Authors helping authors is what our "Notes from the Field" series is all about. We've shared elsewhere on the blog about how series can help build your fan base and sustain your writing career, as well as the topic of co-writing. BW Book of the Week author, Carole P. Roman, is back to tell us how she and a group of sympatico authors came together to create an anthology series, a cool project that we wanted to hear more about....
Over two years ago, a group of authors from my Goodreads thread, organized an anthology to be published in time for Halloween. We each picked a monster trope and made plans to share our individual efforts on Google Docs, drawing from each other's story, characters, and plots.
I dove right in, created the fictional town of Bulwark and was able to finish my 15000-word story by the end of the weekend. Others began their portion but Halloween came and went and somehow, my novella was the only one completed. This was my first foray into adult fiction (for which I chose the pen name, Brit Lunden) and I was anxious to see how the book would be received. While it contained several 'hooks' for the other authors to pull a thread, it was a standalone story. I sent it to a few major review outlets and was happy with the responses and published it.
Group Anthology...Act II
Cut to a year later. I was on the phone with fellow indie author, RL Jackson. She told me about the success other authors had with pooling their work into anthologies. She felt there were benefits to sharing marketing and publicity in a project that allows each author to shine, yet brings new readership simply because people want to know what happened to the characters.
I suggested we do one together and she asked if I would share Bulwark, the original first book in the Halloween anthology that never developed. To our combined delight, seven authors signed up right away, one of them, my own assistant, Brittney Leigh, who had played around with the idea of self-publishing but was too afraid to start.
Each author brought something new to the anthology and I hope took away even more. One made the jump from erotica to more mild fiction, another was testing her chops as she left children's books to take the plunge with adult fiction. Others lent their expertise in the genre, to support the weight of combined voices and styles.
Small Town Characters
In our anthology, each author tells their story based on characters that live in the fictional town of Bulwark. They are all separate and can be standalone books, however many of our characters intersect.
Our group is diverse in both ethnicity and writing styles. Two are from across the pond, bringing an interesting viewpoint of American life. Our one male (although we did ask others) and the rest of us are from all over the states. We each write different genres and it was fun to see where everyone would take this little imaginary town and the people who live there. I will admit I got attached to my Mayberry-like Georgia town.
Either way, it was an amazing experience that I would eagerly do again.
A Virtual Writing Room
They each read Bulwark and RL set up a communal Facebook page, where we shared where we wanted to go with the story and characters. Some used existing characters, others created new ones, and many of the staples of the town popped in and out of several of the volumes. The stories came in fast and furious. I was astounded by the wide variety and diversity of this expanding universe. It was exciting to see all the combinations of styles and imagination.
We loaded our manuscripts into our separate Amazon accounts to make the bookkeeping simple. Each author owns their own book, all royalties, and rights.
We all did eBooks, and I insisted we do paperbacks as well. That required two covers, but RL Jackson put those together for the entire group, free of charge. We found creative ways to economize, helping each other with the formatting. We even made videos using free sources.
Creating the Covers & Trailer
Our group was fortunate to include members who are knowledgable with computers and the programs and software available. RL is good with photoshop and she found ways to make stock images look as unique as possible. We matched the font and even changed the original Bulwark cover so the series matched. There were glitches, but she contacted friends that guided her and she passed along the information to the rest of us. The covers were designed in similar moody, atmospheric blues, to communicate that they're part of the same anthology series.
Brittney, my assistant, as well as one of the authors in the anthology, created the book trailers for the entire group. She used both iMovie and Final Cut Pro to make the videos. She chose free images and made sure each video had a different theme. We had a lot of fun with those. I had read each of the books, so was able to help with the backstory on each video.
iMovie comes with every Mac. She purchased Final Cut Pro for a couple of hundred dollars for a school project and decided to keep the program. Visual content came from a combination of photos and video clips from sites like Pexels, Pixabay, and Canva. She always chose free stock, where there is no requirement to list the creator of the individual piece. While I could not have done the video by myself, we had a ball choosing data, and putting them together.
Pooled Resources & Shared Expenses
Now that all the books are finished, each author has pooled their resources, sharing social media, calling on friends and fans to try the other members of the group, expanding everyone's reach.
We each chipped in minimal amounts to do a blog tour with Enticing Journey, a very affordable company that one of our group used in the past. We have a series of blog rolls, where members push each other, hoping for those sales to kick off. Many of our group are relatively unknown, struggling with lack of money and time to promote their work. It will be interesting to see if this group effort makes a difference. I do think writing smaller books and publishing more frequently might be a way to combat some of the problems indies share. Readers seem to be embracing these serialized publications, much like they did over a hundred years ago when people devoured the penny dreadfuls that were published weekly in newspapers. I think of it as a kind of binge-reading.
I did an audio version and encouraged my group to do the same. It remains to be seen who will invest in them, but audiobooks are great income generators.
A Common Subtitle Identifies the Anthology
With a common subtitle, all the books come up together on Amazon.
We created the Bulwark Anthology reader group on Facebook so readers can get behind the scenes information and learn more about each author as well as discuss the books and what they liked about them.
Regardless of how many books we end up selling, we all really benefitted from our 'strength in numbers' endeavor. No doubt we will learn some new tricks of the trade on this round, which will hopefully result in another group venture in the future. I'll keep you posted...
The Complete Bulwark Anthology:
DJ Cooper: The Illusion (A Bulwark Anthology Book)
RL Jackson: The Craving (A Bulwark Anthology Book)
E.H. Graham: The Window (A Bulwark Anthology Book)
Kay MacLeod: The Missing Branch (A Bulwark Anthology Book)
Kate Kelley: The Body (A Bulwark Anthology Book)
Del Henderson III: The Battle of Bulwark (A Bulwark Anthology Book)
Brittney Leigh: The Darkness: (A Bulwark Anthology Book)
Award-winning author Carole P. Roman started writing as a dare from one of her sons. Her nonfiction series, "If You Were Me and Lived in..." combines her teaching past with her love of customs and culture around the world. She has expanded her nonfiction culture series to include historical times periods. Roman just published her first adult fiction novella, Bulwark, as Brit Lunden. If you’d like more information on Carole P. Roman, connect with her at:
Do you have a self-publishing adventure you'd like to share? Send us your idea at firstname.lastname@example.org for consideration for an upcoming "Notes from the Field" report.