At MSP ComicCon recently, another author showcasing their work (comics, but she is also a prose writer debating displaying that work at conventions as well) asked me what tricks have worked best for me to be a successful author. One of the biggest things I stressed was finding your community.
I have had a community of sorts for my writing since I first started posting fanfiction online in 2000. Mostly because…I posted online! Where, inevitably, people will find your work and either praise, ridicule, or ignore it. And while that might sound daunting, finding those people who will praise it, or give constructive criticism if they do find issue with it, are part of what turns a casual writer into an author.
Regardless of your end goal as an author– making money, being famous, sharing your story with even a handful of people – you can’t do it alone. You can attempt to write alone, without ever using an editor or beta reader (something I would never recommend), but at the end of the day, you still want someone to read it. Writing is a community endeavor. Someone writes, someone reads, and often there are many people in between.
I’ve found over the years that the larger and more varied the community, in whatever form, the better, for three simple reasons.
1. Your writing will improve.
Why? Because every comment, every collaboration helps us grow as writers. Yes, even when a comment comes from a troll. There are plenty of people out there, especially on the internet, who just want to bring other people down, but even the worst troll can teach as something about how we can improve ourselves and our writing. Take every critique with a grain of salt, but use them to get better and better with every new story you share. This is true whether you’re communing with just readers, or other writers as well. Sharing your work with others means your writing will get better over time.
2. Your audience will grow
Obviously, sharing your work with more readers means…more people will read it! Amazing concept. But true community means that readers might share it with other readers. Or maybe you’ll grow close to another writer, and share each other’s work. Swap reviews. Spread the word to even more readers. It’s the type of snowball effect we all want to experience.
3. You’ll make more money
Maybe you don’t care about book sales or making money. That’s fine. But no one snubs their nose at it when it happens. More readers means more sales, and vice versa, and community can help you find and share ideas for how best to market your book. You’ll learn more, see what works and what doesn’t, get feedback from the people you’re directly promoting to, and from other authors who have been where you are. It’s a win-win, even if you fail, because next time you’ll know what not to do.
So where do you find community? So many places, and honestly, there isn’t one answer for everyone. Some people find their community on social media, like Twitter or Facebook. Some people are successful with their blog or website. Some people are prolific with Goodreads, which has many aspects of community, in their general makeup, and through groups. Some, like me, might have tried out Tumblr on a whim a year ago, with only 100 followers, and a year later I’m getting ready to celebrate 1000 followers, just from interacting with fans and people who share my interests.
The important thing is to explore and try things out until you find the community that works for you. I’m lucky in that I also have a great community because of BigWorldNetwork – authors, editors, and voice actors who regularly boost each other with fun tidbits, advice, and encouragement. But everyone can have community if they simply look for it, and in turn, you’ll improve as a writer, gain more fans, and make more money on your books just from having a few more people to share the wonderful world of writing with.