Branding the literary works of Authorial Groups?


Popular music is one of the few creative mediums where branding is used to market the work of a group of artists, The Beatles, U2, or Muse for example. People who have enjoyed previously released work from these groups will often purchase a new release, sight-unseen, because they know and love the “brand” of product the group produces. This branding has been used in other creative mediums. In cinema for example the latest “Tarantino” film is almost guaranteed to be well attended because the viewing public have come to know what to expect in one of his films. In the book industry many author’s work is branded more with the author’s name than with the subject matter of the specific book.

A good percentage of popular music releases over the past half a century have been from groups of artists and this continues to be the case today for two reasons. Firstly, the quality of work that can be produced through a collaborative creative process can be much greater than something produced in isolation, and secondly, that the branding of the product is an immediate and lasting marketing tool. Literary products have not embraced this collaborative approach to the degree that the music industry has. We do see products written jointly by several authors but they are marketed under both author’s names rather than an abstract group name.

Is the literary industry missing out on both counts? …I think they are!

In my “day job” I work collaboratively on creative design tasks and I know from personal experience over the past few decades that I could never have produced designs at anywhere near the quality the group has been able to generate, if I had worked in isolation.

When it comes to writing, I have worked in isolation on a large work of fiction for over a year and although some of the writing is of high quality the project is languishing. A few weeks ago when I first began to contemplate the notion of Authorial Groups I decided to seek out one or more writers to work collaboratively on this project with the object of forming a long term partnership where we could brand our joint literary works. I found this step challenging to take, considering the time and effort I have invested  already in research and writing for the work but I am convinced the end product will be of superior quality and has a better chance of reaching the people I intend it to.

The output from groups can also be higher in quantity due to the number of people focused together at the task of writing. This approach should lead to more regular and reliable releases too, which can only help to build the brand loyalty that will ensure the longevity of the process and the group.

In the same way a band leader, or existing band, will audition for new members I decided to approach a writer to work on a short piece of fiction. This on-the-job task may also help to materialise a collaborative writing process that could work for an authorial group.

So, I’ve engaged with another writer and we’ve agreed to collaborate on a short story to both flesh out the process of literary collaboration and group dynamics in writing.  For example, do we collaborate on the plotting and scene development only and then work independently, or do we continue to write as many fingers at the same keyboard, or simply write the text on a white board and transcribe it at a later date?

Trust is a key factor in any partnership, as well as being strong and confident enough to let your ideas to fall dead to the ground if they are not taken up by the group. Luckily I have worked collaboratively with this writer on other creative projects before and we have often joked about each others crap… sorry…outlandish and impractical ideas. In a way we already know how to work together creatively.

The process has started…

Authorial Groups and Intrinsic Worth; “Collaborwriting”


Why don’t we see authorial groups like we do with musical bands? A quick answer could be that performing a musical work often requires a group of musicians while writing is completed in isolation. As artists, writers may be selling their work short by attempting to keep it pure and cleansed of external influences. Of course we are all influenced by other artists work but what I’m suggesting is to collaborate; a process where two or more minds produce something that could never be formed by individual writers working in isolation.

Writing a novel—any writing in fact—is a complex mix of many different processes; plotting, structural design, constructing themes and visions, discovering unique plot twists…it’s never simply putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. There’s editing too, and in some situations a good editor can tease out an author’s ideas to produce a work of art that is more intelligible. This is more akin to a record producer who tinkers and cleans, tidying the work as it exists on the page.

Collaborwriting as a group can help to avoid common pitfalls of writing such as a loss of confidence in your ability and becoming overcritical of your work. I know first hand how debilitating these moments can be. Human nature and an environment of trust will ensure we do not become too critical of a collaborative work. Group dynamics can also foster supportive behaviors; lifting members out of their low points and at other times they can stand on each others shoulders to reach heights not possible alone.

A moment of genuine collaborative writing, or “Collaborwriting”, occurs off the page when two minds collide and meld together two form something unique. An early theory about the formation of Miranda, a moon of Uranus, suggested it was formed by the collision of two planetesimal bodies melding to form a single moon. Hugo and Nebula award winning author Kim Stanley Robinson used Miranda’s unique geological history to highlight and suggest the human mind is the integral part of environmental beauty:

After that they hiked down the spine of the buttress in silence. Over the course of the day they descended to Bottoms Landing. Now they were a kilometre below the rims of the chasm, and the sky was a starry band overhead; Uranus fat in the middle of it, the sun a blazing jewel just to one side. Under this gorgeous array the depth of the rift was sublime, astonishing; again Zo felt herself to be flying.

“You’ve located intrinsic worth in the wrong place,” she said to all of them… “It’s like a rainbow. Without an observer at a twenty three degree angle to the light being reflected off a cloud of spherical droplets, there is no rainbow. The whole universe is like that. Our spirits stand at a twenty three degree angle to the universe. There is some new thing created at the contact of photon and retina, some space created between rock and mind. Without mind there is no intrinsic worth.” – Blue Mars (Pages 435-436).

Further illustrating Robinson’s metaphor, the intrinsic beauty of good writing is not contained on the page, that is just ink and paper, and it is not the words and punctuation we craft as writers, it is the thoughts and feelings the writing manifests in the reader’s mind. I’m not suggesting that this higher plane of communication is unachievable when writing in isolation, but that through collaboration we open up possibilities and manifest ideas and concepts that could not be formed by any singular sentient mind.