The Value of a Writing / Reading Community: For Authors and Writers

Last week I talked about writing cheerleaders and specific people that can support you in your writing. Cheerleaders are great, but you also (in my opinion) need a community. So… who is your community?

Your writing community can be cheerleaders, professional contacts, editors, readers, or other writers. Basically, it is a professional support system that can fill various roles from someone to cry on to helping shape your work or getting your work out there in front of readers.

But first I am going to make some assumptions. I am going to assume you are a writer / author and that you want to produce work that is strong as possible and find ways to get your book out into the world in effective, efficient ways that help bring about success.

From there, I am going to talk about two different communities.

Community One: Your author/writer community

Community Two: Your reader/fan/audience community (This is labeled 2 only because it usually comes second in terms of community development.)

writing communities

Writing Communities

Writing a good book by yourself is hard. Selling that book by yourself is hard. And by writing a book alone I mean no critique partners, no mentors, no editors. Nothing. Alone. All you from start to finish. And yes, some people can and have done it. But if you look deep inside some of the big successes out there they have community. Their acknowledgements page reads like a roll call in an overstuffed classroom. Their fan base is avid — promoting them far and wide. And it looks easy for them. (You don’t usually see the hard work.) This is the work of communities.

What is a Writing Community

What is a writer/author community? It can be a real life writing club/group where you meet and swap chapters regularly. It can be an online critique group. It can be a hired editor. It can be beta readers. It can be a group of people sharing ideas about what has worked for them and what hasn’t. It can even be a chatroom full of writers swapping tips.

Good writing communities are warm, accepting, helpful, and should give you energy and inspire you. While the members are trusted enough to give you the lowdown, the group should let you go away feeling inspired to make the changes identified. If your writing community doesn’t highlight things you can improve and doesn’t pump you up to go make those improvements then your writing community needs work–or possibly it isn’t the right one for you. Unhealthy writing communities can be deadly. And they are out there. (If you feel like crap and like you can’t do it and you are the worst ever after hanging out with a writing community MOVE ON. Do not pass go. Hell, barely even say goodbye over your shoulder as you hoof it out of there. You DON’T NEED crap.)

It’s nice when a writing community has people at all stages of the game so everyone can help each other in some way. Diversity is good. I should note that your writing community might not all meet together or know each other. I have people who are very supportive via email, others who are in an online group, some are simply commenters on this blog or Twitter friends. Different people for different needs. My writing community is from all over the world and has many different shapes and forms.

Why a Writing Community

-Support (Find people you can meet with who will support and cheer you on.)

-Friendship

-Others who understand what you are going through

-Provide tips, insights, and helpful advice from writing to the business side

-Knowledge base–this can be anyone who can help you out. Literary agents, people teaching you how to use social media or how to upload a book to book vendors, maybe it’s a good cover designer. Maybe it is someone who is helping you make your characters likeable. The list goes on! You may find people on this list help for a few minutes and move on–but they’ve changed you in some way and helped you along your way–and they are now part of your network.

-Group mind think. The group mind is a powerful thing and can solve complex issues because everyone brings something different to the table.

-Saves time. The other day I was thinking how to make a print on demand (print) version of my book Champagne and Lemon Drops and another author had some great blog post links. I was tweeting about making a POD and the idea came up for a program I could use (Scrivener). In the end, I saved a lot of time and headaches by chatting with my community.

-Saves money. Sometimes people in your writing community can help you out in a way that saves you money. Big time.

-Blunders. A community can help you recover from blunders as well as prevent them.

-Feedback. Writing can be isolatory. Feedback is good.

-Promotion. It’s nice if someone else gives you a shout out sometimes. It’s nice to band with someone else to help share the costs of a promotion. It’s nice to hear from others what is working and what isn’t.

In the end a writing community can be the difference between making it and not making it. Between being frustrated and not. Between being big and being midlist. Getting noticed and not.

Reading Communities

Now, I’m not talking Goodreads or LibraryThing here with reading communities even though your readers might go out there and add you to lists and review your books in these communities. What I mean is by reading community is: you and your readers interacting with each other. What is SO cool about the modern world is that readers can contact writers/authors. And when you email back they are so delighted! (And I’m delighted when they email me in the first place. Win-win!)

What is an Author’s Reading Community

Some authors have purposefully created a reading community for their work through a street team (a group of fans where the author offers them tidbits that are exclusive like sneak peeks or giveaways and the group helps the author with some promotion type things whether it is offering a review on a book vending site, sharing the book with friends, or something bigger. Read this great article on street teams by Cassandra Carr.) Their reading community could also be something as simple as a special forum on their author website or a fan page on Facebook. Either way, it is a way for readers/fans to meet each other in a safe environment as well as have contact with the author.

Why Reading Communities Matter to Authors

You may feel shy. You may wonder why anyone would want to join your community. You may even worry that someone may join the community to sabotage you or tell you how awful your book is. Or that nobody will show up.

The author communities I’ve seen have been AMAZING, warm, welcoming groups that are not to be messed with. They are like a big cozy group of wonderful fans who would seriously act like a bodyguard if need be! They are wonderful, wonderful people! And they are HAPPY to help out their beloved authors. (Note: the authors are kind and generous to their fans and do not abuse them by expecting too much from them, etc. The group is a reward for EVERYone.) Think of your favourite author. You’d likely be more than happy to leave a review on a website for them if they asked! There is power in a reading community.

Reader communities also have the power to make or break an author.

10 Big Rules of Reading Communities

1. Be nice.

2. Be kind.

3. Be welcoming.

4. Remember you are their celebrity and everything you do is helping them form an opinion about you.

5. Be generous.

6. Be real.

7. Be genuine.

8. Don’t be promo-annoying. Yes, these are your customers, but they don’t want to hear “BUY BUY BUY” all the time or “ME ME ME!”

9. Small things do matter.

10. Make it easy! I considered one author’s street team but it was a lot of bloody freaking work. Like seriously. Is ANYone on her street team? Yes, you want fans. You don’t want people who are out for freebies, but yeesh. Make it attainable folks!

Why a Reader Community for Authors

-Support (It’s nice to feel loved. But… you can also gain support with things like them sharing upcoming giveaways)

-Promotion (Word of mouth is a powerful method of promotion and having fans who are loyal and loving can really help.)

-Self esteem (It’s gotta feel good to have fans, right?)

-Finger on the pulse (I’ve learned a lot from the street teams I’ve lurked in–with permission, of course). Authors can ask their audience what they like and don’t like. It’s like a focus group. AMAZING.

-It is WONDERFUL to give back to readers. They are our bread and butter.

Your takeaway this week: Find support and stay strong. Writing is a profession. You need professional help. Hm. That doesn’t sound right… but you know what I mean. 😉

What am I missing? What do you think about communities? Do you have one? I bet you do!

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5 comments on “The Value of a Writing / Reading Community: For Authors and Writers
  1. farrelljulie says:

    Hey Jean, thank you for this great post! I totally agree with the need for a supportive writing community – it can be a solitary activity, and it’s really important to connect with people who understand my experience. Also, it would be impossible for me to write in a vacuum (other than the fact I wouldn’t be able to breathe!) because I need the people around me – my work colleagues, my friends, news stories I see on Facebook – to inspire and ignite my imagination.

    We’re all interconnected. I know that I’m a contribution to others, just as they’re a contribution to me. For me, it’s all about sharing the love, letting the kindness flow, and paying forward the supportiveness of the indie community to others! 🙂

  2. Chung says:

    Couldn’t agree more on how important the communities surrounding your writing are. Thanks for this really helpful post, will definitely be following your guidelines!

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