Back in 2006, I started writing my first non-fiction book. I went along to writer's festivals and sat in the audience, leaving straight afterwards without speaking to people because I'm such an introvert.
Once I had a book out, I knew I wanted to make author friends but I didn't know how to connect. I was under-confident and worried that I was somehow an imposter. I didn't think I had anything to offer.
Fast forward 10 years and most of my best friends are authors, some of whom I have never even met in real life!
It takes time and effort, but you can build a community of authors, even if you feel like a complete outsider right now.
This article stems from an increasing number of emails I've been getting about how hard it is to find author friends and how lonely some people feel. But it doesn't have to be that way.
Community is so important, especially in the fast-paced and ever-changing world of indie authorship. There is so much to know and learn and it can definitely feel overwhelming, and possibly even be isolating if you don’t have any other authors in your life.
A community of authors around you can provide feedback on covers, answer questions about technical issues, share information about the latest online tools for your author business, and so much more.
Here are some ways to find author friends and community, both in person and online. Many of the ideas listed below are free or low-cost. There’s no need to break the bank to find writing friends!
We’ll start with the online ideas, since most of us are introverts and love hanging out in our writing caves.
1. Join a Facebook group for your genre and/or sub-genre
Facebook has its detractors, but it is amazing for providing online groups. If you use the search function in Facebook, you’ll likely find several groups focused on your genre.
If you haven’t joined a group before you might feel shy about commenting at first. It's best to wait until you have a good sense of the atmosphere of the group. When you feel comfortable, go ahead and chime in.
Remember to always – always! – be respectful, kind, courteous and, if you can be helpful, that’s even better. Eventually, some of the relationships you build in the group will expand and you’ll become Facebook friends with some of the people. And then perhaps even connect in other ways, with co-writing projects or marketing collaborations, or just supporting one another.
2. Join the Facebook group for an organization that’s aimed at your genre
Most genres have an association or group, and most of these have a Facebook Group. There are ones for the Mystery Writers of America, Thriller Writers, Romance Writers, you name it.
If you don’t yet belong to your genre's association yet, you can often ‘Like’ the Facebook page for the group and learn more about it there. You’ll learn where the authors for your genre hang out, what books they read, and what authors and leaders they follow.
When I'm on Facebook, I often hang out in the Alliance of Independent Authors Facebook Group where new authors post questions and other members help them out.
3. Friendly Stalking
If there’s an author you’d like to meet or know about, there are polite ways to follow that person on social media platforms, with the aim of perhaps one day connecting either by email or in person.
You can retweet from the author’s feed once in a while, or put up a tweet or Facebook post about a blog post they’ve written, giving them credit, of course. Friendships can be made this way, as long as you abide by the number one rule for this suggestion:
Don’t. Be. Creepy.
Twitter has been my (not-so-secret) friend technique for years now. I've discovered interesting people there, developed and online relationship and then met in person. This is how I met Orna Ross, now a very dear friend and creative mentor. I also do this for every conference I attend, following people with the conference hashtag and then chatting with them on the back-channel, which makes it much easier to talk in person later. I'm @thecreativepenn if you're interested in seeing who I connect with.
4. Join a writing class and then the associated Facebook group.
Many online classes these days (like my courses, for example) come with the bonus of a Facebook group that is exclusive to those enrolled in the class.
This can be a great way to connect with other authors because you already know that the people in the group a) are writers and b) have some interests similar to yours. You each follow the person who’s offering the course, and you’re all interested in the subject matter, be it centered around an aspect of writing craft, or an aspect of marketing books.
Again, as in #1 above, be helpful and supportive to your fellow students, and you’ll inevitably connect with writers you have a kinship with and then you can….
5. Start your own writers' group
A few writers I have connected with in larger Facebook groups have decided to form a smaller, splinter group based on their specific interests.
These new groups can be based on geography – maybe you’ll discover that some writers in the group live close to you – or they can be based on a similar interest in something related to the subject of the group.
My suggestion is that you wait until you have some rapport with a few people in the larger group before you do this. It also helps to have a concrete reason for starting the smaller group – maybe you’ve noticed a few people who are specifically wanting to focus on building their email lists, for example. Smaller groups can also be more like a mastermind and be more focused on the issues that group face e.g. writers with one book and no email list face different issues to six-figure authors trying to make it to 7-figures.
You could suggest (privately in email or Facebook message) that you start the smaller group so that you can support one another about that specific subject.
Now, let’s talk about in-person ideas for connecting with other authors, for those days when you feel like talking to other human beings face-to-face:
6. Take a local writing class
Your community probably has several places, including the public library and perhaps private organizations, that offer in-person writing classes. These could be intensive courses where you meet once a week for several months to learn how to write a book, or small, one-night-only type classes on specific topics like how to use a microphone at author readings, to give a personal example.
You’ll meet lots of interesting authors and writers at various stages of their careers and will undoubtedly find someone, or maybe several someones, you can gradually build an ongoing relationship with. Back in 2010, I did the Year of the Novel at Queensland Writer's Centre in Australia and it was great to meet some people going through the process at the same time.
7. Join a Toastmasters group specifically for writers
As a writer, you will undoubtedly encounter opportunities to speak in front of groups of readers. In fact, if you want to be a successful author, you WILL have to speak at some point at a writer's festival or on a podcast or radio show. If this thought sends your blood pressure soaring, why not try to find a Toastmasters group in your area that is specifically designed for writers?
You’ll accomplish two things at once – develop more confidence about speaking, and increase and enhance your personal writing community. Where traditional ‘networking’ groups can often give introverts the heebie-jeebies, learning a new skill with other authors might be right up your alley.
8. Go to a writers conference organized for your genre
This may also be heebie-jeebie territory for some of us, but conferences are a great way to meet like-minded authors. My recommendation would be to start with a conference subject that really peaks your interest, and also to start small. A conference of 12,000 people held over the course of 5 days would probably be throwing yourself in at the deep-end, so try finding something small and niche at first and see if you like it.
I definitely find in-person events tiring, but they are so worthwhile for taking online relationships into real friendships. This is why I go to Thrillerfest in New York every 2 years, as well as CrimeFest and London Book Fair in the UK. If you go to the same events year on year, you will make friends over time and begin to feel at home.
9. Join the local chapter of your genre’s organization
This links to #2. If you’re so inclined, try to see if your genre’s organization has a local chapter.
Many do, especially in larger centres. Or perhaps you could start one.
10. Go to a Meet Up for writers in your area
Meet Ups are great ways to meet others who are interested in a specific topic. They are often casually run and organized, and you can drop in and see if a group is a good fit for you. If it isn’t you can try another, or start one yourself!
And then, finally, one hardcore suggestion: Start a podcast
Podcasts take a LOT of time and energy to record and produce. They are not for the faint of heart. But … they are an AMAZING way to meet other authors and connect with people you might not otherwise have an opportunity to connect with. Your community of author connections will grow exponentially.
The podcast can be about any subject you wish – it doesn’t have to be aimed at other writers like The Creative Penn is. You could interview other authors in your genre. You could partner with another writer and have a show where you talk about a certain writing subject, like J. Thorn and Rachael Herron do on The Petal to the Metal. Maybe you’re interested in learning more about writing craft and you’d like to talk to experts about that.
You get to decide what the podcast is about and how often you broadcast. You will need some tech savvy to do this, but once you get started, you might just find it addictive. Click here for more detail on how to podcast.
Have you tried any of these ideas (or others) to build an author network of friends and colleagues? What has worked for you in terms of building a community? Please leave your thoughts below and join the conversation.