Note: this is the second in a series of posts of ideas for improving/growing/sustaining the field of Mormon narrative arts.
A writers co-op can come in a variety of forms and levels of investment. In fact, the Mormon market already has a co-op: LDStorymakers. This is what I would term a “weak” co-op in that you have to be a published author to join and you pay a yearly membership fee, but the cooperative effort is in the form of discussion, mentoring, marketing advice, sharing experience with publishers, etc. The group also organizes a yearly writers conference. I think that considering the Mormon market, LDStorymakers is a good response to the needs of working authors (although I’d like to see them branch out and offer a contest for unpublished writers).
A stronger form of an authors’ co-op would be a model where a group of writers team up and provide capital (and/or raise funds) for a work space that they share and use for events, workshops, etc. If successful enough, the co-op also provides space, mentoring and funds for emerging writers and maybe publishes a few chapbooks and/or a journal/magazine. Often the authors involved have similar tastes in literature and may even be friends, lovers or spouses. The important thing here, though, is the physical space that facilitates the growth and cohesiveness of the cooperative. That acts as a retreat, a salon, a school, a bookstore. The Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis is one example of this type of cooperative (although it has become rather large and baroque).
An even stronger form of a writers co-op is one where a group of authors actually pool funds to publish and market work by the members of the co-op. This works best, obviously, when there is a strong (yet not overly overlapping) ideological, regional or genre theme that links the authors together. I would imagine that it’s also the most difficult type of co-op to successfully form and keep running because it depends on a certain level of sales for the authors involved. But if you find the right niche, the right audience, it’s doable.
I would love to see the third option take place, but I think it’s unlikely in the Mormon market because you’re talking about a small niche of a market that’s already a niche Market. So I think the next step is for someone to take a stab at the second option. Obviously, for such a thing to work, it would need to be in Utah. There just isn’t the right concentration of Mormon writers anywhere else. But a space where writers could write, book clubs and writer’s groups could meet, readings could take place — that would be very cool.
And now that I think about it, if you combined it with a performance (and/or screening) space, you might actually be able to generate enough revenue to make the rent. And if you also stole a page from the McSweeney’s crowd and also added tutoring for kids, you could probably pull in some grant money.
Anybody out there toyed with the idea of doing this? What barriers might there be to launching such an effort?
Next on the list: e-commerce