The Power of the Group: Which authors/writers group should you join?
by Laura Orsini
Authors and writers groups are plentiful. A search of Meetup.com for the keyword “author” reveals more than 2,000 groups worldwide. Of course, some of those are book clubs and other random things like “Ghosts Happen,” “Earthship Seattle,” and “Vibrational Energy and Natural Healing.” Nevertheless, the vast majority of them appear to be directly related to authors, writing, and/or publishing.
Why should you join an authors/writers group? Well, as we’ve established in prior posts on this blog, writing is typically quite the solo endeavor – and it can get pretty lonely sometimes. Besides simply giving you someone other than your cat to talk to, the right authors/writers group can offer things like opportunities for evaluation, inspiration, information and education about pieces you may be missing. Some focus on access to helping you publish. Others are geared at promotion. And don’t underestimate the importance of socialization.
Of course, writers groups are not for everyone. As Holly Lisle writes on her blog:
Dean Koontz apparently loathes [writers’ groups], Harlan Ellison despises them, and I’ve read advice from dozens of other pros whose work I love and whose opinions I value who say writers’ groups will do everything from steal your soul to cause your writing to break out in pox.
Questions to answer before joining a group
- Does the group have a clearly defined focus and/or goal?
- Does the group have any relevance to the type of writing you do?
- Do the meetings begin on time, with people sitting down to get to work, or does everyone just stand around talking about writing – or gossiping?
- Are there rules for those who are offering critiques?
- Are there rules for those whose work is being critiqued?
- Does the group have a strong moderator? Are there set guidelines for behavior and a way to remove troublesome members?
- Do the members seem to like each other?
- At what level/place in the publishing process are the other writers/authors in the group? Are there experts and people from whom you can learn among the members?
- Do all the members contribute at each meeting, or do you hear from the same three people every time?
- Are the other members happy to see you?
I run the Phoenix Publishing & Book Promotion Meetup – members of whom write the content for THIS blog. We have 223 members (2 have joined since I took this screen shot), and average about 20 authors per meeting. We cover a wide variety of topics, including things like:
- Your Book as a BUSINESS
- Putting Your BOOK MARKETING PLAN on Paper
- Editing: It’s NOT Optional if You Want to SELL Books
- Your Marketing Is Stalled Until Your BOOK COVER Is Done
- Formatting your EBOOK and Creating an AUDIOBOOK
- LEGAL TIPS Every Author Must Know
- Building Your AUTHOR WEBSITE and Crafting Your Online Presence
- Success tips for selling on AMAZON and BARNES & NOBLE
- LAUNCHING your book and planning your BOOK TOUR
- And many other marketing topics
We meet twice a month for topic-related sessions and have a networking-only mixer every other month. There’s no fee to attend, but I put a lot of work and time and energy into maintaining the group, so a $10 donation is suggested at every Meeetup. I did not do the research to determine whether any of the other Meetups mentioned below have fees for attendance.
Another very popular Phoenix-area Meetup is the Central Phoenix Writing Workshop. Local authors and writers can find a meeting of this group every night of the week. While I’ve never attended, I hear very good things about it, particularly the Monday group.
Here’s just a small smattering of some of the authors/writers Meetups taking place around the world:
You can join a group based on what you write.
You can join a group based on your degree of progress or specific goals.
You can join a group based on the identities of the writers/authors. Not sure I’d ever identify with a group that called themselves Smart Bitches Who Write, but at least eight Texas women do.
You can join a group because the name sounds interesting.
When it comes to joining a Meetup, however, more members is not necessarily a sign of a vibrant group. Evidently, Chicago is home to a lot of authors and/or wannabe authors, as evidenced by the numbers of members in the two groups below.
The Chicago “Authors Showcase” Book Club (no idea why those two words get quote marks) describes itself as: “One of the largest and most active Chicago book groups. If you love discussing interesting books in a wide variety of fiction and nonfiction categories (including: psychology, history, memoir, politics, personal growth, economics, nature and beyond), sign up now! Local authors are invited to speak about their books and readers are invited to review or tell something briefly about a book they are reading. There will be time for open and private discussions and interactions.”
Sounds like a pretty clever idea, right? So what’s the problem? I looked at the attendance of each of this Meetup’s meetings for the past 4 or 5 months, and the image below is typical of what I saw:
The group has 617 members, yet no one is attending its meetings. Something is amiss here. Maybe the person running the group is bad at marketing it. Maybe the person running the group is a jerk. Maybe the events are held at really weird times. Maybe the events are badly run. I just cannot imagine how the group can have so little traction with 617 members and after having held 49 Meetups.
Just as with any authors/writers group anywhere – online or face-to-face – before you join a Meetup, do some due diligence. Look into things like:
- How often do they meet?
- How many Meetups have already been held? Granted, it may be a new group that is just getting off the ground – but if the Meetup has been in existence for a year and has had 2 meetings, that may be a red flag.
- Who is the moderator and what skills, expertise, or interest do they have that qualify them to run the group?
- Who are the other members? Do they seem like people it would be helpful to get to know to advance your writing/publishing goals?
- What do the comments/feedback tell you?
I’ve visited a handful of critique groups over the years and was thrilled with none of them. Some turned out to simply be excuses for social get-togethers. Others were dominated by one or two people with no moderator willing to step in and cut off the navel-gazers. One was so hell-bent on the “critic” aspect of critique I can’t imagine why anyone other than a sadist would want to attend it. That’s not to say there’s not a great critique group out there for me – I just haven’t made it a priority.
Figure out what’s most important to you. If you’re in the writing phase of your book, a critique group is probably a good idea. If you’re now in the process of actually making a book out of your manuscript or getting it formatted as an ebook, a writing group probably isn’t going to fit the bill for you.
And … groups don’t have to be part of Meetup to be successful.
Phoenix author Elaine Mays saw a need for book signing opportunities for Phoenix-area authors and started a group called League of Local Authors about a year ago. The idea is to market books published by local authors at farmers’ markets and festivals in the area. You must be published in order to join. Ebook-only authors are welcome. The group presently is attending one market and is looking at others in the area. Membership is $25/year to cover the costs of tents, tables & chairs, table coverings, banners, and other expenses. And there is usually a small fee charged by the market (typically 10% of your sales). The group has about a dozen members as of this writing.
LOLA is currently at the Crossroads Farmer’s Market the last two Saturdays of the month. They provide the tent, two tables with coverings, chairs, a banner, and bags. Authors bring their books and promotional materials. At present, the number of authors is limited to three authors at each event. The participating authors rotate everyone so that everyone has a chance to for visibility. Authors are asked to arrive an hour before the market opens at 9 a.m. for setup. It runs through 1 p.m. in the winter and 12 noon in the summer. If you’re a Phoenix-area author who would like information, please reply in the comments with an email address and I will put you in touch with Elaine.
Here’s to finding the authors/writers group that works for you!
LAURA ORSINI is a self-publishing consultant who works with authors who want to change the world. From concept to publication to the first-time author’s book launch, her expertise will help you make a better book and find more readers. Laura is the organizer of the Phoenix Publishing and Book Promotion Meetup. She will be exploring more about the power of the group in her coming posts for this group blog. In the meantime, read her posts at Marcie Brock – Book Marketing Maven. Friend her on Facebook, follow her on Twitter, and check out her pins on Pinterest.