Writing can be a lonely pursuit. Too many authors feel like they have to do it all by themselves, writing, revising, and seeking publication in solitude. Fortunately, there are more opportunities to build author connections in-person and online than ever before and these author connections are one of your best self-publishing tools for building your author platform.
Connecting at the International Book Publishers Association Conference (Amanda Barbara, Robin Cutler, Brooke Warner, Linda Myers, Nina Amir and Sonia Marsh)
You Automatically Belong
As an author you automatically belong to a very big tribe of authors, so it helps to drill down and build author connections in your genre, such as travel, mystery, or romance. You can drill down a long way! For example, I belong to a tribe of travel writers and outdoor writers, a smaller group of adventure travel writers, a really small group of motorcycle adventure travel writers, and an even smaller tribe of women motorcycle adventure travel writers. In the publishing industry I am part of the tribe of publishing professionals, self-publishing tools, service and technology providers, and authors who self-publish.
We also enjoy our tribe of family and friends—people who are automatically predisposed to support each other. Think about it and you’ll be surprised at how many tribes you can identify. What do these all have in common? You, and people who know, like, and trust you.
Of course we can’t be active in all of our tribes at once. That would be exhausting! Most of my adventure travel tribes are active on Facebook. My writerly and publishing tribes can find me mostly on Twitter and LinkedIn. When I travel, I use my iPhone to post to Instagram. Motorcycle travel stories get shared on the Adventure Rider forum.
In real life, we naturally connect with our various tribes. Most of us don’t stress about it and my best advice is to treat your online tribes in the same way. Keep in touch, but it’s not necessary to be active in all tribes at the same time.
Online Communities and Social Media
Online forums, communities, and e-mail lists were popular long before the social media platforms we know today were invented and these are still great places to build author connections.
Find groups related to the subject you write about, or find author groups about writing in general on Yahoo, Google Plus, and LinkedIn. Online communities have many positives; they’re often free, you can access them immediately, and you can participate in them at any time. In online author groups you can get feedback on ideas for pieces you’re writing, potential blog posts, and publicity strategies.
Because forums typically focus on a particular subject, you can get tons of attention by offering your own expertise. Be respectful of other members’ authority, but feel free to engage by providing your own questions, comments, and resources.
These days I regularly visit the member’s forum on IBPA, the Adventure Rider and Horizons Unlimited forums for adventure travel, and my Women in Powersports group on LinkedIn. I belong to a group on Yahoo for sidecar motorcyclists, and another for the group of people who live in my neighborhood in Baja. I can choose to get posts from the forums as they come, or wrapped up in a weekly e-mail, or not be notified at all.
Online forums and communities can be fun, providing new friendships, entertainment, author support, and a sense of community. If you can’t find a group focused on your particular topic, it’s easy to create one yourself. You may even get paid to write for a community publication.
Professional Organizations and Conferences
Joining a professional organization will help you stay plugged in to what’s happening in your field. You’ll build editor, publisher, and author connections and learn about new developments and trends. There are a number of professional organizations for authors, such as IBPA. They offer an online forum, many local chapters across the U.S., and an annual conference. There’s nothing like a conference or event to fuel online relationships with readers, peers, and potential sponsors.
Author Groups Near You
While much of the writing community has moved toward the online environment, there’s nothing like communing and commiserating with a group of writers in person. Look to your local library and bookstore for connection with other writers. Also try Meetup.com, a free networking site that allows users to find special interest groups near them. When I moved from San Francisco to San Diego I started a self-publishing meetup (I was surprised it didn’t already exist) and I’ve met many authors and publishing professionals here.
Be Real, Have Fun
If you’re not having fun, learning something, or are uninterested in the others who belong to the tribe, you’re either in the wrong tribe or you’re not adhering to the social media rule of thirds.
Remember, treat your online presence as you would a gathering at a meeting or party. These are personal relationships and require authenticity and manners. Initiate two-way conversations and be generous sharing content and promoting other people. Apologize when needed and never plagiarize. People do business with those they know, like and trust which is the formula for creating relationships that encourage sharing, sales, and reciprocity.