Publishing is changing rapidly – digital advances have opened up opportunities for writers that were never there before and the stigma that once surrounded author-publishing is evaporating as more independent authors experience commercial and creative success. Agents and publishers now trawl author-publishing sites (like writing.ie, Wattpad etc) looking for writers with proven talent and fan-bases.
The Alliance of Independent Authors was set up two years ago by Irish author Orna Ross (right) to support independent authors. Traditionally published herself with Penguin, Orna was an early adopter, discovering the benefits of self publishing for her work, but also discovering the lack of regulation and potential pitfalls in a rapidly growing market sector. In response she established ALLi, a nonprofit organisation, founded and run by indie authors for indie authors. ALLi’s outstanding achievements were recognised last year when Orna was named “One of the 100 Most Influential People In Publishing” by publishing trade magazine, The Bookseller, alongside people like JK Rowling and Tom Weldon, CEO of Penguin/Random House.
One of ALLi’s key objectives to is raise standards. As author-publishing goes mainstream, more and more of writers are producing books that are indistinguishable in quality from those produced by trade publishing houses. In many cases, they are hiring the same freelance editors and designers. And some indies are going way beyond the standard book, experimenting technologically and artistically. ALLi’s aim is to encourage excellence and success, through example, advice and information – their Book of The Month Award is just one way example of who their are achieving this. While recognising that “quality” is a relative term, meaning different things to different people, ALLi have a Code of Standards and encourage members to aim high and commit to continuous creative development in writing, formatting and promotion. They also offer many opportunities to independent authors in areas like foreign rights sales with partner companies that have been thoroughly vetted, enabling them to grow and develop their work in foreign language territories.
Professional associations exist for almost all industries and employment sectors. Such associations encourage members’ collaboration and mutual learning, working together for each other. As ALLi says, “If you are an independent author, here are four reasons why you might join a self-publishers’ association:
1. To Gain Respect.
Professional organisations encourage high standards. Membership says “I am serious about my writing and publishing”, which encourages others to take you seriously too. For example, ALLi members and advisors are prominent at book fairs, literary events and in press and online media. Members receive a badge which can be displayed on websites and author blogs.
2. To Receive World-class Information and Advice.
Most importantly, to receive that advice from a trusted source: other indie authors and their trusted advisors. Learn about the latest developments and resources in the publishing industry, attend free online seminars and conferences, become part of our closed forums and groups. You gain many shortcuts and insider advice that helps you self-publish well and sell more copies of your books.
3. To Save Money.
But doesn’t joining a professional publishers association cost money? Yes, but membership benefits mean you recoup that money immediately and go on to save a great deal more than the annual fee. There’s even an earning opportunity if you spread the word about the organization.
4. To Open Up to Opportunities.
Professional association provides opportunities for you to network with other authors, publishers and book industry professionals.
The Alliance (ALLi) has four grades of member, from Associate/Students to Professional:
- Author Membership
For authors who have self-published a full-length book for adults (50,000+) or children or substantial collection of shorter works/poetry. Also for writers who have trade-published who are now preparing to author-publish.
- Professional Membership
For full-time author-publishers, earning their living through book sales, or supplementing their author-publishing income with service to the writing and reading community e.g. editorial, design, creative writing instruction etc.
Applications for Professional Membership are carefully assessed. Send an email, telling ALLi why you’re eligible, including your social media links and any other supporting evidence.
- Partner Membership
For sole traders or organisations offering necessary services to author-publishers (e.g. editing, design, publicity, printers, distribution etc.) Partner Members are vetted by our watchdog service.
- Associate/Student Membership For creative writing, multimedia or publishing students with an interest in author-publishing or a not-yet-published writer preparing a book for author-publication.”
Associate and Author Memberships are open to all who meet the eligibility criteria. Potential Partner and Professional Members are assessed by the Alliance team on joining, taking into account information supplied on application, feedback from other members and our watchdog services, other community word-of-mouth, research, Google rankings, social media presence and our Code of Standards. If they find something that doesn’t fit, they will discuss it with the new member, offering them a chance to explain and make changes if necessary. If improvement or alignment is not forthcoming, membership is reneged and full fees refunded.
ALLi’s ethos is all about supporting the author, and it welcomes hybrid (trade and self-published) as well as authors who have self-published. Many of their members have publishing contracts for some books while self-publishing others. Some even have a trade publisher for a print edition while retaining the lucrative ebook rights for themselves.
Through their ongoing “Open Up To Indie Authors” Campaign, ALLi are helping to facilitate mutually beneficial partnerships with the publishing industry and book trade — publishers, bookstores, libraries, book clubs, festivals, literary events and reading agencies all over the world. They are creating change right across the self-publishing sector.
Check out the Alliance of Independent Authors website here.
(c) Vanessa Fox O’Loughlin
Vanessa Fox O’Loughlin, founder of writing.ie, is the Ireland and Eurozone Adviser to the Alliance on Independent authors. She is also the founder of The Inkwell Group, Ireland’s leading publishing consultancy, a literary talent scout and the current Chair of Irish PEN.