There is power in numbers as I experienced yesterday. I spent some time meeting with a couple other members from the local SCBWI-Houston Speakers Cooperative to work out the basic framework for an event we hope to put on at the end of September. I doubt this would be possible or as powerful had the idea been broached by a single writer. A number of writers definitely make the event more attractive. This is the second year of the coop’s existence but my first year as a member. We have about twenty members who are local published authors, mostly members of the local SCBWI chapter, and who write and/or illustrate books for children and young adults. The coop uses the money raised from membership fees and annual events to commercially produce an attractive magazine-formatted catalog. Each member has one half of a page (vertical) and a photo, brief bio, 2-3 covers, and speaking presentations are listed. This catalog is then sent to about 3,000 recipients who book or have an interest in finding speakers for their schools–usually teachers and librarians.
In addition the coop does three or four postcard mailings. We also put on events such as the annual Writing Academy 101 to raise money for other marketing opportunities such as attending TLA, IRA and other high visibility annual conferences. These events include major exhibit halls where it’s pretty expensive to get and man a booth. By using the money we earn from events and with each member participating providing manpower, we’re able to show our books, schedule autographings during the trade show and roam the hall looking to see what the publishers and others in the industry are doing. Often we even find editors manning the trade show booths and find we’re suddenly having one of those rare face-to-face moments with them.
Coops are a great marketing tool for writers who are, mostly, devoid of the necessary funds to handle major marketing efforts. By combining money, time, and effort all manner of things are possible. In recent months I’ve seen a flurry of cooperative efforts by writers. This week’s Kirkus Reviews Newsletter, a semimonthly newsletter delivered to my email inbox, highlighted a recent column called The Merry Band of Literary Bloggers Find Strength in Number by the Book Babes about a new cooperative effort, the Litblog Coop, comprised of twenty literary bloggers or litblogs who have come together to draw attention to contemporary fiction. The Book Babes also point out the small number of readers who are estimated to make up the literary fiction market. Would you believe about 35,000 nationwide? No wonder they’re banding together. The litblog coop seeks to expand the audience using the joint power of these literary bloggers. It’s too soon to tell whether their efforts will pay off; however, the idea of the coop has certainly generated a lot of press. Moorishgirl numbers among their ranks, and her blog has managed to generate a lot of recognition and press, so I imagine their efforts will continue to be chronicled in the media. (If you want to keep up with the Book Babes, bookmark the Book Standard website.)
Online coops are not new, although news of their efforts don’t often generate the press The Litblog Coop has received. Several months ago, in an effort to discover ways to market the e-book version of Divided Loyalties, I joined an online cooperative effort called the All Star Scribes. The brainchild of Lori Soard, she had already successfully tested an online coop targeting romance readers called Divas of Romance. All Star Scribes includes all genres, and you’ll find me among the YA authors. I recently joined a similar online cooperative effort developed by Karen Woods called Flowers and Hearts. This site will officially be launched in May.
Another great cooperative effort is Blogcritics.org, the brainchild of Eric Olsen. Here you find over 700 bloggers, including moi, who contribute reviews in the realm of politics, culture, books, music, DVDs, and film. This is a great way to expand the reach of your personal blog. The hope is that when readers come to the end of your review, they’ll not only want to read your other reviews but also click over to your blog and see what else you’re writing about.
Writers have always come together to form communities, participate in anthologies and self-published endeavors, and create organizations; but blogging, with its immediate capacity to allow writers to easily self-publish from their home and interact directly with their readers, is now creating an even more fluid way for writers to form cooperative ventures to accomplish any number of reasons. Coops seek to generate media and increase books sales; they provide a way for bloggers to expand their audience; and coops can work off and online to produce greater recognition, sales, and speaking engagements. I’m sure there are many more that I have yet to uncover.
Many thanks to Will Hoffacker for his interview this past week. I hope you had the time to read of Will’s blogging over at Youngest o fOne and his ensuing writing efforts. Be sure and stop by his blog, say hello and offer some encouragement for his new literary effort.