When I first started writing, I thought I’d crossed the finish line with those magic words: THE END. I’d written an entire manuscript! I had a story! I was done, right?
I couldn’t have been more wrong. It took me three years from the start of my first words on paper to my publishing contract. THREE YEARS. And most of that was spent doing things I’d never even knew an author had to do. Like finding critique partners, and figuring out how to write a query letter, and getting the courage up again and again to submit to agents and then publishers, and finally learning how to actually get the word out about my book.
During each of these phases (writing, submitting and promoting) I was lucky enough to stumble into a community of people who were there to support me. They were people going through the same things (a shoulder to cry on!) and people who had already gone through it all (experts to learn from!). In short they were MY TRIBE.
My number one advice to anyone stumbling through the book writing, publishing and promoting process is FIND YOUR TRIBE. And with the internet, the resources are endless! Here are a few of my favorite groups for each of the three phases I shared above.
As you’re writing, you’ll want lots and lots and lots of feedback. You’ll burn out everyone you know, and even yourself, with all the edits and versions of your novel you’re about to swim through. By the time I was done with a manuscript that was ready to be submitted to agents and publishers, I couldn’t even keep it all straight! Here are a few of my favorite resources:
scribophile.com – a free online community of other writers. You have to review other’s chapters to earn ‘karma’. You then use your karma to post up your own work for others to review. PRO TIP: Your chapters go up on a board where they will get buried, and no one will review them. I suggest joining a group where you coordinate swapping reviews. You’ll build up Karma faster, and get people who are reviewing your entire work, not just random chapters. For some features you do have to upgrade to the paid service, but it’s cheaper than professional editing at $9/month.
Critique Partners – Leverage sites like scribophile or Facebook to find a solid critique partner. The idea is to find another author you can swap your work with. Not all writers are good critique partners, so keep in mind you may need to partner with a few people and figure out what style works for you. It’s ideal if your group has set parameters for how long you’ll take on eachother’s manuscripts, and if you’re doing it off-platform definitely leverage tools like google docs for easy commenting and edit tracking.
I use this term broadly to mean any part of your process that is after you’ve writen (and polished) your manuscript. There’s a lot to learn in this phase. You’ll need to write a query letter, find agents (or publishers) you like, submit to them, and track it all so you can make sure you’re following up. This post is focused on communities, but another post is coming soon about all the available (FREE) tools to help you out.
Querying – Agents and publishers require query packages, and every one will want something slightly different. Check out Janet Reid’s Query Shark blog for the best, comprehensive list of dos and don’ts as well as successful query letters. This isn’t as much an opportunity to connect with other writers, but it does feature lots of writers as a community looking for advise on this subject.
Facebook Groups – Find a private group for writers submitting queries. I’m a member of Sub It Club. It doesn’t have to be this facebook group, but a good group will allow you to ask your most embarrassing, panicked questions like “I accidentally misspelled the agent’s name, should I write back to say sorry?!?” and that’s why you want a private group! They will hopefully also share updates on upcoming contests, conferences, and pitch opportunities.
Pitch contests – Twitter abounds with pitch contests. Leverage your hashtags and make sure you know about the big ones. A few of the big ones are #PitMad, #PitchMadness, #PitchMas, #SonOfAPitch, #PassOrPages and #SFFPit (For SF/F writers). Put those into your twitter search bar and you’ll get info on the next upcoming dates. The idea here is not only to participate in the contests, but almost all of these have lead up events, where you can interact with judges and other contestants. DO THAT! The point is to build your community. You’ll find Critique Partners and other authors to cross-promote with later. Make sure you’re generous with your likes, quote retweets and follows – you’re building a community!
PROMOTING YOUR BOOK
So you landing a book deal? Congrats! Now what? Seriously, what do you do now? You probably have a publisher (and maybe an agent or publicist), but you still need a community of other authors.
Your Publisher – Ask your publisher if there is a facebook group or other forum for other authors under your publisher. Get involved with these people! Ideally you can cross-promote each other’s books, and offer advice. Most publishers have a private Facebook group, and you’ll want to pop on there and introduce yourself. The golden rules is to offer as much as you take. Make sure you’re promoting for others, and offering comments and encouragement more than you’re asking for own stuff.
Facebook – The ‘book comes to the rescue again. If this is your first novel, search out debut novel groups and the year it comes out. I’m a member of Authors ’18 for example. These groups are only as good as their members, but like your publisher’s connections, these authors are all doing what you’re trying to do — reaching out to readers and promoting. Arrange a blog tour, like each other’s books on GoodReads, swap ARCs and leave reviews. Your imagination (and time) is the only limit.
Conferences and meetups – I don’t have a lot of experience in this one, personally. But I don’t under-estimate the power of meeting people in person. A personal connection, say at a writers conference or a meetup group, can go a long way to forming a lasting connection. For a list of local writer’s meetups, check out meetup.com.
Did you find your tribe through one of these methods? Do you have another way to connect? Share your story in the comments.
Subscribe to my e-newsletter for resources for writing, publishing and promoting your book.