Making a Dime off the New Paradigm: Cooperative Publishing
by Ted Olinger, Author of The Woodpecker Menace: Stories from an Accidentally Unseparated Island
Out in the Pacific Northwest, where I live, you can’t get a decent tomato, toothbrush, or tent without joining a co-op. My son even attended a co-op preschool that required me to work in the classroom for years. I didn’t understand how one could be “compelled to volunteer” but my role became more joy than chore. And that was the point. Becoming a part of the process made me value it and want to improve it, so that eventually my modest, fumbling contribution as Daily Snack Master or Big Book Story Reader was something that was good for the children and me both.
But I was still surprised when I was introduced to a book-publishing company that operates on the same Pacific Northwesty type co-op model that supplies me with quality tomatoes.
I wrote nonfiction for magazines and newspapers for years but had recently started publishing short stories. Fiction takes a lot of work, at least for me, and I was proud to have my stories published in a magazine somewhere and then heartbroken to see them disappear. It occurred to me that it might be wise to collect them, expand them and publish them in a book.
However, I was the only one who thought so. The small, local publishers I approached were politely disinterested despite my track record. I gave up. I never considered self-publishing a serious alternative because of the terrible reputation engendered by the many low quality books assaulting the Internet and the shelves of our bookstores and libraries.
The co-op publisher is another animal. One is “compelled to volunteer” in the company of other professional writers, editors and designers who work together to produce their books. Each person brings his or her expertise to bear on the book at hand, and in turn receives the same professional treatment of his or her own work from others. There is a strong incentive to make each book the best it can be. A poor quality book reflects badly on the whole co-op and the co-op only makes money on copies sold, not from its authors. Because it keeps production costs low, co-ops can offer booksellers a workable wholesale discount, unlike many of the major self-publishing companies.
The toughest challenge that all books face still remains: getting sold. But co-op publishers can build good reputations locally and through membership in regional independent booksellers associations because of their quality work. Since publishing my own collection of stories through a co-op, I’ve found it’s easier to sell a book I have in my hand then one I have in my head.
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Genre – Fiction / Short Stories
Rating – PG13
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