The Bass Player Quit Again
Or, the Chemistry of Author Co-Ops
“She wants to be an author when she grows up!” I looked down into the wide eyes of a tween girl. Her parents pulled her over to my booth so they could tell me this, apparently in hope that I could grant some words of wisdom on the spot. So I tell her half the truth. The good half. The encouraging half.
Thanks to modern technology, specifically ebooks and digital publishing, this little girl is growing up in a time when anyone who wants to chase their dream of being an author will have more choices before them than any era before. She can choose to avoid the lifelong frustration of rejections and never getting that break. Her destiny will be in her own hands, and success or failure will be more in her control than ever. The parents smiled and the girl glowed and my duty to inspire future generations was done for the day.
I had, of course, only told her the good news. What I didn’t tell her was that her destiny will be in her own hands, and success or failure will be more in her control than ever.
Today, authors are expected to be our own brands, marketers, promoters, formatters, editors, proofreaders, and (the historical antithesis of everything authorly) social!
The duties and responsibilities of a fiction author are overwhelming, and many people fail because they go at it alone. Some people compare being an author to being a full time one-person business. But that’s not accurate. It’s actually more akin to a small business of five to ten employees. No, forget all that. The best analogy is that of a garage band.
That brings me to author co-ops. I am a part of one; it’s called the Speculative Fiction Guild. Finding and cultivating an author co-op is the sanity-saving approach to being an author. Author co-ops form organically as a result of that pesky socializing and networking. They’re formed through shared experiences and often shared adversity. There are a million co-ops and a million stories.
In your co-op, you may have a strong cover artist. Another who creates strong back cover blurbs (this happens to be my specialty) yet others who create book trailers, create websites, formats ebooks, etc. Because these are people you’ve cultivated a relationship with, you all bond and help each other by sharing expertise. You’re all in it together and you share in each other’s successes and failures.
Yes, you can still be Bob Dylan or Melissa Etheridge and do it all, but there’s a reason that the Dylans and Etheridges are few and far between. It’s easier to master the keyboard and go find a good bass player, drummer, and lead singer to jam with.
Being in an author co-op is like having your own band while being an occasional player in other author’s bands. So I’ll lay down a track for E. Chris Garrison and John F. Allen, and in return they help me figure out the lyrics to this new song I’m putting together. And then you load up the tour van, go out on the road, split hotel and gas, and learn too much about what your bandmate mumbles in their sleep.
Yeah, it’s a lot like that.
Unfortunately, the resemblance to garage bands doesn’t end there. Sometimes a member trashes a hotel (not literally … well, okay, sometimes literally). Sometimes your guitarist has to step away. Sometimes the drummer wants to go a direction the bass and guitar don’t get. Maybe two players go off and form their own band (and call it Journey…sorry, did I just show my age there?)
And that’s okay. These things have to happen to keep the creative process healthy. But when you find a few others who get your groove…the jam sessions are magic!
SFG will be well represented at Imaginarium. I’ll be there with my regular session guys John and Chris, plus Kat French and Matt Barron, and perhaps a couple more, not quite confirmed as of this writing. Storytelling by its nature is a solitary venture, but you don’t have to go it alone.
R.J. Sullivan writes paranormal thrillers and science fiction through Seventh Star Press. His short story collection, Darkness with a Chance of Whimsy, came out earlier this year. Learn more at http://www.rjsullivanfiction.com