Remember Franklin W. Dixon? What about Carolyn Keene? Both had productive and profitable writing careers. And neither of them ever existed.
What is the recipe for writing success? Steady and reliable releases. Look at the top authors across both indie and traditional methods and you’ll find a stream of books that keep themselves in the public consciousness while delivering what’s expected of them. One book a year is not enough to launch a career. I’ve seen indie authors hold back their books until they have enough stored up for monthly releases, just to give themselves a better chance. On the traditional side, you have heavyweights like James Patterson and Nora Roberts, who provide several books a year, each and every year. How can aspiring writers emulate this success? Teamwork.
The Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books were the brainchild of Edward Stratemeyer, a publisher who employed many authors all ghostwriting under the same name. A group of indie authors could do the same thing and be paid much better than Stratemeyer’s writers. I have a good friend who writes under a pseudonym with her husband, and this teamwork means more releases, a second person promoting the works, and the energy that comes from having more than one person united under a common cause.
As far as I know, the Statemeyer model has not gone indie yet, but there isn’t any reason it couldn’t. Imagine six talented and unknown authors meeting on a forum or a local writing club. They share a love of a genre, perhaps spy thrillers with a hint of romance. With a name settled upon, and agreeing to a length of 40,000 to 50,000 for each story, they begin brainstorming characters and settings. They lay down a handful of plots, each seizing on their own or a favorite from the group. And then they begin writing.
In two months, you have a half dozen drafts, maybe more. Enough for monthly releases, and if they keep writing, perhaps a new release every two weeks or even weekly. The writers pool resources for editing and cover art, both of which add constancy to the material (a good editor would help blend styles. Even better if a member of the group had polishing duties, similar to how Patterson operates). Because of the steady releases, there’s a much better chance of discovery. There will always be one or two books in the Hot New Releases category. There will be six people to share blogging duties, to post on social media, to tap into friend/family networks, and so on.
Now, if anyone has ever worked in a group, they know how miserable the affair normally turns out. But I think a coalition of writers could work with the right, motivated members. The potential for success is so much higher than working alone. You would need solid contracts signed by all members, of course. I would model this contract on author-agent contracts, where a member can leave with written notice, and they would only receive future royalties on books already published. You would want to split up publishing duties, and there would be a lot of trust involved. But hey, being a writer isn’t easy no matter how you go about it. For all the downsides, there are some incredible upsides. Writing with others could help with output and combat against writers’ block or procrastination. It could make writing more social and fun. I certainly think it would help aspiring writers find an audience more quickly. And even with the six-way split, it would be profitable in far less time.
The worst case scenario is that each author writes a few books that go undiscovered. In which case: dissolve the partnership, leave with your own property, file off the serial numbers (change character and place names), and publish under your own names. Hey, you’ve written a few books. That’s a win in my view. You’ve got a lot of practice under your belt and you learned something from the group. But I think the chances are more likely that you’re cruising around like Nancy Drew at the end — in a blue Roadster with the top down, thinking about your latest mystery.