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Thursday, April 12

Solo vs. Group Effort: the Indie Author Collective

By Dario Ciriello

Part of the Indie Authors series


“There is only one thing worse than fighting with allies, and that is fighting without them.”
Winston Churchill

A little over a year ago, after a decade of writing and publishing as an indie, a local library event brought me into contact with three other L.A. area indie authors.

The personal chemistry felt terrific and all of us were writing at a pro level. Most importantly, each of us brought different and complimentary sets of skills to the table—graphic design, video trailer production, print formatting skills, copyediting, proofreading, and that rarest of indie author talents, marketing.

After a couple of exploratory meetings at cozy pubs, we decided destiny had brought us together. We organized ourselves into a loose collective and named ourselves “Made in L.A. Writers” with the primary goals of mutual support, cross-promotion, and sharing/trading our individual abilities to benefit one another.

Like most things in this life, working collaboratively is a dual-edged sword.

The benefits include all I mentioned above with a large side-helping of synergy. Being able to brainstorm ideas and enthuse one another really does sometimes pay off in a big way.

The drawbacks are that the decision-making process can easily become very tortuous, and the need for everything to be mutually discussed and decided generates a surprising amount of extra work for everyone involved. Threads of thirty or more emails on a decision topic are not uncommon: working solo, as I’m used to, eliminates all of that. On the other hand, the pluses are lost along with the minuses.

In December of last year, one of us had the idea of launching an anthology of stories set right here in the City of Angels at the upcoming L.A. Times Festival of Books, where we have a booth. We knew it would be a crazy scramble (I’ve published four anthologies myself over the years), but we decided to do it anyway, since Angelenos, as we discovered at last year’s festival, are eager to read stories set in their hometown. After a little discussion we decided to go for it and, if we could pull it off, make the anthology an annual series.

We scrambled to write stories, and by the middle of February two of us had novellas ready to go and the other two wrote five shorts between them. We put out a brief, closed submission call and soon had four more stories from outside contributors. We made our mid-March upload deadline for publication with time to spare for last-minute tweaks—and there are always plenty of those!

As a result of our collaboration, the first Made in L.A. anthology was born, and all of us are supremely proud of it. Besides featuring some excellent stories that really dig into the heart of Los Angeles (broken dreams, cults, sex, the gig economy, nightmare commutes on freeways winding between burning hillsides, and much more), the production values are superb throughout, easily on a par with the best that any of the majors might put out.

And that is where the collective approach is really valuable. A group of people with strong and varied skills, and of course a degree of shared perfectionism and vision, is always going to produce a better product than one person working alone. Instead of 1 x 4 = 4, the total is more like double that. On the other hand, the same could be said for the total workload. Debating and agreeing on everything with even just four people who communicate and get on well makes for a lot of work, and that can easily disrupt everything else you’re working on, not least your own writing.

To conclude, I think the author collective model can be very successful, productive, energizing, and fun. That said, any solo indie authors contemplating such an enterprise should consider the reality that’s involved in teamwork. Most of all, is the decision-making process

1. Horizontal/Democratic: Everyone gets equal input on everything

2. Vertical/Monarchic: A single person is elected leader and has full control, or at least veto/tie-breaking power; the leadership role could even be a rotating one

3. Something in-between (Confederalism): Each member is given full responsibility and authority over one area according to their ability; others may have input but the final say over their “department” belongs to the appointed "minister."


All of these systems may be equally valid, and the personalities involved will likely go a long way to determine the best course for any given group.

Are you or have you had any experience with indie author collaboratives? Is it something you’ve ever considered?

Dario Ciriello is a professional author and editor as well as the founder of Panverse Publishing.

His fiction includes Sutherland's Rules, a crime caper/thriller with a shimmer of the fantastic; Black Easter, a supernatural suspense novel which pits love against black magic and demonic possession on a remote, idyllic Greek island; and Free Verse and Other Stories, a collection of Dario's short science fiction work.

Dario’s 2011 nonfiction book, Aegean Dream, the bittersweet memoir of a year spent on the small Greek island of Skópelos (the real Mamma Mia! island), was an Amazon UK travel bestseller. Drown the Cat: The Rebel Author’s Guide to Writing Beyond the Rules (Panverse, July 2017) is his second nonfiction work.

In addition to writing, Dario, who lives in the Los Angeles Area, offers professional editing and copyediting services to indie authors.

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About Made in L.A.

Readers in Los Angeles are thirsty for stories that bring their city to life. This anthology features a diverse range of voices and genres. Like the City of Angels in which these stories were born, nothing is off-limits. Literary or contemporary, noir or ghost story, fabulism or science fiction, each story in this volume will forever change the way you look at this iconic metropolis.

Made in L.A. Writers is a collaborative of Los Angeles-based authors dedicated to nurturing and promoting indie fiction. This 2018 volume is the first of the annual Made in L.A. anthology series. While our styles, themes, and story locales differ, our work is both influenced and illuminated by our hometown and underpinned by the extraordinary, multifaceted, and often surreal culture and life in the City of Angels.

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