele Trail is a collaborative effort in a far wider sense than the names on the cover. Thank you!

  4. clare weiner November 27, 2013 at 3:32 pm #

    Many congrats to the 5 authors involved!
    I’ve just read this with excitement: it is exactly what we want to do! Earlier this month we facilitated a discussion about the possibilities of what we termed ‘co-operative’ but is better described as ‘collective’ publishing – the best between the worlds of mainstream big guys and the self-publishing route, which does indeed continue to have a poor reputation due to those books which are published without due care & attention to the details like copy-editing etc etc… and I find people take one rather less seriously if your book is ‘self’ published…
    The thought of the mutual support and involvement of other writers is a big incentive, too.
    Am not yet sure how to take it further: my fiction might well be labelled ‘too cerebral’ even though I see it as Joanna Trollope meets Bridget Jones with maybe a touch of Patrick Gale…
    Anyhow, shall try to read the book, and keep looking out for possible collect-ables… Are there any out there, reading this??? Must update my website, polish up the confidence, and keep in touch with ALLi…

  5. Dixiane Hallaj November 24, 2013 at 3:28 pm #

    Inspiring story. I just ordered the book. I had trouble getting out of the UK site, but it worked. I wish you all the best of success, and thank you for improving the image of Indies everywhere.

  6. Karen Inglis November 23, 2013 at 7:30 pm #

    This looks great – I’ve just ordered a copy 🙂

  7. Gillian Hamer November 22, 2013 at 5:06 pm #

    Thanks so much, everyone. We are really pleased with how things are going, the hard work is now paying off, and we’re gaining momentum. Triskele Trail is like the icing on the cake for us and I hope everyone finds it useful. It feels as if people are finally taking notice and it was great to stand up in front of other writers at Chorleywood and pass on our advice. It was lovely to meet you, Debbie, and I look forward to doing it again soon!

  8. Debbie Young November 22, 2013 at 4:50 pm #

    I was lucky enough to go to the launch of “The Triskele Trail” and the other three books they were launching at the Chorleywood Literature Festival – my goodness, what a productive group these guys are! Really enjoyed their talk, which showed their natural synergy in action.

    The fact that they were able to get not one but two slots at this Literature Festival was a great achievement – as well as their talk, they ran a “Human Reference Library” offering one-to-one sessions about different aspects of self-publishing for anyone who wanted one. Brilliant!

    I read “The Triskele Trail” that weekend, and thought it was great – have already reviewed it on Amazon. 🙂

  9. Dianne Greenlay November 22, 2013 at 3:20 pm #

    Congratulations all Triskele members! This was such an encouraging,uplifting post and I’m picking up a copy of the Triskele Trail right after I leave this comment. You are a prime example of why the Indie community works so well – there is such a willingness to share our journeys and experiences, noting what worked and what didn’t. It is truly a “global family” that I feel so fortunate to be a part of.

  10. Pete Morin November 22, 2013 at 2:57 pm #

    Great story, couldn’t be a finer group of folks.

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