While publishers play safe, authors create the brands of the future - By Roz Morris

Readers of this blog will know how many fine authors choose to self-publish or are driven to it because they don’t fit a marketing niche. But when we go it alone, how do we build a brand?
One important function that publishers used to perform was curation - taking the creme de la creme, producing it well, putting it out under an influential imprint. In the real world, that didn’t always count for much, but the reading public thinks it did - so to get credibility, indies have to replace it somehow. And here’s how we’re doing it.

Publishing collectives
Some indies band together to form an editorial board. Books aren’t published unless all members approve them. That takes a lot of trust and rigor, and all members have to be in tune with a particular type of reader. Perhaps not good for mavericks, but it’s the indie version of the niche publisher.

The handpicked collection
Some authors are gathering collections of writers whose work they admire. I was lucky enough to catch the attention of The League of Extraordinary Authors, started by NYT bestselling writer and indie Joni Rodgers. Several other AE members have too, including John AA Logan, Dan Holloway and Andrew Crofts. This is the indie reboot of the personally curated imprint.

The blogging collective
For years, conventionally published writers have blogged on sites run by agencies, publishers or author genre societies. That’s what we’re doing at AE.  
But we write anything and everything, so what brand is that? Good question.

What’s the AE brand?
In the traditional publishing world, a brand usually implies a genre. But at AE we’re all over the place. Crime, suspense, YA, non-fiction, self-help, literary, thriller. Some of our writers were barred from the holy publishing temple because they mix genres (tsk tsk with your literary thriller, John AA Logan) or were expelled for hopping from one to another (Catherine Czerkawska). Those are my offences too - with a page-turning first novel that's praised for its weirdness, depth and lyricism, and a second novel that breaks even more rules.(Can't tell you about that just yet.)
So are we creating a brand at AE, and does it correspond to any models in established publishing?
Yes it does. The oldest one of all - quality.
This is the AE brand. Forget your niches and pigeonholes. You’re in safe hands. We write books, and whatever they are they will be good. That is all you need.

Roz Morris is a bestselling ghostwriter and book doctor. She blogs at Nail Your Novel  and has a double life on Twitter; for writing advice follow her as @dirtywhitecandy, for more normal chit-chat try her on @ByRozMorris. Her books are Nail Your Novel: Why Writers Abandon Books And How You Can Draft, Fix and Finish With Confidence, available in print and on Kindle  She also has a novel, My Memories of a Future Life available on Kindle (US and UK) and also in print. You can also listen to or download a free audio of the first 4 chapters right here.


Susan Price said…
Says it all, Roz!
Stephanie Zia said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stephanie Zia said…
Way to GO! is what I meant to say...
Well put, Roz. We need the courage of our own convictions, and the confidence to keep saying it!
Bill Kirton said…
Nothing to add, Roz - a terrific, succinct summary of the group's ethos. Thanks.
Thanks, guys! Never had a set of comments before that said 'nothing to add...'
Chris Longmuir said…
Well said, Roz, I agree with everything tha's already been said.
Write on, Roz. I was on a panel recently about (big shock) the future of publishing. Someone said, "But what about curation? Who will be doing that?"

And I simply said, the writers themselves. With "quality controls," some of which you suggest here.

It's just like starting a business (in fact, if you go indie, it IS starting a business). You need product, quality systems and delivery. It used to be there was only one route to get all this in book publishing.That's no longer true.
James, I'm not sure the industry (with Porter's !) is reassured at the idea that authors can take control, but since we've been left to, that's what we're going to do! This also sheds some interesting light on the question of whether it's worth blogging about writing. If we reach writers, we all form a big network of gatekeepers. Hmmm... Great to see you here!

And Jessica, great to see you here too.
Beautifully put, Roz!
I always want to give Quality its capital Q because I can't think of the word without thinking of the big book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance which Robert Pirsig constructed around his Theory of Quality and that word.
Or the Greek arrete/excellence...the pursuit of the ideal of excellence which inspired Pirsig.
It's fascinating that the mainstream has betrayed that ideal so woefully, in book/film/even TV...(from Dennis Potter to...X Factor/Big Brother)...and that it is now the independents, or the independent collectives, who are free to produce quality work to fill the void (interesting to note too the tandem movement of AE and League of Extraordinaries just now, towards what is effectively a branding as Quality, which you have brought into focus and consciousness here)...
It's exciting!
If a film-maker wanted to try to follow Kurosawa or Bergman along the Road of Quality now, he'd have to be an indie film-maker...no doubt about that.
Writers likewise.
(And loved the penguins!)
julia jones said…
This is really good. Please may I talk to you / swipe some for the anthology intro?
Pauline Fisk said…
I'm all for quality. And Robert Pirsig's book. I seem to remember something about the 1990s being touted [in advance] as 'the decade of quality'. What happened to that?
Thanks, John & Pauline! No one seems to think quality is enough of a distinctive value these days, but in publishing eras gone by it was how many of the big houses were founded - a bunch of people picked because they could write.
Julia - I'd be honoured to work on the intro, let's talk about what's needed!
Bill Kirton said…
Ah John, thanks for the reminder. Back in the days when I was a university lecturer and students were there to get a real education (i.e. not only to acquire specific vocational qualifications but to develop and enrich their social and cultural awareness as well), we had time to stray outside the confines of set texts and prescriptive learning. I spent many hours discussing Zen and the Art of Motor Cycle Maintenance and the notion of Quality. It shakes students out of their passivity, makes them question assumptions, forces them to articulate their ideas with more precision. (Mind you, Fungus the Bogeyman also helped to open their eyes to existentialism. Those definitely were the days.)
glitter noir said…
Brilliant, Roz. So true, and none of it is done over high-status lunches at Elaine's. Indie is the word now for the passionate commitment to quality and excellence and boldness that drove some of us to read in the first place. Can't wait for your next one.
"We write books" - love it!

I think there's too much pressure on an author to be a brand these days, especially with blogging and tweeting etc. But brands don't leave much room for creativity.
Thanks, Bill, Reb and Katherine! Let's spearhead a return to appreciating writers for their creative and adventurous souls!

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