In May of 2012, the indie publishing cooperative that I am a part of, Myrddin Publishing Group, was formed. As a group, we originally met through a now-defunct literary contest. We have members all across the US, the UK, and Australia.
The way we communicate is through a private group page on Facebook. We numbered twenty-five when we first began, and while we have lost a few members to traditional publishers, we have also gained a few.
Membership in our group is closed at this time. We don’t seek new authors, and as a company, we do not control any author’s royalties.
Each of us is an indie, in that all funds earned by our books go directly to the author from the point of sale.
That storefront could be Amazon, Kobo, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Books2Read (Draft2Digital’s storefront), or Ingram Sparks. The individual author uploads their books to the sales outlet of their choice.
I publish through both Amazon KDP and Draft2Digital. Amazon is the big kid on the block, and so far, I’m satisfied with their print book services. Some in my group use Amazon KDP for print, and others use Ingram Sparks for their print books.
Draft2Digital partners with a wide variety of digital storefronts, including Bibliotheca, which gets my books into libraries around the world.
Each member author has sole responsibility for their book. They must pay any local or federal taxes owed on their royalties and are responsible for marketing their own work.
The publishing co-op model we use is quite simple. We pay $25.00 a year to be a member.
One of our members lives in Wales, and her husband is employed in internet security. She manages the website and he is our IT man.
- Each member author is each responsible for creating their own author page on the website, listing their books, and keeping their author page updated.
We have a nominal leader since every group needs a person in charge. She manages our tiny bank account and makes a full report of how the money was spent every year. Usually, our funds are spent on services the group can use and benefit from.
For us, the main benefit is low cost ISBNs that are not provided by Amazon KDP. Some people don’t mind using Amazon’s ISBNs, but we like having our own.
When we first started in 2012, we bought 1000 ISBNs. A member who is a retired bookkeeper in Essex, England, manages those for us.
In 2012 those ISBNs cost us $1000.00, and we divided up the costs ($40.00 for each of us). I believe the cost for ISBNs has doubled since then, but don’t quote me on that.
All our financial transactions are through the Myrddin PayPal account to our leader, and each Myrddin member can ransom back the requisite number of ISBNs (Kindle, Draft2Digital, and Print, etc.) for $1.00 each.
We have enough ISBN’s for all of us to create books for many years to come.
- We trade services within the group.
Several of us will edit or beta-read as needed. I and several other members do book covers, digital maps, banners, bookmarks, and logos as needed.
There are some things to consider before you start your own publishing cooperative:
- Member participation is what makes the group functional.
Not every member will be an active participant. As time goes on, you may find yourself doing more work than you want and getting little in return from some.
- At the outset, the group should develop and vote on a list of member responsibilities ( a group charter).
This list should detail what sort of behavior is expected or discouraged in online interactions.
That charter should also explain clearly what the group will do for its member authors, and how membership is obtained.
You will need two Facebook pages. One should be private for group discussions. The other should be public for posting entertainment pieces, such as memes that relate to writing and books.
- The public page is where book launches can be advertised.
- Also, the public FB page is where you publicize information about events individual member authors will be at or forthcoming book releases.
I suggest that you have two or three people in charge of posting things on the Public Facebook page and several other people in charge of your group’s Twitter and or Instagram account.
- Someone with good bookkeeping skills should act as a financial officer.
This person manages any funds generated by member dues or anthologies and pays for the group’s website hosting.
- The financial officer should have two assistants to review the financial records and ensure transparency.
Financial reports should be posted regularly, so the member authors know how the group is doing. The assistants should be authorized to step in if the financial officer is unable to fulfill their duties for any reason.
- All decisions should be voted on by the group.
When things need to be discussed that affect the group as a whole, my co-op will hold a “meeting thread” over the course of a week on our private FB group page. That is where we decide what we want to do with the fee-money.
- Google any publishing names you might want to use before you settle on one.
Don’t choose a name that is already in use as it may be trademarked. Be unique and be clever, but be careful.
Editing, beta reading, proofreading—these services are why a co-op is a good thing and should be traded freely.
Some members may have skills in graphic design and will design book covers, or logos.
- You must be able to politely express that you can’t use a service, such as a cover design you don’t like. At that point, be prepared to quietly seek and pay for professional services outside the group.
Remember, all of these are time-consuming services. When you trade services, those who provide them for you are not earning money. Be gentle with those who are helping you.
I can’t stress this enough: Even if you don’t use a service that a fellow member offers to you, be a good friend. Give back to the group and help them when it’s their turn to seek services and help.
There will sometimes be rough patches in the group’s overall Zen.
I mentioned that each member of our co-op is responsible for listing their own books on the website and keeping their author page updated.
Sometimes we have problems with people who are less website savvy not being able to figure out how to update their books on the website.
Also, people get sidetracked by life and forget what they’re supposed to do for the group.
Those are minor irritations.
Overall, I have found this publishing model to be the best fit for me. I write short stories and submit to traditional publications, but I prefer to go indie for my novels.
As group, Myrddin certainly doesn’t have all the answers. We have evolved more independently than from where we began, but we are all still good friends. This is not a one-size-fits all kind of thing.
Use the internet and research other small press models.
If you are considering forming an indie publishing cooperative, I hope this has answered some questions you might have had.