Paper Lantern Writers, A Book Marketing Collective, Part 2
In “Episode 44. Paper Lantern Writers, A Book Marketing Collective, Part 2,” host Beth Barany, creativity coach, and science fiction and fantasy novelist chats with the founding members of the Paper Lantern Writers Collective — Ana Brazil, Edie Cay, and Linda Ulleseit — where they discuss making money, challenges of running the collective, and the diversity within its members.
Listen to Part 1 of Paper Lanter Writers, A Book Marketing Collective HERE.
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Paper Lantern Writers, A Book Marketing Collective
Many cultures around the world have a tradition of paper lanterns. A paper lantern amplifies and diffuses the light from a single flame, allowing the human eye to see further and more broadly in the dark. Paper Lantern Writers (PLW) aims to shine light on the shrouded stories of the past, giving modern readers a clearer perspective on the people and places that came before them. We promote the historical fiction writing of our members, both published and in progress, in order to better connect with readers and reviewers. By collaborating as a group, we build the individual careers of our members through marketing, social media, and events. www.paperlanternwriters.com
Edie Cay writes award-winning Regency romances. A LADY’S REVENGE (2020), THE BOXER AND THE BLACKSMITH (2021), A LADY’S FINDER (2022), and A VISCOUNT’S VENGEANCE (2023) focus on the history of women’s boxing and themes of misfits and found family. As a speaker, she has presented at Historical Novel Society, Regency Fiction Writers, History Quill, Chicago-North Spring Fling, Toronto Romance Writers conference, and the Historical Romance Retreat. She regularly contributes to the HNS quarterly journal. She is a member of HNS, The Regency Fiction Writers, ALLi, and a founding member of Paper Lantern Writers. Follow her on social media @authorEdieCay.
Linda Ulleseit was born and raised in Saratoga, California. She is a retired elementary school teacher with an MFA in writing from Lindenwood University and is a founding member of Paper Lantern Writers. She enjoys cooking, cross-stitching, reading, and spending time with her family. Linda writes historical fiction that tells the stories of unsung women in history.
Ana loves to write and read historical fiction about curious, ambitious, and totally bodacious women. Her historical mystery FANNY NEWCOMB & THE IRISH CHANNEL RIPPER won the IBPA Gold for Historical Fiction, and her short stories “Kate Chopin Tussles with a Novel Ending” and “Miss Evelyn Nesbit Presents” have appeared in crime fiction anthologies. Her short story “Trust No One” is included in the PLW’s UNLOCKED anthology.
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Transcript for episode 44 – Paper Lantern Writers, A Book Marketing Collective, Part 2
Are you looking for a way to dig into your world building for your story?
Then I recommend that you check out my World Building Workbook for Fiction Writers. Now available.
It’s at How To Write The Future.com.
Just head on over there. Click, sign up. Put your name and email, and there you go.
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Hey everyone. Welcome back to How to Write the Future podcast.
The focus of this podcast and the focus of my work is to support writers to create positive optimistic stories because when we vision what is possible we help make it so. And part of that visioning is learning the tools of today that help us become better writers for tomorrow.
Part of becoming a better writer is also learning how to become a better marketer of your fiction and of yourself as a novelist.
I also want to encourage you on being an innovator in the way that you bring your stories out into the world.
The Paper Lantern Writers historical fiction collective: Part Two of Three
So join me on this three-part series where I interview three historical fiction authors who have come together to create a collective to market their work.
Welcome to the second part of our interview, where I talk about money and other essential elements to marketing as a collective.
If you haven’t already, I recommend that you go and listen to part one of our interview and then dive into this one.
Let’s dig in.
I have some great guests today on How to Write the Future Podcast.
All right. So welcome everyone.
I have a brass tacks kind of question that I know a lot of writers will wanna know, which is about sales.
Is there a way to track if Paper Lantern Writers has really helped you make more sales?
I don’t know who would like to answer that.
Either one of us.
Go ahead. Go ahead, Edie.
It’s actually hard to track because my first book came out February of 2020, an auspicious time, which was also coincided with the beginning of Paper Lantern Writers. We went live January 1st, 2020. We had been meeting since October, had a little bit of a soft launch in December, and then January was when we really started in. And then my book came out and then the world shut down.
