Publishing, the Cooperative Way (Part 2 of 3)

You’re here, at Book View Café.  That means that you love great books, at great prices, written by great authors.  But do you really know about Book View Café?  Do you understand who we are, how we started, how we get great books to you?  This three-part series (originally published in Romance Writers Report, explains publishing, the co-operative way!  Part 1 described our history — how we came to be the publisher we are today.  Part 2 describes our current book production process, explaining how we create the professional books we love sharing with you.

The Visible Horizon

Today, Book View Café is a far cry from the little web venture where a group of specialized writers offered some stories for free.  One of our newest members, Doranna Durgin (Claimed by the Demon), notes:  “What’s been most valuable – and immediately so – is the immensely heartening effect of being among like-minded authors all bringing their astonishing accumulation of experience to bear in a publishing co-op – and knowing that my projects have their support, just as I can contribute to theirs.”

And our members’ contributions are yielding results.  Our production schedule has grown by leaps and bounds; we currently release nearly ten books a month.  Our book production process is modeled after those of successful major publishers, but it is tweaked to take advantage of members’ expertise.  Book View Café books embody cooperation between the individual author and the publisher.

For example, when I decided to write my Diamond Brides series (nine spicy category romances, built around the players on a major league baseball team and the women they love), I sent a request to our volunteer who handles the publication schedule.  She gave me a list of potential dates, and I chose the ones I wanted (the first Tuesdays for March through December of 2014.)  We discussed which of my titles would be “lead titles” for their weeks, ultimately deciding that the first, fourth, and ninth would have that status (and the increased marketing push allocated to lead titles.)

The scheduling volunteer concluded her job by sending me a project timetable, which detailed positions for other co-op volunteers to fill.  Those jobs include project manager, editor, proofreader, cover designer, and ebook formatter.  I solicited volunteers to fill those functions, using the forum topics assigned to each individual book.  Throughout the process, production deadlines were available for all members to see, so that each person could gauge his or her own time commitments, relative to my production needs.

Once my creative team was in place, I requested an ISBN.  (All our ISBNs, of course, show Book View Café as the publisher of the book.)  When I completed the online form for an ISBN, I recorded the book’s metadata.  That information allowed our ISBN volunteer to complete her paperwork with Bowker.

Perhaps more importantly, though, the collected metadata could be entered into our database of members’ works available for distribution by third parties.  Book View Café currently has distribution contracts with Overdrive and Wheelers (for library distribution in the United States and the United Kingdom, respectively.)  We also sell direct to libraries, with terms favorable to those institutions. In the near future, we’ll be adding additional library distribution by Gardners and 3M.  Our most recent distribution coup is a series of contracts with Audible, making our members’ books available as audiobooks.

Member Brenda Clough (Speak to Our Desires), summarizes our relationships with third parties:  “We are really good at getting our stuff out to paying readers – into libraries, into audio books – we do things that are impossible for the solitary author to do, and that I don’t see other author groups doing.”  In a radical departure from major publishers, Book View Café allows each author to select third-party distribution for each book.  No author is required to sign over audio rights, library rights, or other valuable secondary rights.

Finally, Book View Café members help to publicize and promote each other’s works.  In addition to our group blog, we maintain a plethora of social media sites.  Many members also maintain individual social media footprints, reaching even wider.

By the very nature of the co-op, no one member is tasked with doing anything he or she is not comfortable doing.  Jennifer Stevenson (A Hinky Taste of You) views the group’s teamwork as its greatest asset:  “We are each good at half a dozen things… and we each learn half a dozen more things as we build Book View Café.  Multiply that by forty authors, add synergy and cross-training, teamwork, and the all-important ‘when life happens’ mutual support, and you have a powerhouse that makes the lonely author feel empowered, informed, and fearless in the face of the new publishing world.”

In exchange for providing volunteer services to the co-op, each member receives 95% of all proceeds for his or her books sold through the co-op.  (Book View Café does not exact a commission for works sold outside of the co-op, i.e., through Amazon or Barnes & Noble, even when those outside works bear Book View Café ISBNs.)

The entire production process can be summed up by Sherwood Smith (Danse de la Folie): “I love the freedom, the fact that we can mix genres, that our books won’t be slashed to fit marketing’s mandated word count, that we get vigorous feedback and it doesn’t take years, that people will do my formatting and covers for me.  The team effort, I feel, makes us greater than the sum or of parts, and that sum is not negligible.”

In addition to publishing novels written by individual members, the co-op also publishes themed anthologies.  These include Passionate Café I and Passionate Café II (two samplers, designed to promote the group’s romance writers.)  The most recent anthology is Beyond Grimm, a revisiting of classic fairy tales.

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Publishing, the Cooperative Way (Part 2 of 3) — 5 Comments

  1. Pingback: Publishing, the Cooperative Way (Part 2 of 3) | Mindy Klasky, Author

  2. It has occurred to me that some of what we do can and should be being offered by writer organizations. SFWA or HWA could be amassing member works and peddling the packages to overseas libraries, for instance. Only the sad failure of xeroxing Chris Dolley and Vonda keep this from happening.

    • ::grin:: We all know that photocopies are less good than the original. We’ll keep the originals, thank you very much!

      (And yes, the organizations could be doing so much more. But are the members willing to invest the time?!?)