Five thousand kilometers away from where I currently am, a book is being launched this afternoon. I didn’t conceive of this book, or write it, but I have a lot invested in it, and I’m sorry to be missing the launch.
A Gap in the Fence, by Kate Anderson-Bernier, is the first book other than my own that I have published as the sole proprietor of a tiny publishing company, Arboretum Press. I’m also an editor, and Kate and I met at a writers’ discussion group. She was looking for an editor, so we started to work together. While Kate’s wasn’t the first book I’d edited by far, she was the first client who lived in the same town as me. And over the months we worked together, I started to see a new vision for the press.
What if, I’m wondering, the press is a cooperative? I’m already doing a lot of work on an exchange-of-skills basis – and – (and I realize this is important) – I don’t need the press to make money, just not lose it. Right now, I operate Arboretum Press as a not-for-profit company, so all income beyond the royalties on my books, and only my books, go to a literacy charity.
But what if (the starting point for all good stories) there were a group of writers and editors and cover designers running Arboretum Press? What if we shared expertise and talents and marketing (and that’s a big, big one in this business) but at little or no financial risk: an investment of time and talent, not money. As long as we stay small, focus on the local independent bookstore market (as well as distribution through the big on-line retailers, if the author chooses) I think it’s workable. I envision it being fluid, people moving in and out of the co-op as their time and interest allow.
I’ll be discussing the idea with some of my writing friends-and-colleagues when I get home in April. We’ll start very small, if we start, and if it doesn’t fly, well, I’ll just keep on with the press as it is, publishing a few books a year – I have three lined up for the next 18 months. But writing and indie publishing can be a very solitary business, and perhaps a publishing cooperative can help alleviate that. It’s worth a try.
If you’ve ever been involved in anything like this, drop me a line with your experiences!