So for me, it was hard to say yes, Paper Lantern Writers made a difference. I believe that it has, and the reason why I believe that is we put out an anthology together with new content just last November, and that meant that it was short stories from each one of us, and it also meant that my readers might buy it.
But so Linda’s readers are gonna buy it as they wanna know what’s happening in her short story, but then they’re gonna get my short story as well.
And I really do firmly believe that if you just put your work out there, you can get eyeballs on it, which is the hardest part. Eventually, they’re gonna read it.
So I, I do think that it has helped.
Yeah. I hear you. I know, as an author, I know how challenging it is to track all that and what comes from where. I feel like we covered a lot of the benefits of being in a collective, and I hear cross-promotion across multiple channels of social media, a list.
And, I wonder, oh, yes, Ana, I see a hand raised.
Yes, yes, camaraderie.
Camaraderie is the big thing. I knew Linda. I knew Catherine, another one of our founding members, but I didn’t know Edie. I didn’t know C.V. And to know them is to love them and to be supported in your journey of writing and even life.
That is also one of the big benefits that I think we’ve all gotten from joining as a collective.
I will say that one of the things that we had to do is– and Ana did this cuz she’s the smart one– she imposed a half an hour chat time before the meeting. Otherwise, in our early days, we spent so much time of the meeting just chatting and just getting to know each other. So it was hard for Ana to reign us in.
By having a half an hour chat time ahead of time, that way we can all get all of our news out of the way, celebrate everyone’s wins, and then we can start the new time, and we’re gonna have a productive meeting where we’re not sitting there till 9:00 PM all with our eyes watering, wishing we could go to bed.
We’ve also developed a real good respect for each other. We do a lot of listening to each other as well as we feel free able to speak our minds in the meetings. We don’t feel, maybe I’m just speaking for myself, but I dunno about the newest members, but I think most of us are pretty easy about speaking our mind and listening too, which are both are very important.
I’m a person who I get an idea and. And then Edie jumps on and she goes, yay, the two of us. Yay, Ana. Ok, now let’s think about that. So we need both the excitement and the balance, and we seem to have found that really well, knock on wood.
That’s wonderful. So that’s a great balance of personalities, working styles, and also sounds like respect for each other’s approaches and strengths.
Challenges in Running a Book Marketing Collective
Let’s talk about challenges. What are some of the challenges of running this kind of community?
You wanna say more?
Yeah, for the most part, we’ve been very lucky that we do come to a consensus pretty easily. There have been a couple sticking points over the years, and we have made our ground rules of what happens and how do we solve things, but it did take some trial and error, especially in the early days. It was a lot of work.
We demand a lot of work from our members. It is starting to ease up now that we have this high level of membership. For us, 15 is a lot since we started with five. So in the early days, I was working far more on Paper Lantern writers than I was on my own writing, for sure. Easily. And that’s a difficult pill to swallow.
And as things have eased up with more people, we also found that we have attrition. There are some people that their lives get in the way. They have emergencies. Some people just, they start new jobs and they can’t commit to Paper Lanterns the way they did before.
It’s always sad to see people go. We definitely don’t want to see them go. but it is, it can be demanding and it can be a little hard to settle in, I think.
Those are some of the issues that we have. But so far we’ve been really lucky with personalities. We’ve really enjoyed everyone that’s come across. So yeah, I think we’ve been lucky.
anybody could have come to that first meeting.
They were interested. And we would’ve taken them because we were like, oh, you’re in the room, you’re in. So we were really lucky to find people that really were able to jump in with both feet. We had a good blending of skills that if we had ended up with five website designers, and nobody who knew anything about else, that might have been a problem.
We had somebody who knew the web, somebody who knew that, and so we really started out looking at each other’s skills. and appreciating each other’s skills.
It’s easy to come consensus when you have five people. So we were really nervous as we grew that that wouldn’t happen. But we’ve been again, we’ve been lucky. The people that we are bringing on board seem to be people who are interested in listening and interested in contributing.
And as long as you have that balance, it’s gonna work.
Edie, you said you had a way of going through challenging conversations or coming to consensus.
Is that the case? You have a procedure or a process for helping work through difficult conversations?
We do have a member handbook and in the handbook is all sorts of delightful information.
Okay, if we don’t come to consensus, how much of a majority are we gonna have and how do we go through that voting process?
Part of our executive committee is that we whittle things down to easier decisions.
So in the executive committee, we have a meeting before a meeting. And none of us wanna waste our time having a meeting about a meeting. That’s ridiculous.
