Assemble Your Pirate Crew (Collaborative Writing)

Pirate Publishing with DMB

Pirate Publishing mandates collaboration. The forces we pirate authors oppose are much too organized and relentless for us to hope to succeed in our individual and divided efforts. The Information Dealers are those who proffer human narratives for capital gain. Via social media, journalism, and any form of media they can manipulate via paid impressions, the Info. Dealers push fear and hatred because those two basic human emotions generate the highest ROI.

Content Will Increasingly Come From Well-Backed Organizations with Ulterior Motives

At a less diabolical but equally destructive level, information dealers feed on flabby apathy and the status quo. This is the larger threat to narrative fiction and the publishing industry due to the emergence of the "all-you-can-read" buffet model of Kindle Unlimited.

As we discussed in previous posts, Amazon is the dominate platform in publishing narrative fiction. And Amazon's Kindle store is now fully transformed to operate via paid impressions. This means that it's only a matter of time before the Publishing Industry is controlled by information dealers and hacks concerned more about algorithms and manipulation than with storytelling. Their influence in our lives and the lives of our readers is strong. Countering that influence requires the coordinated efforts of a trained pirate crew for the following key reasons:

  • Readers have been conditioned to expect continuous content.
  • Your author brand must publish stories with professional marketing, design, formatting, and editing (along with the professional writing!)
  • Readers have been conditioned to expect multiple books in series.
  • Any method of gaining traction with readers that isn't based on ad spend requires the accumulation and equipping of a large audience to begin with (which typically require ad spend to acquire).

How to Find or Assemble a Pirate Crew

Finding a pirate crew isn't easy. I spent three years looking for mine. Along the way, I connected with other talented individuals who influenced my path or played a specific role for a time. But they were mostly doing their own thing and not really interested in my thing. Eventually, I found some like-minded folk through a critique group we formed. Out of that group, Fiction Vortex and StoryShop were born.

Meetups, NaNoWriMo camps, Facebook groups, and writing conferences are ways to find a pirate crew. Search your genre for other writers doing similar things. Don't be afraid to look for stuff online that you connect with and reach out via contact form or social media to say hi. Maybe it goes nowhere...or maybe it becomes a strong, professional kinship. I'm biased, but I recommend attending StoryShop Summit (S3) with the intent of finding or assembling a crew.

We all encounter other writers, editors, designers, etc. as we go about our business of writing. The trick is to know in advance what you are looking for in a crew. First, do you want to captain a crew or find an established one to join?

Captaining a crew involves providing direction and guidance. It involves coordination, encouraging, and correcting. Do you have the desire to bring a group together over a shared cause? To organize a shared project? Is it a must for you to be behind the helm most of the time? These things might mean you're better suited to be a Pirate Captain. (You'll also need the ability to delegate and empower other members of the crew.)

If, on the other hand, you would rather play a specific role in a larger project, then perhaps you need to find a crew to join...or find a captain looking for a crew.

Develop an Author Mission Statement to Focus the Crew

Next what do you want to accomplish with your writing? What's your author mission statement? This might sound like a weird thing to develop, but if you want your work to succeed it's important to not only have a business plan, but to have a clear mission statement. Is your primary goal to teach? To entertain? To inspire? To empower? To help people heal?

We writers know that fiction has the ability to do all these things and so much more. Don't leave your storytelling mojo up to chance. Be intentional from the start. My personal Author tagline is "I explode things." My brand is pulpy and fun. My mission is to empower healthier human relationships. My characters are outcasts who find belonging. I write about repairing broken familial relationships. (I'll go into developing an Author Mission statement in more detail with my next post.)

It's imperative that my characters experience authentic consequences to terrible decisions in order to find their way to genuine growth and healing (unless the consequence of their mistake is death). Granted, this growth path will always include explosions and over-the-top action. But the underlying mission of the storytelling is still there. Empathy and growth via circuitous effed-up paths--that's the driving force behind all the adventures of my pirate ship and its crew.

Information Dealers have agendas. The narratives they push are spun to maximize their agenda and their return on investment. Pirate Author crews need to have agendas as well. We need to give readers an alternative to the base emotions of fear and hatred that Info. Dealers most often default to if we are to redeem our industry. Figure out the driving force of your fiction--the driving force behind you and your author brand. Then go out and find/create a crew that fits with that driving force.

Equipping Your Pirate Crew

Resources for Pirate Crews are popping up. I've mentioned Slack before. When it comes to communicating with your team, I prefer Slack for direct messaging and written group stuff. I like Zoom for Video conferencing, but I know other people use Google Hangouts as well.

Of course, I'd be remiss to not mention my own platform, StoryShop. Our whole thing is to allow world building and story planning to happen large-scale and collaboratively. I've also mentioned PublishDrive before with their Abacus service that allows writers to quickly and painlessly split up royalties from collaborative projects.

Reedsy is a platform that can help you locate either a captain or crew with the advantage of knowing all the professionals on Reedsy have been vetted.

Best Pirate Publishing Practices

The more pirate publishing crews we assemble, the greater the influence we can have on the high seas of publishing. Information dealers and algorithm hackers don't have to be the only winners on Amazon. We can help stabilize the platform while we wait for alternative solutions to gain traction.

Tools, awareness, and a collective author brand and mission statement are things we can use to maneuver our nimble brand vessels around the bilge pumping machinery of the Info. Dealers. We all have access to the same tools. We may not have the financial resources or the sleazy tactics, but we can still succeed if we're intentional and we collaborate rather than isolate.

So, to recap: Find a crew by whatever means you can. Recruit collaborators and join an existing team. Be intentional about nailing down your author brand, and this brand includes your mission statement (the human element that you always come back to in your writing). Ensure that your author brand remains consistent, even while multiple authors are developing it. Use the proper tools to connect your crew and keep them working together smoothly.

Once you've accomplished all this, follow the rules of the land. Follow all the best practices of the moment. Take courses on Amazon ads, build your collective email list, etc. The main differences between your pirate crew and the rest of the indie authors out there is that you know what you are up against. You know that the rules are stacked against you, because information dealers and hackers won't play fair. You know the only constant is that there are no constants. And you have each other.

Next week we'll dive deeper into the critical Author Brand component for any Pirate Crew, and go into more detail about how the mission statement and tagline support the overall brand. I'm excited; this is gonna be good stuff!



David is an authorpreneur, and StoryShop co-founder, determined to discover the natural evolution of digital storytelling. His published works span across all ages and several genres. Mostly, he enjoys exploding things. If you‘ve read for twenty pages and nothing has been blown up or shot, then David must be losing his edge.

Feel free to google, poke, fan, or like him. But do so quickly, before he is disappeared by the FBI. Raised in Central Texas, David Mark Brown learned to ride horses at a young age. Then learned to hate them after a disastrous attempt to impress a girlfriend. He was five. Turning to a life of prose, he migrated north to the University of Montana (the Berkeley of the Rockies) and became the Redneck Granola.

David invites you to enjoy the show!


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