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Building Author Communities

Catriona Troth of Triskele Books talks to us about building author communities and the launch of Triskele Lit Fest, their inaugural, free one day festival on 17th September. 

Writing can be a lonely occupation. Perhaps it has to be when you are in the creative space necessary for writing that first draft. But no question, there is power in authors working together. 

When Triskele Books set up as an author collective, back in 2011, the idea was and remains that we would hold each other to the highest possible standards while respecting each other’s creative freedom, and that we would use our collective voice to promote each other’s work.

From early on in our incarnation, however, we realised we wanted to use the experience we’d gained and the platform we had to reach out and support other authors. We have periodically taken on associates - people whose work we love, who fit in with our ethos - and supported them through the process of publishing their books. And this year we have run an open competition to find an author to mentor through all the stages from editing their manuscript to choosing a route to publication, working with a designer on their book’s interior and exterior, and finally to marketing their published novel.

Mentoring other authors led to one of the best compliments we ever received, when fellow writer, Jeff Norton, referred to us as the ‘Wu Tang Clan’ of indie publishing. But mentorship can still reach only relatively small numbers. 

The Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) is a wonderful example of a much larger community working together. Anyone attending the London Book Fair in the last few years cannot help but be aware of the energy and spirit of cooperation that has characterised the Author Lounge, full to bursting with ALLi members eager both to learn and to share their expertise. And that is just the tip of the iceberg of this international organisation, which offers connection and collaboration, advice and education, advocacy and representation to writers who want to self-publish well. 

It’s not just Indies who are discovering the power of working together. Trade-published authors, too, are finding innovative ways of working together. The Prime Writers, for example, have all published debut novels when over the age of 40. What began as a few authors getting together to toast each other’s success has grown into a network sharing information and supporting each other as they work on ‘that difficult second novel.’

We know from experience that one of the toughest tasks facing any writer is reaching readers. That’s why we have twice partnered with other organisations to put on Indie Author Fairs, once with the Chorleywood Literary Festival in November 2014, and once with ALLi at Foyle’s in London in April 2015. These were popup bookshops, bringing authors together to sell their books directly to readers. 

The challenge for the Indie Author Fair was to get those readers through the door. That is why, this year, we are taking things up a level. At Triskele Lit Fest, a FREE one-day festival on 17th September at LIFT in Islington, we are offering a series of expert panels discussing different genres – SciFi, Romance, Crime, Historical and Literary – alongside the pop-up bookshop. 

Because we believe in breaking down artificial barriers, authors from trade, indie and small press will share a platform – including Kate Hamer (The Girl in a Red Coat), Charlie Maclean (Unforgettable), Alex Pheby (Playthings), CS Wilde (A Courtroom of Ashes), Orna Ross (After the Rising), Sunny Singh (Hotel Arcadia), Leye Adenle (Easy Motion Tourist) and Sam Jordison of Galley Beggar Press. 

Read more about TLF16 here. And there are still places available in our pop-up bookshop - authors can book space here.

Over the last five years since Triskele Books was founded, we have learnt that everything we do to build links with other authors and create author communities is repaid many times over. The connections you make with other writers will stand you in good stead all of your writing life. So what can you, as a published author, do to help others?

1. Interview other authors (or host their posts) on your blog. (Do you have an angle that makes your blog special and keeps people coming back?) 

2. Review books. Do you make a point of reading books by fellow authors and sharing recommendations of those you genuinely loved? 

3. Share information about writing, publication and marketing. It’s amazing when you look back to realise how much you have learnt just from the process of publishing one or two books!

4. Authors often struggle for opportunities to sell their books directly to readers. Could you set up your own local Indie Author Fair, and invite other authors to join you? (Read about Triskele’s first experience creating an Indie Author Fair here.)

Triskele Books is an author collective, formed in 2011, by Gillian Hamer, JJ Marsh and Liza Perrat – highly-acclaimed writers who share a passion for good stories. In 2012, two more authors joined the team, each with their own distinctive slant on time and place: JD Smith and Catriona Troth.

Group photo credit: Ruth Jenkinson