Further thoughts following responses to my previous ‘pirate crew’ writers’ collective notion via all sorts of different channels.
Consensus seems to be that it’d be a fascinating idea, with the potential to descend into a howling shitstorm of hatred, accusations, and rage should such a thing prove successful. (“A good way to lose friends” I think was how my mate James actually put it, but the sentiment’s the same.)
This is good. The “fascinating” part, not the “howling shitstorm” part. Everyone likes eyepatches.
Some practicalities occur with our theoretical band (let’s give them a proper name; ‘the Revenge’s Crew’ for now, or insert your favourite piratical reference of choice).
Chief amongst them is that of sales, reporting, and distribution. Ideally, for maximum transparency, our Crew (or ‘Revengers’ if you wanted to be more literary about it) could have a centralised record-keeping system for sales and income per book - sort of a group KDP account from which data would be extracted at will (I mentioned that the only rights requirement for the Crew would come if somehow an iBooks aggregator account came about and this would be precisely such a thing). Unfortunately, certainly for iBooks, almost certainly for B&N and I’m not sure for Amazon, to have one you’d need to be trading as a company. As a US company for B&N. And at that point the exercise becomes one of paperwork and accounting and becomes a publisher.
This means that all Crew would have to self-report sales income received (received, as opposed to owed, because you can only divvy up shares of what you’ve been given, not what you’re going to be given once Amazon or whoever get round to kicking stuff your way) from all sources. On, let us say, a monthly basis.
You’d need a public by-book income count, and an equally public record of who had what shares from it. People would be on their honour to be honest about their numbers. Maintaining the list is (relatively) simple database work and a spot of maths.
But suppose, you might think, one of the Crew made claims elsewhere suggesting they were selling or earning much more than they were telling the collective. Accusations of lying fly, the truth cannot be known for sure, and argument tears our feisty mob apart.
The only solution would be a requirement in the Articles that the Crew would have to be as professionally honest to others as they are within the group. Breach of that rule would be cause for booting; in a group surviving largely by trust and being good to your word, this’d be key.
Someone - and I forget who - pointed out the difficulty of disputes over what was expected in return for a share. If I say I’ll edit you, and you expect a full line edit and critique, and I expect only to have to do a read-through and critique, how do we avoid a lot of acrimony afterwards?
Requests for help, and stipulations of what’s expected and provided, would need to be publicly made first on the Crew’s board.
"Dave: [EDIT NEEDED]: My 80k word cat mystery needs a line edit and critique on the characters. I want to get it out by April if I can so it can tie in to some other stuff I’m doing, so I’d need it done by the end of March. I was hoping Sarah might like a crack at it."
"Sarah: Sorry, I don’t think I can squeeze a line edit in with such a tight timeframe. I can do a critique, but I’ve got a bunch of work on and I wouldn’t want to commit to something that hefty. Sorry, Dave."
"Dave: No problem. Anyone else want a crack?"
And so on. It’d be the only way to stop anyone moving the goalposts midway through work. Crew would have to be Article-bound to do their utmost to fulfil their commitments. Things can obviously happen to throw things out of whack, but if people rely on you, you’ve got to try to deliver.
Over time, you’d have some idea who you wanted to work with, and who you wouldn’t. How much effort you’d be likely to have to put in. And what others might be able to provide, especially in some of the more technical areas. (I have so far, for example, used Scrivener to output stuff to ebook formats, without AFAIK causing any shoddy errors like not starting chapters on a new pageturn. Others, though, might directly edit the raw code etc.)
Communication would, in most of these things, be key. You’d need a central board system to make sure everyone was up to speed at all times, and to provide a slow-burn social backdrop to keep a sense of community to the Crew. Even in an informal group, the intended aim of having members helping one another out, co-operating for mutual benefit, it’s a damn sight easier to do so if people have a sense of acquaintance with one another.
This isn’t a new thing; when I was starting out all those years ago, I was part of the Mystery Writers’ Forum, several of whom I’m still friends with. Hell, one of them I even wrote the reading for her wedding. Writers’ groups have been around since the year dot, so I don’t imagine this aspect of such a venture would be anything too out of the ordinary.
I’m probably forgetting a bunch, but I’m tired and the house has been full of vomiting bug and cranky babies for the past few days. If my poor brain comes up with more, I’ll add to it.