Triskele Books is an author collective spread over three countries and two time zones. So it’s no surprise that all Triskele novels have a strong sense of time and place.
How does it work? Answers from the gang.
How does an author collective differ from a small press?
Jill: It’s very similar to a small press, but the crucial difference is our independence. Legally, we wanted to retain our own rights, so we chose not to create a publishing house. Instead, we just act like one. We’re a group of people who can edit, proof, consult, advise, co-promote and market on a shared platform. Each of us works as an independent entity but we all benefit from mutual support. Financially, we contribute equally to any costs incurred, such as webhosting, print materials, etc, but each of us keeps the profits from our own books.
What factors triggered each of you to go indie?
Liza: We’d met each other via an online writing group, and found ourselves in a similar situation: Gillian and I both had agents, but they couldn’t find our books a home. Jill stopped trying the trad route after an agent called her work too cerebral. Catriona was left dangling by a publisher for two years, until she wrote them a rejection letter. And Jane (JD) loved the freedom of creativity found by going indie.
We got together and discussed our options. Going the independent route, as a team, felt more manageable. We established ideals: high quality writing and professional presentation, and committed ourselves to publishing the books we wanted to write, not what the market dictated.
How did your publishing cooperative come together, and what made you decide to establish it? How many of you are there?
Catriona: I began reading about author collectives in the States. And I thought this has to be the way forward, the power in working together.
So four years ago, the original members of Triskele met in London to decide if the idea really had legs. Turns out it did. Ten of them.
Triskele has five core members and periodically we bring ‘associates’ on board, whose writing we feel we can develop. We were recently dubbed The Wu-Tang Clan of Publishing.
What elements of the publishing process are done collectively? How do you handle the finances, such as royalties and so on?
Gillian: We critique, edit and proof each other’s drafts before they go for professional proofreadings. If needed we all give advice on cover design too.
Finances have been relatively simple. We all keep our own royalties from sales of our own books. If we choose to market or advertise Triskele collectively, we all contribute equal shares. And for joint ventures, like The Triskele Trail, we divide initial outlay and profits go into our Triskele bank account to cover future overheads like webhosting, print materials, advertising etc.
Where does the Triskele name come from? Does a Triskele book have an identifiable style that sets it apart?
Jane: The name came from the Celtic symbol of the triskele, which shows three independent circles joining to form something greater than its parts. It represents the concept of our collective – authorial independence balanced by mutual support. Going it alone, together.
Triskele books are top quality – they must be well-written, tell a good story and contain a strong sense of place, which is Triskele’s USP. They’re also thoroughly edited, proofread, carefully typeset and have a professional cover.
What about the design aspects? Do you share a designer? And do you try and go for a shared look or feel?
Liza: We’re lucky enough to have talented designer JD Smith on the team, so yes, we all use the same designer. We don’t go for a shared look since we range across different genres, but we try to harmonise all our visual material.
You are located in three different countries. How do you manage the communication issue?
Gillian: Skype! And email. And we have our own Facebook private page. We communicate every day but only meet physically three or four times a year. But when we do, it’s brilliant fun!
What do you see as the key benefits of being in a collective? Any disadvantages? What advice would you give someone thinking of doing the same?
Catriona: Two huge advantages! Firstly, you are not a lone voice crying in the wilderness. These days, it can be pretty hard to keep thinking of new and original things to say, so you don’t become one of those awful people on social media who just keeps bleating, ‘buy my book, buy my book!’ Being part of a group means you can take turns spreading the word in your own style.
The second advantage is having someone to answer questions and give advice. Among the five of us, someone will have had the same problem and know a solution. And on a larger scale, there’s the Alliance of Independent Authors, an amazing source of information.
Disadvantages? The classic downside of being a team player – if you mess up, it’s not just yourself you’re letting down. That adds a lot of pressure. But the flipside is the others are there to catch you if you fall.
My advice would be to learn from those who’ve gone before, then find the path that’s right for you. There’s no one way to do this.How do you know whether an author is a good ‘fit’ for Triskele Books? Are you actively seeking new members?
Jane: Writing good books is a given. We as a group need to ‘fit’. When working so closely as a team, it’s important everyone pulls their weight and believes in the collective as a whole. We share experiences, snippets of information, the highs and lows, opportunities for genres, news stories relevant to an author’s theme, place or period. We’re really supportive of each other and the group. We’re not seeking new members at the moment. We’ve found our ideal balance.
What are your plans for the future?
Jill: Every six months, we stop and evaluate where we’re going. What’s working, what needs to be improved, and how best to move forward. We’re planning The Big Launch Party for November 2015, writing new books and organising festival appearances; exploring formats, such as audiobooks, boxsets, translations and adaptations, and finding more ways to connect good books to discerning readers.
Gillian E Hamer’s novels are set in North Wales, blending modern crime, ancient history and an otherworldly element.
JJ Marsh writes contemporary European crime. The Beatrice Stubbs series explores ethics, politics and justice – from Athens to Zürich.
Liza Perrat’s historical fiction novels are set in rural France against the backdrop of the French Revolution, WWII and The Black Plague from the perspective of extraordinary women.
Catriona Troth’s novella, Gift of the Raven, takes place in Canada in the 1970s while Ghost Town tackles the themes of race and identity in 1980s Coventry.
JD Smith’s retelling of the Tristan and Iseult legend brings ancient Ireland and Cornwall vividly to life. The Overlord Series takes the reader back to 3rd Century Syria to tell the story of Zenobia, Warrior Queen of Palmyra.