Friday 27 April 2012

12 Women in 12: Shannon Okey

As a writer and editor I have a lot of time for others in the profession so this month's 12 Women in 12 tells a story of someone whose work I can really get behind. Shannon Okey is the founder of Cooperative Press, a publishing house with an impressive vision. I caught up with Shannon this month to find out how Cooperative Press came to be and why it is that it has gathered so much respect and support from crafters, writers and designers.

(c), Shannon Oakey
Shannon loves to write, and is passionate about books. Shannon herself has published 12 books as well her recent title The KnitGrrl Guide to Professional Knitwear Design (with Cooperative Press) and has vast experience in the knitting and publishing industry. Her first 12 books were produced with large publishers before she decided to start her own company. Shannon admits that it was driven by the fact that she didn't like how slowly the industry was responding to the amazing change that's been happening and wanted to see a better system for creators to create, control and promote their work that would ensure better compensation and also more flexibility. Shannon understands what matters to designers having published herself and her fiery commitment to delivering new books to an audience is evident. My favourite quote of the interview is her statement about deciding to start a publishing house:
"It absolutely made my head explode when I had to argue that publishing digital editions would be a good idea, or that promoting my books on Ravelry was a must. You get tired of fighting after a while, it's actually easier to make your own way."
 (c) Cooperative Press
The idea of it being easier to create your own publishing house is quite a statement but is typical of Shannon. I have adored the vision of Cooperative press from day one: to publish quality work, and to make sure that authors and contributors are fairly compensated for their work at a rate that is better than the industry standard. It means that contributions are respected as craft and business ideas and opens the door for ideas that perhaps wouldn't get off the ground with a large publishing house. The statement emblazoned on the Cooperative Press website reads:
"5,000 or 50,000. Does the book matter to that 5,000? Then it should be published".

I love that. It means ideas are not marketing strategies but celebrations of talents and a community that is nurturing them.   
The other impressive thing about Shannon is that she seems to attract talent around her that are happy to support one another. There's no diva like hogging of the spotlight and everyone's talent is evident in their publications. When I asked Shannon how this came about she was clear,  "I pay fairly and on-time. I'm flexible. My authors all seem to like each other and want to be involved with each other's upcoming projects. We're a real team here". There are lots of lessons to be learned here about good business practice.

So what advice does Shannon give those wishing to follow in her footsteps? 
  • Be organized. 
  • Be professional. 
  • Take responsibility. 
  • Be kind. 
  • If you don't love what you're doing, stop- everyone can tell if you're just phoning it in (all the more so these days with the interconnectedness of social media)!
(c) Cooperative Press

So what's next? Well, many new books of course and then there's going to be a magazine and project clubs. To keep up with the latest Cooperative Press news, you can follow them on facebook page or twitter feed.

A huge thank you to Shannon, her staff and her writers and designers who are so inspiring in their innovation and commitment to craft.

Stay tuned for more 12 women in 12 and please do join in to show your appreciation for great business stories by either tweeting along on twitter (#12womenin12) or sharing your feelings on your own blog. Be sure to let me know/ link us in, I'd love to know what you think!

1 comment:

rockandpurl said...

I count Shannon not only as a former and current editor for a vast amount of projects, but also as a friend and somewhat of a mentor. I can testify to the "Be professional and Take Responsibility" tips, she's always been so open and clear about what's going on. I look up to her in my business achievements, and hope she'll be crazy enough to get my book in print ;)