So, we do really hard work having the conversations, trying to talk out the different perspectives so that we can discard extraneous information.
And then we can present the general membership and say, okay, we have discussed this option, this option, and this option.
We’ve come to decide that really, it’s best for this one or this one. Everyone vote– choice A or choice B.
Because that way we’ve already excluded C through Z because we had the big conversation and we did talk it in every which way.
Because having that conversation with 15 people is a lot harder. And we try to make sure that the general membership knows that they can come to the executive committee meeting. You are more than welcome. If you keep showing up though, we’re gonna put you on it.
What about Leadership?
Is the executive leadership, is that self-selected? Do you have elections? What is your process there for leadership?
We volunteered. Right?
Well, we didn’t have an executive committee until maybe year two, and it was because we’d come to a couple of, not crises, but times when we were taking too much time in the general meeting, and Catherine said, Hey, how about an executive committee?
And we’re like, oh, no, no, we don’t want– too much organization.
But it turned out that it really was very useful. And, so it was like, who wants to be on it?
And it just it seemed obvious that Linda, Edie, and I, and then another second-year member would be on the executive committee.
So, these were the members who would really get together and look at things, spend the time, think about it, and be able to recommend a few days later to general membership what to do.
But, we didn’t start out with a partnership agreement. We started out with five members who were just very agile, as you would be in software development.
It’s like, let’s try this. Oh, this isn’t working, let’s try this. Oh, this works.
So we were just ready to try things and discard them and adopt them at various times. But a lot of our superstructure came much later, as I think it should.
I think we could have buried ourselves in partnerships agreements and, oh, what are we gonna do if we do this? And what if this happens? And what if this person does this?
That just would’ve absorbed too much of our creative energy.
That’s very savvy. And it sounds like especially with your background, Ana, in project management that you were able to help guide that process forward. That’s really exciting.
The Diversity of Historical Sub-genres
I wanted to ask about the diversity in your group. Besides the three subgenres of historical fiction represented here, what are some of the other kinds of historical fiction writers in your group?
We have books, everything ranging from Bronze Age, which is Michal Strutin. She wrote, Judging Noah, which is a piece from the Bible talking about women asking for their inheritance rights. So it is very much about feminist Judaism. That’s really what it is.
And then we have as late as, oh, who Is the latest one?
Is it Jill?
Jillianne Hamilton with her 1940s The Hobby Shop on Barnaby Street.
So you have this whole range.
We added two gentlemen to our collective. That was a big deal for us, being all female collective. It was overcoming some of the thought processes, cuz Anna had said, the way we formed our collective, it was actually a very organic way to organize ourselves. And we are non-hierarchical, which I think is unusual.
Ana is our leader, but as a leader, she is not saying, I’m in charge. She is just saying, little ducklings, follow me on this adventure that we are having. Don’t go astray, Linda.
Edie, not that way. That’s not the direction we’re going.
So adding the idea, not these gentlemen in particular, but the idea of adding a different energy into our collective, we had a lot of discussions about it. A lot of discussion.
Well, in addition to adding a person in England and a person in eastern Canada, we had been mostly California based. We have one in Denver, we have one in Illinois. So we’re branching out in time zones too, which makes meetings tricky.
Bringing in male energy can change the dynamic. I’d be curious to hear– Right now we’re like veering off into theories of leadership.
I’ve noticed that if you bring a whole bunch of women into a house, everything will get done.
Everyone will kind of self-sort into, well, I’m good with the kitchen stuff and I’m good with the kids’ stuff, or I’m good with the garden, or I’m good with the vacuum. Right? Generally, women will–
They’ll step up.
They’ll step up, but also they won’t necessarily be fighting over, well, who gets to chop the food or do the dishes or, right?
There’s almost like a natural sorting process.
And even in groups of women who are creating something like what you’re doing.
And I’ve experienced this. I created several anthologies. And once I found out everybody’s strengths, then I was able to ask people to step up like you were saying.
And with male leadership, I’ve just observed throughout the years that there tends to be more of a hierarchical way of doing things. Again, just very organically, and this isn’t necessarily fixed in stone.
Some other conversation we could go into why this all might be,
I’m just curious if the men who’ve joined your group, have they’ve come in saying, yes, we are happy to be a part of this collective, and we are happy to see how you have run things, and we want that.
