As Robert Adams, Chair of the Guild's Book Committee explained, the Co-Operative is intended to be independent of the Guild without being autonomous from it. Members of the Co-op must first be Guild members and the Guild will help with setting up the business and getting it started.
The idea stemmed, Adams continued, from observations about 'the plight of the writer'. Many writers, he said, despite years of success of varying degrees, have now found themselves without a publisher or with their books out of print. 'While it's possible for writers to get themselves into a victim's mentality, new technology now gives writers the chance to be empowered by linking up with other writers and being in control of their own work. That's what lies behind the setting up of the Writers' Guild Books Co-op.'
Adams stressed that all decisions concerning the Co-operative needed to be taken collectively, but he suggested a starting point of seven principles:
- Membership is voluntary and open to all WGGB members
- The Co-op's membership controls its policy and activities
- The membership controls its capital and runs it as a not-for-profit organisation and with surpluses re-invested. If dissolved, any surpluses should go to the WGGB
- The Co-op is an independent aspect of the work of the WGGB
- The activities of the Co-op currently include: providing advice and information for members on aspects of publishing and self-publishing; marketing members’ books through a website; helping members publish ebooks
- The Co-op should make contact with other writers and organisations, nationally and internationally
- The Co-op should aim to develop sustainably.
The Co-op is set up as a company limited by guarantee, he explained, and is not-for-profit. 'Co-operative status is a particular type of legal structure that, in particular, guarantees involvement of members in the running of the company and the way that any profits or assets are distributed. Therefore the work of the Books Co-op is in the hands of its members. It’s not what the directors want or what the Guild wants; it's about what the members want. The directors are the managers of the company, they carry out the wishes of the members.'
Guild General Secretary, Bernie Corbett, another of the founding directors, added that the Guild's Executive Council had decided that, to promote both the Co-op and the Guild, any new Candidate Members will be able to join both for just £50 .
Membership of the Co-op, it was pointed out, is currently free to existing Guild members.
Various possibilities for the Co-op’s work were then discussed, including:
- Helping to promote members' self-published books
- Sharing expertise and resources
- Providing links with specialists such as printers and designers
- Developing a Guild 'imprint' to publish members' work
- Helping members to publish and sell ebooks
- Issuing free ISBN numbers to members
Update: Frances Lynn has blogged about the Co-op launch