The hardest thing – harder than agreeing on ethics, choosing a name, crystallizing a mission statement, designing a logo and making decisions across three countries – is explaining what we are.
We’re not a small press. We look like one, marked by distinctive visuals and a cohesive identity. We behave like one, actively using the Triskele brand as a trusted stamp of quality. But we’re not. We’re five individuals working together to promote writing which deserves to be read.
Yeah, I know. Sounds like a small press. But there’s a difference.
We’re an author collective.
Triskele Books is a platform, a support net, a team of experts, a many-headed organism. It aims to match great books to those discerning readers seeking something a little different.
OK, sounds great on paper.
Our biggest mistake? Everyone trying to do everything. We soon learned it was better to assign tasks to individual strengths. This lesson wasn’t cheap. After losing a website, dragging books across London on a hot Saturday afternoon and putting noses out of joint by forgetting to use REPLY ALL, we stopped and analysed why teamwork was hard work. And faced the fact that we were not polymaths. Each had a skill, and we should focus on that.
Gillian, Liza, Catriona, Jane and I met via an online critique site. The virtual connection was a necessity – we’re spread across Europe, from Anglesey to Zurich. Despite the differences in our genres, we gravitated towards one another, attracted by the quality of one another’s writing. Personally, I couldn’t understand why these people’s books weren’t already on the shelves, taking the place of some of the worst mass-produced crowd-pleasers.
In late 2011, after publishing professionals assured various members that ‘cross-genre won’t sell’, ‘crime novels shouldn’t be too cerebral’, ‘I love it but can’t see how to sell it’, ‘people won’t read this’, we met up with the express intention of discussing self-publishing. It felt surreptitious, subversive and really rather liberating.
Honest about our fears, we all expressed reservations about poorly written, badly presented vanity projects and the lonely prospect of trying to tout our own books in a crowded marketplace. Obviously, we’d be stronger together; as editors, as marketers, as a team. We looked at each of our books and realised that aside from the quality of writing, something else had drawn us to these stories – the place. We made a mission statement: focus on the writing, not the market. Then we bashed out a philosophy founded on three principles:
- High quality writing
- Professional presentation
- A strong sense of place
Oh well, we thought, might even gain us some new readers. All welcome, bring your own handcuffs.
Independence is essential. We opted for self-publishing because we wanted certain non-negotiable basics: creative control, speed and choice.
Teamwork is vital in preparing the books – editing, proofing and ensuring each meets the standards we set ourselves. Four editors could be counter-productive, but we all hold onto the central idea – what does the author want to achieve? How can we help?
Each writer self-publishes her/his own book(s), retaining all the rights. Choices regarding print and/or e-book, which distributor, exclusivity or otherwise, translation rights, etc – it’s all up to the individual author.
We’re not a registered company, although we have our own website and social media presence. We work on a basis of trust. If costs are incurred, for marketing materials, launch parties, etc, we chip in an equal amount, relying on our cash-savvy member to balance the books.
We argue. It doesn’t happen often, but we do. However, among five voices, we always find balance.
Image is crucial. And this is where we hit lucky. One of the team, Jane Dixon-Smith, is an experienced graphic designer. She creates distinctive covers with individual identities, but still clearly part of the brand. Not to mention bookmarks, posters and adverts.
(And our host will understand the importance of great covers. Jessica’s Bitter Like Orange Peel is one of the most beautiful I’ve seen.)
It’s two years since we launched Triskele Books and we’ve not looked back. We have enthusiastic readers; superb sales and great reviews; we have an agent for translation rights and a book club like no other; we’re all members of The Alliance of Independent Authors, (ethics and excellence in independent publishing); we have awards, seals, badges and eager future members; and we have another three books brewing for next summer.
Damn good stories in distinctive places. Turns out we’re not that hard to define.
The Triskele Books Collective has released ten books so far. Another three will be launched on Saturday 16 November, 2013, at Chorleywood Literary Festival, where they will be taking questions as a panel, and as individuals via the Human Reference Library.