Thursday, January 28, 2010

Guest author Sue Lange: Cooperating in a Cooperative

At one time or another Sue Lange has been one of the following: child, student, potato picker, first chair flautist, librarian, last chair flautist, babysitter, newspaper deliverer, apple picker, form cutter, drama club treasurer, track and field timer, Ponderosa Steak House salad server (before the salad bar days, of course), disco dance instructor and waitress, among other things. Lately she's been writing.

How wonderful! Another successful cooperative effort between authors. Good luck to you in your efforts!

If Novel Spaces is anything like Book View Café, the cooperative I belong to, you all are keeping yourselves busy. There's a lot to do to maintain a group effort, but it's time well spent and a good use of the Internet.

First of all a cooperative requires authors to work together and share information on the business, the craft, and the gossip of the industry. Networking has always been important in publishing, but these days it might be the only thing that's important. Cooperative networking yields results way beyond that found in an online blogging community or a discussion forum. In a cooperative, each member's personal networking efforts are pooled for the sake of the community and the result is an exponentially larger reach.

Another advantage of a cooperative is that the work in developing the web presence is shared. It's hard for little known authors to get noticed, especially since publishers are doing less and less in the way of marketing. Book tours can be expensive and not always effective. Many of us turn to the Web for help. We get ourselves a personal site and voila we have a presence. But a website can be a lot of work to develop, maintain, market, and use to its fullest advantage. Sharing website duties makes all that easier, especially since not all of us are experts at everything. Some folks take to the tech end of things, some are better at the social networking aspect. Most people fall in between the two extremes and everyone does what they can. It all evens out in a successful cooperative venture.

If the site garners attention and a reputation for having interesting content, there are numerous opportunities to expand the cooperative's presence. For instance, team members can collaborate on producing Internet-only content or they can participate together in events such as multi-author chats or theme blog posts. Not only does a cooperative have a close-knit community that can provide authors and content at a drop of a hat, but any opportunities offered to a single member are easily extended to the group.

Going further, the cooperative can make a splash out in the real world. By sharing expenses for PR materials and a table, the group can attend more book conferences or expos and get its name out into places beyond the Internet.

A cooperative can be a seen as a training ground as well. Learning to cooperate in a cooperative is a great practice for bigger partnerships. Each step in your career requires more and deeper relationships with others. You might start out with an agent for a partner. Eventually you'll work with an editor and a publisher. Finally you may one day decided to hire a publicist. Wherever you're at in the process, by joining a cooperative you'll gain experience in working with others. Today's successful author is no longer the genius working in the garret bestowing pithiness on a public that hungers for literary witticism. Nowadays people want their MTV. You can't give it to them unless you know a lot of people between here and the Show. The cooperative experience is one way to hone your partnership skills.

There is no guarantee for success when starting up a cooperative, however. Failure is inevitable if the members don't agree on the direction the group should take. The most important thing is to define the group's goals correctly right at the start. Goals can change, of course, as the group grows, but everyone needs to be on the same page in the beginning. Book View's main reason for existence was to bring our unavailable work to the public. The authors at BVC are all published in the print world and quite a number have been around for a while, which means some of their work has gone out of print. This can be frustrating for an author whose fans demand the earlier books. The Internet, and specifically BVC, offers its members a way to get this work back into the hands of the readers.

Another mission BVC gave itself, was to provide a place for experimentation. Authors come up with a lot of unusual ideas for their creative efforts and publishers can not always accommodate them. But the Internet can. Witness my multimedia extravaganza, The Textile Planet, published last year by BVC. With sound files and links to back story, the book is unpublishable as a print work, but it's perfect for an Internet offering.

Regardless of what Google, Amazon, the IRS, and numerous pro-censorship groups are doing to control its youthful vigor, the Internet is still an untamed entity. We, as authors, have an opportunity at this moment to try all kinds of unmannerly things in this sandbox. Eventually the Internet may evolve into something old and established, staid and reputable (i.e no longer experimental), but right now cooperatives can use it to showcase wild and woolly authorish things. It's a great time to be part of a larger entity.

My hats are off to you Novel Spaces as you discover your cooperative capabilities. There is strength (and marketing opportunities) in numbers. Keep up the good work and don't forget to come visit BVC when you get a chance.

Sue Lange

Bookshelf at BVC
Sue Lange's ebook, Uncategorized, is available at Smashwords


Kaz Augustin said...

Hi there Sue and welcome to our little corner of the universe! Yes, I can second that Book View Cafe is another great cooperative. I have you guys on feed so I never miss a post.

Sue Lange said...

Hey Kaz,

Nice to bump into you here. You're really all over the place aren't you. How's the podcasting going? Still doing it?

Haven't been over to your site in a while. Guess I'd better go check it out.


P.S. Liane, thanks for doing a fantastic job with all the links. You're really on top of things!

Kaz Augustin said...

Yeah, Liane is great isn't she? As is Stef. :) They both do a lot of hard work in the background. Not sure that I have their stamina or their good eye for consistency in monitoring a site like this. Kudos to them both.