Three isn’t a crowd, says Liza Perrat

Posted: June 15, 2012 in Friday Guest
Tags: , , , , , ,
Triskele Books: A Toast to the Power of Three

Several years ago, I was fortunate to receive an invitation to join the online writing group, Writing Asylum – an eclectic collection of supportive writers with keen editorial eyes and unfailing support and encouragement. My work improved and, after many revisions I finally had a novel I thought was fit for public eyes. But my agent was not able to arouse the slightest interest from any of the big publishers. So, what to do? Self-publishing? Poorly-written, shabbily put-together books? Not for me, thanks. Despite these reservations, independent publishing was, however, becoming a more enticing, and the only viable option, to getting a book to readers. Though taking it on alone seemed a fearsome task.

I got together with two of the writers from the writing group who were in similar situations with their novels. We discussed our independent fears: homemade covers, inconsistent typesetting, “hobby” writing, unprofessional presentation, inappropriate marketing, financial incompetence, individual responsibility, and the sense of isolation. We certainly did not want any of this. We wanted to create books that would be indistinguishable from those professionally produced. We wanted the real thing. Suddenly, sharing it all between three seemed far less scary and, after months of planning and discussion, our authors’ collective, Triskele Books was born.

To be successful, we knew Triskele Books needed both a distinctive brand and a focus. The Triskele logo was Jill’s idea, the origin of which represents what we stand for: three independent circles that resemble three scrolls, uniting to create something entirely new. Since we all share a passion for “place” in our story-telling, location as a focal point seemed suited to our books. Gillian’s melange of legend, crime and the “otherworldly” evokes the wild Celtic landscape of Anglesey. Jill’s fast-paced European crime thrillers transport readers from the Basque country to The Dalmatian Coast, while my stories are set in the historical past of rural France.

We all had a similar vision for the Triskele Books website design: simple, clean and bold, which our fourth Triskele member, Jane Dixon-Smith, executed perfectly. A talented designer with valuable publishing experience and incredible insight into our personal aspirations, she created our covers, our websites, and typeset our content, thus creating unity for Triskele Books, all the while demonstrating unfailing patience with our endless questions.

These focal points – location and quality – make it easier to market ourselves and, hopefully, to recruit more Triskelites in the future; authors with the same commitment to quality. We all have to agree, unanimously, on any decisions concerning Triskele. We won’t publish a book without the full backing and agreement of the other members. This is a collective, and we work things out through discussion. There are now six of us on the Triskele “board” and despite being spread over Europe, we are able to tackle tough decisions, fight fires and respect one another’s opinions.

To maintain our quality brand, we work together, providing mutual editing, support, encouragement and marketing. Manuscript critiques, editing and proofreading are far more effective in a threesome, rather than trusting one’s own unobjective eyes. We pull apart each other’s work and argue over it whilst trying to keep in mind the author’s individual style and vision of her work. After final revisions, we proofread each other’s books and try to make each one as striking and as professional as possible in both content and design.

We also share the workload in terms of marketing and promotion. Each member is allocated certain tasks, which the others know will be done to the best of her ability. We rely on each other and take comfort in the knowledge that these mammoth tasks are far less daunting when shared. Not only that, but the pressure not to let the others down is even more of an incentive.

You might be wondering about the financial aspects of such a collective? Triskele Books is a collective, as each author retains her own rights and profits but for the collective to get started, we all contributed an equal sum to cover website, promotional material, design and launch funds. When we need to add funds, we do so, in equal amounts. I think that for something like this to work, trust is mandatory. None of us would have embarked on such a project without total trust in each other, not only for the financial aspects, but also on an emotional level.

So, the result after all these months? We celebrated a fabulous launch day on Saturday 2nd June in London, and the amount of support from friends and family was immensely encouraging and loads of fun! The first books are on sale, and in the world of marketing and networking, the very nature of our threesome is proving more valuable than ever. Each book displays an ad for the other two, thus promoting all three at once. We share helpful sites, information and opportunities, each of us promoting our own, as well as the other Triskele books.

