As promotional demands on authors increase and the lifecycle of a campaign extends far beyond publication, two author collectives have reached across publisher lines to share skills, plan events and pool resources.
Killer Women, a London-based crime and thriller collective with 20 members including Jane Casey, Alison Joseph, Erin Kelly, Paula Hawkins and Laura Wilson, was founded more than two years ago by Melanie McGrath and Louise Miller, while five-member YA novelists group Lost and Found formed more recently, in the hope of finding traction for its constituents’ books. Both report the benefit of cross-pollination: sharing bookseller and media contacts, social media reach and event organisation, all of which enables individuals to achieve greater brand awareness than they could solo.
“If you’re not a brand author it can be difficult to get yourself out there,” said McGrath. “So the idea was to create a collective brand. It gives us another story to sell ourselves with.” In addition to pitching to hold events year-round, the group has developed a website and newsletter, anthologies, a two-day crime festival and even a touring murder mystery for the stage.
Lost and Found - whose authors are Patrice Lawrence, Sue Wallman, Kathryn Evans, Olivia Levez and Eugene Lambert - embarked on a UK tour to promote its members’ débuts, and the group’s name came from a feeling of kinship that blossomed at their first meeting. “Authors can feel a bit lost in their first year,” says founder and Oneworld author Olivia Levez. “Suddenly there’s the marketing side of things, not to mention meeting deadlines for your second book. [When we met], we felt like we’d found each other.” The Lost and Found tour has hit six UK cities, capitalising on members’ local contacts and connections.
Some of the authors who are part of Lost and Found.
Events have focused on the themes that unite their books, as opposed to simply readings from individual titles. “The name [Lost and Found] links perfectly with the key themes in our books and in YA in general. Our books all focus on struggling with identity, coming-of-age themes, and coming to terms with loss,” says Levez. “Events have been about our books but also about why characters are lost - and why they are found.” McGrath agrees with this approach to events, and feels that working across publishers and outside of standard campaign cycles facilitates it. “In general, you sell more books by giving the audience a good time than you will by telling them about the book.”
Killer Women has invited law enforcement to take part in events - in one instance setting up a live “crime scene” with a squad detective in order to demonstrate the importance of detail (the spatter of blood, the way the body falls) to crime writing. “One thing that switches people on is the non-fiction behind the fiction. They don’t want to know police procedure, but they want a taster.” With this lateral approach, Killer Women is often approached to curate events. It recently collaborated with the Channel Tunnel’s police force on a Folkestone Literary Festival event and, knowing of the popularity of TV crime dramas, the event played on themes in Sky’s hit show “The Tunnel” - and it sold out.
So what’s next for these groups? “It’s massively about second-album syndrome of book two,” says Levez. “That is definitely going to be our key theme.”
McGrath says Killer Women will run writing workshops, and may form an agency to connect crime professionals and writers. “If you’re an aspiring crime writer and you need to consult with a forensic scientist,” Killer Women will be there to help, she says. “That’s another great synergy... Because we’re storytellers, we can turn our experts into storytellers too. Everyone wins.”