With submissions around the corner, we’re coming into our regular “but if it’s self-publishing then what’s the point of a co-op” season, so I wanted to take a moment to give a little bit of background about it.
If you have ever self-published or done any research into it, you have more than likely either been advised to (or actually gone as far as doing so) register a publishing name for yourself and purchase ISBNs from the US ISBN agency, Bowker. There are several reasons you may have done this or been advised to do so:
- to enable you to publish your print editions through IngramSpark, which allows you to set returnability and a standard wholesale discount for bookstores, libraries, etc.
- to give your books the “appearance” of being traditionally published by having a publisher name attached to your book rather than CreateSpace Independent Publishing.
- to maintain a bit more control over your books and your brand rather than relying on Amazon for everything.
There are others, especially if you do a bit of poking around, but those three are the ones I hear the most.
The problem with this is that it’s expensive to purchase ISBNs as an individual and even more expensive if you go as far as setting up an LLC for your business. For many authors it can be prohibitively expensive when you’re already having to sink money into editing and cover design.
The primary purpose SWP was founded was so a group of friends who were also self-published authors could share the expense — one imprint name, one batch of ISBNs that we split the cost on.
Additionally, as YA and MG authors, it is extremely difficult to make any headway as indie authors, particularly if you write YA and MG geared for teenagers rather than adult readers of “YA.” Traditional publishing dominates that market, which is still largely print-based. There are inroads that can be made as individuals, but we quickly found that when a group of us comes together, we have a much easier time of it, and if one person has a connection to the industry that they are able to use, it usually can benefit everyone in the group.
Just as a regular publisher builds trust with readers and industry professionals by consistently releasing strong and engaging titles, by bringing together a large group of indie authors who consistently put out quality titles, Snowy Wings Publishing has developed a good reputation over the last two years for producing quality books, which has led to us receiving shelf space in places that are more difficult to reach on one’s own. This is why we have such strict content guidelines in place and use a vetting process rather than letting just anyone join: in order to maintain the trust we’ve earned in our titles’ quality with readers and industry gatekeepers. Librarians, booksellers and readers have come to expect the same quality from our books as from a “regular” publisher, and we intend to keep it that way. Indie publishing has long had a stigma of producing subpar work, and one of our goals is to help undo that stereotype by showing that indie books can be just as good as traditional ones. We’ve found we have an easier time of doing that under one banner rather than doing that alone.
“But how can you stay afloat by not taking any of your authors’ profits? That sounds like a scam!”
Because we’re not a business. We’re essentially a club. We are a group of indie authors publishing under one banner and that’s all there is to it. Everything is handled by the authors themselves on a volunteer basis. One person runs the website, one person runs the Twitter, one person runs the Instagram and Facebook. We have someone who manages the street team and someone who sends out the newsletter every month and someone who maintains all our metadata at Bowker. Each of these people is one of our authors. It’s all volunteer-run. The ISBNs were purchased in bulk and when you’ve got a new book coming out, you chip in the five bucks for your number and that reimburses the authors who chipped in up front to buy the numbers in bulk. When we have a bigger expense like renewing our website hosting, renewing our IBPA membership or getting a table at a trade conference, whoever’s in charge of organizing that thing will post in our author group and go, “Who can help chip in for this expense?” Then people will volunteer and the cost will get split among those who can afford to contribute at that time, and usually breaks down to a pretty small amount per person because there are so many of us that we’re able to break it down to a low cost for everyone. That’s just one more reason why a co-op is a good idea: on my own, I couldn’t afford to get a table at a big trade show like Portland Book Festival, but when we were able to split the cost, it was affordable for everyone and everyone’s books got to be represented and put in front of thousands of readers.
This is on top of all the other benefits of the group: advice, tips, feedback, and friendship. The authors who have joined our group have been very happy with it, as you can see from their testimonials. That’s why we decided to open our imprints (Animus Ferrum and Caleo) — because many of our authors have branched into writing other genres besides YA, but they didn’t want to go it alone. Maybe something like this isn’t as critical to make it in the romance world or the adult speculative fiction world, but the fact that our authors wanted to do it together rather than going it alone to me speaks volumes about the kind of relationship the SWP authors have with each other and the value they place on publishing together rather than individually.
If you have any questions about Snowy Wings Publishing or its imprints, please feel free to send me an e-mail. I hope this cleared up some confusion, and if you’re interested in joining SWP, be sure to check out our submissions page — we’re opening subs next week!