Image: Matthew Loffhagen
No-one is an island, but a lot of writers like their solitude. The process of writing itself is often solitary, and it can be hard to immerse yourself in the world of your book when a real live character from this world is competing for your attention.
Yet our fellow writers can help us hone our craft and expose us to opportunities to write, publish, compete, collaborate, learn, grow, market, and enjoy our work. There’s a time and place for the chain-smoking, midnight-oil-burning Lone Ranger sessions, but if you would like to enjoy your fame and fortune pre-humously, you may want to take off your sweatpants and go hang out with other people who have the same passion as you. Here’s how to make it happen.
9 places to meet fellow authors
In the digital age, you don’t have to attend the right cocktail party to meet people who share your goals. It shouldn’t take you more than five seconds to type ‘writers group’ into your Facebook search bar, and you can narrow your search by genre to find a group that will support your specific efforts.
If you don’t see a group you like, start your own. Seek out relevant authors from similar groups and begin recruiting (including in some of the places I’ll be mentioning next). With a little proactivity, your group will soon be the one other authors are searching for.
2. Writing groups
If you hate Facebook or are prone to time-wasting on the notoriously addictive platform, start a real-life group. Start off the same way, by reaching out to people you know, even people you don’t know very well, and ask them to spread the word. Put something on Facebook about the group, providing a time and public meeting place if you want to reduce online communication. Hang up some flyers at libraries, community centers, and coffee shops and you’re likely to attract some new faces. You don’t need a big group to start, just consistency and dedication.
You can also use a service like Meetup. This site’s sole purpose is to connect you to people with shared interests, and it includes an opportunity for local, in-person meet-ups as well as the online platform. If you don’t see a group that works for you, it’s easy to create your own.
A few minutes on Reddit will yield access to thousands of aspiring and successful writers who are already using Reddit’s no-frills platform to discuss everything from their latest read to the best way to self-publish to how much profanity is too much for their target audience.
While it gets less press than social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, Reddit is wildly popular and its communities tend to form around subject matter, making them easy to find and join. The site comes with optional bells and whistles, but if you can type, you can learn to use it.
Goodreads is a great platform for talking about books, sharing what you like, finding something new to read, checking out reviews, discovering a new author, and generally having a good time with other bibliophiles.
If that’s not enough, they also have a group for writers, connecting you directly to people who like crafting words almost as much as they like digesting them.
Twitter can be a strange site to use if you’re not very ‘online’ – a place where it can feel like everything you say is just you ruminating out loud while everything everyone else says is a direct question they sent straight to your screen.
Despite this, Twitter is an amazing place to make writing connections once you get the vibe, and not just with amateur authors. Twitter is, in many ways, the great leveler, allowing you to engage directly with even the most famous authors, just so long as you observe sensible etiquette.
To be more precise, follow authors that you like, contribute to the discussions they strike up where appropriate, but don’t stalk them and don’t spam them; just allow yourself to engage with them and the other members of their active audience. These connections can lead to conversations, they can lead to new connections, or they can simply be a source of passive inspiration.
6. Writing classes
It couldn’t be easier to sign up for an online writing class, and what better way to meet like-minded authors? You can get professional feedback on your writing and hone your craft, all while building bonds with other students. Some of these connections will be confined to the limits of the class itself, but many of them will turn into lasting online relationships, keeping you in touch with dedicated writers and introducing you to new ones.
Alternatively, you can sign up for a live writing class. Face-to-face friendships are often stronger and have greater longevity in addition to strengthening ties with your local community. If you’re a social butterfly, invite some of your new friends to keep in regular contact after the class is over. Pick a coffee shop or quiet bar where you can either get together and log some words or keep the discussion going.
7. Author readings
There’s a solid chance other writers will be in attendance at author events, but if not, meeting the speaking author is a guaranteed win. The author in question is good enough to have landed a reading, and there’s a reason they chose to have a reading at this particular site, which just so happens to be near you. Find out what you have in common and how you can stay connected, even if it’s as simple as buying a signed copy of their book and following them online.
