What Successful Worldbuilding Looks Like
PublishDrive recently connected with J.A. Armitage from Enchanted Quill Press, a service company supporting indie authors. In this guest article, J.A. shares with us what it takes to successfully collaborate with authors in creating an impressive 52 book series. A fairy tale story that merges Harry Potter magic with Hans Christian Andersen, Brothers Grimm, and household tales.
This year Enchanted Quill Press is attempting something extraordinary, something that we’ve never seen before in publishing. We are publishing a book a week (two if you count paperbacks, more if you count audio). All 52 books are in the same imaginary world series, inspired by other worlds of worlds like Lord of the Rings or Beauty and the Beast.
I know what most of you will be thinking that it’s insane or the workload must be huge (it is), and mostly, how do we plan on keeping people invested over a 52 book series?
The magic of fairy tales in author collaborations
Last year we began the process by asking a number of folk tale authors if they’d be interested. Each author was assigned a different fairytale character and asked to write four books in the kingdom of that character. We wanted to explore what happened after Sleeping Beauty woke up and after Cinderella married her Prince Charming, or what happened with Snow White.
We made a map of the twelve character’s kingdoms and gave them a shared fight, a shared enemy; what we didn’t give them was the knowledge that they shared an enemy. We made each character have an arc that concludes at the end of each set of four books but then jumps back to the wider arc at the end, with a lot of crossover and cameos.
On top of all that, we’ve given each main character a different magical ability and a different mythical creature in their fictional world. Each chapter is a day, starting on January 1st and going right through the year to December 31st. We’ve made note of holidays, moon cycles, seasons to the magic systems. In theory, someone could read a chapter a day for every day of the year.
What it took for a successful real world collaboration
How did Enchanted Quill Press manage and accomplish such a feat? We did a lot of the work in-house as we couldn’t work with outside designers or editors as we knew we’d be taking up a lot of time.
Our editor agreed to do all the books and we designed all the covers ourselves. We formatted ourselves and we designed the logos ourselves. It meant we had complete control over the process.
We ‘hired’ a group of Beta readers who have been with us every step of the way and are as much a part of the process as the authors. We came up with the concept and did a lot of the world-building. Once that was done, we passed the outlines, characters and world descriptions to our authors.
They’ve been writing these stories for a year, going through a machine of co-writing, betas, editor, proofreaders, and Arc readers -- there are a LOT of moving parts. We keep our authors together in a FB group. They get a say in everything we do because it’s a group project and although we are responsible for a lot of it, the authors have a lot of say in what’s happening.
Most important is communication & cooperation
We consider the authors we work with as the most important part of everything we do and prioritize communication and cooperation. This project is just one of many multi-author projects we are working on and though none of the others are as big as this, we still work in the same way by making our authors a priority.
For anyone thinking of running a boxset or a shared world project, I’d say it can be a lot of fun and give you contacts invaluable in your career -- go for it. Make sure you know exactly what you want, whether it's an ongoing fairy story project or short story, and to always be transparent to ensure the best teamwork. Some people will work harder than others and so you should sometimes be prepared to pick up the slack.
Most of all organization is key. The amount of spreadsheets we use is eye-watering, but we use Google docs and keep everything in one shared place, keeping everyone on the team in the loop.
Inspired to streamline your own author collaborations whether it's co-authoring science fiction or fantasy worlds? Bestselling author Michael Anderle spent 20-25 hours per month managing author royalties and “anticipate cutting that time to between 2-4 hours per month with PD Abacus.” We go over the numbers in-depth in our free case study.