My fabulous colleagues at Triskele make me sound rather nice.
This is the third in our series – what each brings to Triskele Books.
June 19, 2016
So things are happening…
Pop-up bookshop, genre panels, Preserving the Unicorn, Human Library, goodie bags and non-stop booktalk.
This is not ‘talking about diversity’. This is being diverse.
Authors are invited to talk about their work – regardless of publishing route or ethnicity – readers are invited to add their opinions. This is for writers and readers, publishers and booksellers.
Rumour is, there’ll be a party too.
Sharpen your pencils, writerly sorts.
We have TEN weeks of creative writing exercises from expert tutors at your disposal.
Free. Yes, seriously free. No sign-up, no cash, no email address, this is open access.
And it is an imagination workout from some of the best international tutors there are. Drum roll…
Emma Darwin, Tracey Warr, Roz Morris, Jo Furniss, Amanda Hodgkinson, Lindsey Grant, Jessica Bell, Karen Pegg, Laurence O’Bryan and Triskele Books on all aspects of writing technique.
Starts July 1st and subsequent Fridays.
Join in, comment, share your results (if you like) and flex those writerly muscles.
Zürich’s cultural quarterly changes with the seasons.
Our next issue is themed Beginnings.
Have a look at our last issue – Borders.
And if you’d like to contribute something thinky and artistic, bring it on.
Can’t sign off this week’s blog without a comment. (It’s my blogpost and I’ll rant if I want to.)
Collaboration is bloody hard work, often boring and frustrating, with as much energy devoted to peace-keeping as to creativity.
Sure, each of us could vote out and go it alone.
We could drop the whole thing and pursue our own egotistical agendas. Wear fake tan, go blond and thump our individual tubs.
But we don’t. We argue and discuss and get pissed/pissed off and laugh and agree and remind each of why we wanted to do this.
Every single project needs the hard slog of negotiation and commitment to the end result.
It works. It really does.
Generosity and openness, concessions and compromise lead to fabulous things, which sometimes involve Prosecco.
Teamwork, togetherness and the daily niggles of trying to do stuff with other people is damn good shit, even if it doesn’t always feel that way.
The EU is hard work. But that is what democracy means. It cannot be summed up in a slogan, an image or a chant.
But I will quote my university professor: Go the bloody hard way. Don’t give up.
For me, that means Remain.
October 18, 2015
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.
July 24, 2015
My memories of real experiences bump and blend with stories. Recollections of a childhood tangle with those of Michael Ondaatje (The Cat’s Table), Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Half of a Yellow Sun) and Dylan Thomas (A Child’s Christmas in Wales).
Books have taken me places I’ve never been. Moscow feels familiar thanks to Martin Cruz Smith (Gorky Park). Susan Barker (The Incarnations) showed a China I could never experience and Barbara Demick (Nothing to Envy) lifted the cover off North Korea. Tim Winton (Breath) illustrated the other side o f Australia, while Alan Duff (Once Were Warriors) shone a new light on New Zealand.
Books take you places you could never imagine, inviting a selective perspective via sensory immersion. You feel the dry wind off the desert, see the exotic blooms, hear the cicadas. You’re there.
How? Through the senses.
Our sampler of eight short stories set in a distinct time and place. And to complete your sensory immersion, each story is accompanied by a local recipe. All for less than the price of an ice-cream.
A Taste of Triskele: adventures through time, place and taste.
A little of what you fancy does you good.
A Taste of Triskele
A tale, a place, a time, a taste.
Eight delectable short stories, each set in a distinctive location, accompanied by a local dish.
Fall in love with honey, bite into bitterness, sweeten the secrets, indulge your excesses, tickle your palette and free your imagination.
Whether you’re on a beach or in your own back garden, escape into extraordinary worlds.
Bon voyage. And bon appétit.
April 30, 2015
Recent events at Foyles Bookshop (see below) in central London created some multi-media perspectives on indie authorship and author collectives.
First up, audio.
Here’s a radio interview with JD Smith and myself, talking about Triskele Books author collective with Roz Morris and Peter Snell on Surrey Hills Radio. (Warning, contains seriously cool music.)
This take on the collective is neatly delivered by our fellow Triskelite Catriona Troth, speaking here to Ingram Spark.
April 22, 2014
This whole argument feels like a perennial pinball machine, where opinions converge, collide, bend at impossible angles and ricochet off in another direction.
Debbie Young confronted the Elephant in the Room on the Self-Publishing Advice blog. Porter Anderson raised the topic via his Twitter debate #muse14. This phenomenon is the slightly awkward relative at a wedding, whose social skills are dubious, but you can’t get away from the fact you are related.
Let’s face it, lots of self-published books are crap. Whether that’s the cover, the writing or simply the concept, which might have been better off unpublished and retained as a private, personal seven-volume diatribe on vengeance / erotica / combustion engines.
It’s my hugest concern.
‘How could this be better?’ is the question I ask most. (This includes Where’s the corkscrew? Who the hell gave that git a driving licence? Do you need a pee and poo? – to husband, pugs and random strangers, not necessarily in that order.)
Self/indie publishing has many different perspectives. The radical and ground-breaking such as eightcutsgallerypress. The various methods of author collectives – genre, marketing, support, shared readership – all show that there is no one route to success.
When starting the Triskele Books collective, we set ourselves a challenge. Three elements were non-negotiable:
The first two points are pretty easy to judge, but the last, as we grow and learn, is far harder to define. What IS good writing? And who says so? We’ve worked together for years; as amateur critique partners, indie team-mates and now professional colleagues, thus we trust each other’s insight.
I could break down each of my books and tell you where the Triskelites made it better. I hope they’d say the same. Because we don’t settle for OK. It’s never ‘good enough’. It has to be the very best it can be, and that can take three or seven rewrites, a new cover design, or a total change of blurb.
New Triskele associates get that. These are writers prepared to listen, do the work and make a good book something exceptional. A collective depends on every single book being a flagship. You liked this? Well, there’s more where that came from. We’re currently reading the manuscripts from new potential associates, and offering structural/copy edit/line edit support, alongside marketing advice and collaborative opportunities.
This is what we do.
I’ve read some great books lately. Lowland, String Bridge, Night Train to Lisbon, A Funeral for an Owl, The Glass Room, The Fleshmarket, Vlad the Inhaler, Spilt Milk: approximately 50/50 indie & trad published.
I’ve read some utter bilge, too. Seven (trad) books sit on the StinkPile, to be exchanged at the local coffee shop for something worth reading. At least six Kindle indies got deleted less than 10% in. Life’s too short for derivative, shallow and crappy – unless that’s what you’re looking for. (If so, you’re in luck – there’s a shedload.)
I have them in reading. I want them in my writing. And as much as I am a bigmouthed, opinionated gobshite, I know other people’s input will take my work beyond my own reach. I hope mine can contribute in the same way.