Yeah. And so far everything has gone really wonderfully.
We have a lot of different, I would say, almost different cultures coming at us now that we’ve added English and Canadian into our American group.
One of our new members is Ukrainian.
English is not her first language.
So we are getting a lot of different backgrounds put together.
One thing I’ve noticed– I’ve lived all over the country.
The unspoken subtext of communication is fascinating because it changes from region to region, and what saying nothing means region to region is very different.
And so it’s fascinating sometimes to see how that can work.
Of course, we’re on Zoom when we meet, so that makes people reading very challenging.
So I don’t know. I assume that everyone’s doing okay because no one has said otherwise, but I could be wrong.
Yeah. Yeah, that’s, that’s fascinating.
As storytellers, we’re already working on cross-communication. You’re all conveying historical periods.
I write futuristics, so I’m making it all up and trying to convey different cultural things happening.
So, I find that fascinating what you’re all doing.
So, let’s do, look into the future in terms of, are you going to continue for the foreseeable future.
Is there any kind of, what do we do if our membership drops or what circumstance would you even consider, we have to end our experiment or, does anyone have that kind of exit strategy played out?
Not funny thinking of an exit strategy when you’re on the rise.
This past year, Every October we have new members. And we actually have an application process, so we interview members.
And so that was one of the questions we asked the male members: you’re joining an all women group. Are you aware what that’s going to entail? Are you ready for that?
And they were very, oh yeah, we’re aware. We know, and we’re historical fiction writers. Therefore, we deal with women all the time, a lot of women, female writers. So, they were very open about that. And that has worked so far.
But going forward, during that period, we had more people coming to us to ask to join than we’ve ever had before.
The first time, nobody knew who we were. We’re like, knock, knock, knock.
Do you wanna join Paper Lantern Writers And they’re like, what? Who? Right?
And so this was the first year that we had more people asking to join than we could possibly take. So that is a sign that we’re still on the uprise.
We’re going up. And we’re probably more gonna be thinking about when do we limit membership.
So far it’s working, but it’s not gonna work what we have, a hundred, 200. We can’t have unlimited membership. So far it’s working. And so every year we need to have that conversation. Do we wanna grow? How many do we wanna grow by? how fast do we grow?
Just gonna say, we don’t have an end game.
We are healthy, we’re active, we’re all writing, we’re all publishing, whether it’s novels or short stories.
One of the things we interview for is ambition. What’s your five-year plan? What’s your ten-year plan? And we’re getting that from people.
They say, in five years I wanna be here. 10 years I wanna be here. I wanna keep writing. So I can’t see us ending.
I personally think the smaller we are, the better, the easier it is to manage.
But when new opportunities come along, if we find someone who’s an expert in something that will benefit us all, we might expand a little more than we want to. But there’s no endgame yet.
Preparing for this, I was thinking about –when we just started this, every six months, I’d come back to people and I’d say, do you still wanna do this? Are you having fun? Is it okay? Do you still wanna do it?
The five of us would say, yeah. And then six months later, I’d come back and say, do you still wanna do this?
I’ve stopped doing it, but when I was doing it, it was always, yeah, we’re having fun. We know this is moving our needle. We don’t know exactly how, but, we’re not only doing this for what we’re trying to sell right now, this year, but for next year, because we’ve invested a lot. We’ve created relationships with a lot of readers and a lot of writers.
And those are going to bear fruit in December. In December of 24. In December of 25.
So, getting back to what might be your new question: is what would you recommend to people trying to do this?
This is a long game. And look at it as a long game. Because if you think of it as a short game as let’s see what I can do in two years, it won’t work. But if you have a long vision, then you can sustain it. And I think that that’s what we currently have here.
Stay Tuned for Part Three
That’s it for part two of this series with the Paper Lantern Writers.
Stay tuned for episode three coming next week where we will wrap up our conversation with what this collective does to support each other on how to market their historical fiction. See you next week.
Thanks for Playing!
Thank you so much, everyone, for listening to my podcast. Your interest and feedback is so inspiring to me and helps me know that I’m helping you in some small way.
So write long and prosper.
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ABOUT BETH BARANY
Beth Barany teaches science fiction and fantasy novelists how to write, edit, and publish their books as a coach, teacher, consultant, and developmental editor. She’s an award-winning fantasy and science fiction novelist and runs the podcast, “How To Write The Future.”
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