Ten Shades of Author Collaboration – Why Writers Shouldn’t Compete
Why is it that every time I talk to writers ‘new’ to the digital world I end up feeling like I’ve volunteered to be a crash-test dummy for a dozen cars? I’ve just come back from the Adelaide Writers’ Festival with a bit of a bee in my bonnet. Even after all the studies, the blog posts, the infographs and pie graphs, authors and publishers are still under the impression that only the few elite will ever be writers and apparently the whole population of worldwide readers will only read the books of their one perfect author. That god awful vibe still exists, insisting we (authors) are all in competition with each other, and if we even get out readers to look sideways at another author’s book, we will lose their hard won attention, forever!
“Let’s face it, not everyone can be a writer, there’s not enough room,” was the mantra I heard again and again. I’m surprised I didn’t see more writers wandering around the festival looking like escaped kidnapping victims with hoods duct-taped over their heads. Setting aside the fact that I’ve been asked to swallow a steaming pile of BS, let’s break this down a little. There a millions of readers across the globe, it is ridiculous to assume they will only read one book or one author in their life time (40+ reading years). Let’s assume only half or a quarter of the millions were voracious readers, where reading (and I know a lot of you feel me here) is a way of life and once you’ve made it through all those Harry Potter novels you need more pumpkin juice. I can name a dozen favourite authors off the top of my head, none of which are producing books fast enough, collectively, to fill more than two-three months of my allocated reading time. So what do I do for the other nine months (Or eight if you subtract a month’s worth of social media)? Making floral arrangements? Completing my ninja training? No! I’m sampling the wears of new authors, who may not have as much ‘talent’ as my favourites but are competent, and entertaining and still worth my reading time. They may not be the elite writing-del-a-creame, on the NY Times bestsellers, but they write books in genres I like to read.
While readers in the past were restricted to by the cost of printed books, with digital books people are finding reading more affordable. Surveys as far back as 2010 were already noting that 40% of people using e-readers are reading more books now than they did when they were reading print books and that number has only increased. In America surveys suggest that 31% of the population own tablets and 26% own e-readers. In Germany almost 1 million e-readers were sold in 2012.
E-book authors are in a unique position where we have a sector of the market that’s at least 50% voracious readers, ready to snap up a good recommendation from an author that they just read and loved. So why wouldn’t you, as an author, collaborate with other authors whose work you enjoyed, and send them your readers? Think of this as a marketing exercise: if a reader is done with your books (yes, all of them), how do you continue to build their trust in you? By giving them good recommendations, and in the process, another author is building the trust with their readers by sending them to you. It’s a simple concept. No two authors follow the same marketing strategy, which means that every author will have reached different people. No two sets of fandom are the same.
At the risk of sounding cheesy, we need to share the love, not horde the treasure. Because let’s face it, everyone dies, and hording treasure never to use it, is stupid. Better to make connections and friends and promote an abundance economy (Channelling Seth Godin’s Icarus Deception here). As the ever wise J.A. Konrath says:
One hand should always be reaching up for your next goal. The other should be reaching down to help others get where you’re at. We’re all in the same boat. Start passing out oars.
So what are authors doing to promote not only their own work, but the work of their collaborators? One of the best examples I’ve come across is the hugely successful Ten Shades of Sexy, a perma-free ebook which features sex scenes from ten different novels and authors. The premise is simple; ten authors got together to produce a compilation book that brought a reader nothing but the ‘good parts’ of their sexy romance novels. They knew their audience well, and took advantage of the knowledge that romance readers loved to bookmark ‘the good parts’ of their favourite novels and gave them just what they wanted. The brilliance of this project is twofold; you have ten authors promoting the same book to their networks of different readers. By supporting each other’s work they are building their own fan bases. Secondly, the book is comprised of novel samples, so the ultimate aim is to use this free book to urge readers to purchase the full novels.
At first glance looking at the Goodreads reviews you would think the exercise had failed with an average star rating of 2.98. But if you delve into the reviews you find that the reviewers have given it 3 stars because the ‘novel’ doesn’t stand as its own book (remember, this was not its purpose – to read like a rounded anthology). The reviews then go on to admit that at least every reader put one or more of the novels sampled on their to-read list. That was the aim, to gain more readers and sell more books; Ten Shade’s Of Sexy did what it was supposed to do. I will admit I read it, and love it for a different reason. I got to read the racy parts without having to go through what I saw as the tiresome parts of a romance! But that’s my genre preference. It’s worth noting that this book is still in the top 100 free Amazon Kindle downloads after almost 8 months (#64 at time of publication).
While this is a great example, this may not be the ideal way for authors to collaborate in other genres. I have blogged about this before but consider going out right now and reading other indie authors in your genre. If you like what you read, and feel your readers would enjoy it too, approach the author about collaborating! Put the synopsis for their novel at the back of yours and have them do the same for you. Then every reader who finishes your novel, full to the brim with praise for your prose, sees the ad and because they liked your book so much they take your recommendation and purchase the other novel. It’s a win-win situation for both authors. You can be very clinical about your choice of collaborator if you wish, asking them about the size of their fan base and the number of downloads they have, making sure they are similar to your own. You could also wear a Dracula mask and shout boo at them through their living room window, but hey, if you want to scare off collaborators it’s your choice. You can even join the affiliate programs of Amazon, Smashwords and Kobo and get paid a percentage for every collaborator novel you sell through the back of the book (how I would do it).
So let’s collaborate with each other, spread the love and ignore the treasure hoarders.
Use the comments section below to describe your novel (no links to where the novel is sold please, this isn’t a free promotion bid) post your email, and find collaborators.
Please be gentle with each other, for a potential collaborator may not mesh and that’s ok, it’s about finding a good fit and not everyone will fit, first in best dressed is not the aim of the game. Just remember, it is better to live in a community then take part in an imaginary competition that only exists in the minds of the ‘elite’.
Speaking of collaboration, this is the next phase I want to implement in my own novel The Grand Adventures of Madeline Cain, a YA comedy set in Facebook, just released in December. If you are an YA indie author who writes humorously or for a chick-lit (think Meg Cabot) YA audience please feel free to drop me an email ebookrevolution (at) yahoo (dot) com. Let’s swap books and go from there. The Chick-lit/humour element is important! Straight genres that don’t include these elements (paranormals/fantasies/sci-fis etc) probably won’t fit. I like these novels, but they’re not my target audience. Don’t forget to put ‘author collaboration’ in the subject heading so it doesn’t get spammed!