The independent process has proved to be hard, frustrating and exciting work, and we’ve found that our friendship is an asset. When one of us is knocked out for the count, the others push her back into the ring with friendly pats on the back, and virtual glasses of wine. We’ve shared the angst, the uncertainties, the mistakes, and learned an incredible lot in a short time, gaining valuable advice from successful independently-published authors, swapping marketing and networking opportunities and cheering each other on. We’ve connected with other writers, passing on what we’ve learned and discussing our experience. We’ve grown to depend on each other whilst retaining our individuality. And we no longer fear independent publishing. Cheers to Triskele Books!

***

Gillian Hamer (author of The Charter):

Born in the industrial Midlands, Gillian’s heart has always yearned for the wilds of North Wales and the pull of the ocean.

A Company Director for twenty years, she has written obsessively for over a decade. After completing a Creative Writing course, she decided to take her writing to the next level and sought representation. She is a columnist for Words with Jam literary magazine, a regular theatre goer and avid reader across genres.

She splits her time between Birmingham and a remote cottage on Anglesey where she finds her inspiration.

Gillian is represented by Shelley Powers, of The Shelley Powers Literary Agency.

The Charter is the first, but not the last, of Gillian’s novels to be based around the dramatic Anglesey coastline.

www.gillianhamer.com

J.J Marsh (author of Behind Closed Doors):

Jill grew up in Wales, Africa and the Middle East, where her curiosity for culture took root and triggered an urge to write. After graduating in English Literature and Theatre Studies, she worked as an actor, teacher, writer, director, editor, journalist and cultural trainer all over Europe.

Now based in Switzerland, Jill consults on language strategy, works with the Nuance Words project and is a columnist for Words with JAM magazine. She lives with her husband and three dogs, and in an attic overlooking a cemetery, she writes.

Behind Closed Doors is the first Beatrice Stubbs novel, a European crime series set in compelling locations all over the Continent.

www.beatrice-stubbs.com

Liza Perrat (author of Spirit of Lost Angels):

Liza grew up in Wollongong, Australia, where she worked as a general nurse and midwife for fifteen years. When she met her French husband on a Bangkok bus, she moved to France, where she has been living with her husband and three children for twenty years. She works part-time as a French-English medical translator.

Since completing a creative writing course ten years ago, several of her short stories have won awards, notably the Writers Bureau annual competition of 2004 and her stories have been published widely in anthologies and small press magazines. Her articles on French culture and tradition have been published in international magazines such as France Magazine and France Today.

She has completed four novels and one short-story collection, and is represented by Judith Murdoch of the Judith Murdoch Literary Agency.

Spirit of Lost Angels is the first in a historical series set against a backdrop of rural France.

www.lizaperrat.com

Triskele Books website

Triskele Books Facebook page

Jane Dixon Smith website

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Comments
  1. Dan Holloway says:

    lovely piece. I think Triskele is a fabulous collective and hope you have all the success you deserve. Having had some experience of founding a collective, can I ask some questions? To what extent are you locked in to Triskele? If someone were approached by a publisher and decided to say yes, or if one book took off and that author wanted to go alone, what would happen? Have you discussed it?

    I have to say, I think the sharing of tasks is an excellent idea – the only problem I can see is if you want to expand – would a newcomer have to bring a particular skill in addition to their book?

  2. jilljmarsh says:

    Hi Dan
    Thanks for your good wishes and such perceptive questions.

    With Triskele, there’s no lock-in. The whole premise is that we’re individuals, collaborators who are free to walk if we want.
    As for external approaches from publishers, your imaginary situation has already happened. One of our original members got a deal even before we launched. We all knew it was in the best interests of the author so we celebrated that success and regrouped.

    The fundamental premise of Triskele is to promote and support one another. If traditional publishing better suits any one of our writers, we’ll wave flags and blow trumpets and wish them luck.

    Sharing of tasks: new skills, while always advantageous, are not the primary focus. We do want to expand. We want to work with amazing writers, ideally those who fit our image of excellent writing, a powerful sense of place and professional presentation.

    Independent publishing takes all sorts of forms and so it should.
    At Triskele, we want to be the best we can be – that goes for us as writers, as members of a community, as individuals, as a brand and as readers who love good books.

  3. Dan Holloway says:

    Thanks, Jill. Very very best with the excellent current crop of books and as you expand – I( spent 18 months at the heart of a collective and whilst it put me through the wringer and back again innumerable times I wouldn’t swap the experience for anything

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