8. Literary fairs
Literary fairs vary in size, from fun local events to larger festivals with expert speakers, but one thing they all do is attract authors. Along with the usual mixing of any social event, you can expect plenty of formalized opportunities to get talking with fellow writers, at which point it’s up to you to forge a connection and make future plans. Of course, even if you just cultivate a handful of authors who you see at literary fairs, you’ll still have made significant contacts on top of the benefits these events already offer.
9. Writing seminars
While literary fairs tend to focus on fun and frolics, writing seminars are more academic in tone. Of course, the speakers are still trying to entertain, they’re just a little more concerned with educating at the same time.
Seminars aren’t a once-a-week indulgence for most people, but they’re a worthwhile investment, and they’ll put you in touch with other authors who are serious about their work. Investigate the best seminars around the country, even internationally, and drop one or two of those into your bucket list. Traveling is important for expanding your artistic horizons, and a well-reputed, well-attended, well-taught seminar will be more than worth the time and cost.
How to make a meaningful connection
Comment, converse, connect
The easiest way to connect with someone is to strike up a conversation. To do this in an authentic way online, take the self-promotion elephant out of the equation. Imagine you’re a kid on the playground or an adult at a speed-dating event; the fastest way to get someone to like you is not going to be an elevator pitch on how great you are or why everyone should read your book. People like it when you talk about them. If you like something they wrote, say so. If you have a genuine question, ask it. If you don’t have anything to say, keep track of them until a comment or question arises organically.
The same goes for live interactions. Ask the other party questions about themselves and their work. If they’re a decent conversationalist, not to mention human being, they’ll ask you questions back. If they don’t, don’t worry about pushing yourself on them. This isn’t likely to be the kind of author friendship you want to pursue.
If you really like the other person’s work, promote it. Share on social media, tell your friends about it, put something on your blog about it, maybe even ask them to guest post on your blog or put an excerpt on your website. Do this without expecting reciprocity; do it because you like their work and you want other people to know about it. If and when you have some content that might be suitable for their blog, or you’re trying to use your network to get exposure, they’ll know you’re asking as a friend, not as someone who was using them for a future favor. Whatever you do, make sure what you’re asking them for is relevant.
Put your extrovert cap on
When entering an online forum, a writing class, a seminar, or any event, the introverts among us (and we are many) like to fade into the background, observe, absorb, take notes, and sneak out in the last three to seven minutes of the Q&A session. Observation and integration of new information are among the introvert’s strengths, but we can seriously miss out when we don’t seize opportunities to connect with people simply because we’re not in the mood. Find out what it takes for you to be outgoing, and make sure you do that thing before every event. For some of us, it might be a shot of bourbon (and only one, you don’t want to go sloshing around like a fool), for others a particular hat or article of clothing that improves confidence and draws people in, and for some just planning out some comments in advance.
Finally, whether you’re naturally inclined toward introversion or not, take a few minutes to prepare yourself before every event. Remind yourself what kinds of questions you want to ask and remember that meeting people isn’t about you, it’s about showing a genuine interest in them and forming a connection that will inspire them to be interested in you as well. Plan on talking to at least X number of people, and bring a notepad to jot things down on. Wait until the conversation is over to start taking notes, or let your interlocutor know that what they’ve just said is so interesting you want to make a quick note of it so you don’t forget.
Networking not manipulating
Relationships with other writers may prove to be beneficial, but always remember that, like a good friendship, the benefit must be mutual. Use the resources above to connect with as many authors as possible, and then invest your time and energy into the people who you’d probably be friends with anyway. Cultivate those relationships where give and take comes naturally and neither of you is using the other.
Where have you met other writers? Which avenues have provided the best types of author relationships? Let me know your experiences in the comments below, and check out Grow Your Author Brand Through Networking. Here’s How and 6 Ways To Collaborate With Other Indie Authors For Better Marketing (And More) for more great advice on this topic.