No matter how easy it is for indie authors to network online, whether to share best self-publishing practice or moral support and friendship, you can't beat meeting in real life for lots of reasons. Debbie Young is a big fan, running two local groups, and here advises on how you can start or join your own authors' group.
Why Indie Authors Should Meet Up in Real Life
- Conversation proceeds faster and more freely, and more easily goes off at tangents, which is great for brainstorming and outside-the-box thinking.
- Real life meetings lift your spirits and inspire you, especially if your writing hasn't been going so well lately.
- They enable you to celebrate others' writing success stories – and success is infectious!
- Face-to-face conversations bypass the potential for misunderstandings and hurt feelings that can occur when exchanging only written messages on social media.
- You can talk more confidentially than online, even compared to the privacy of a closed/private Facebook forum like the one shared by ALLi members.
- Going to meetings gets you away from your desk, and, goodness knows, there are plenty of people telling us these days that sitting at a desk too long is hazardous to our health (not to mention good ideas).
- They stop us feeling isolated.
- No matter what busy social lives we lead, there's something special about meeting other writers, who speak the same language as you and don't find it pretentious or ostentatious or mystifying when we talk about our writing lives.
There are plenty of writers' groups around – ask at your local library or bookshop if you're having trouble finding one to suit you. But if you want to find one to suit you and your self-publishing ambitions, it might be harder.
How to Start a Local Indie Author Group
- Use MeetUp.com to facilitate the local groups, and the process is not as demanding as you might think.
- It's also worth making contact with other local writers' groups and organisations and tell them about your Meetup. They might like to join yours too. You can download all you need here.
- Decide together with other members how you'd like to run your group – where and when to meet, what the agenda should be, whether to have guest speakers, whether or not to critique each others' work.
- It feels good to hold the meetings somewhere book-related, if possible, rather than in a pub or hotel, which can be too noisy and inhibit conversation that is often quite personal. Refreshments can also be expensive there.
- Bookshops with cafes or free meeting spaces are ideal, and meeting regularly at the same bookshop will help all members build up a good working relationship with its booksellers, which may lead to them being happy to stock your books and host your events. No guarantee or obligation, of course, but it’s a great opening.
- If you don’t have a local bookshop, a public library can be a good alternative, especially if it’s big enough to have a cafe or seminar rooms that are available for free. As with bookshops, building a relationship with the librarians for your Meetup may pave the way to other author events for you.
- It is good politics, and courteous, to tweet about the meeting, thanking the shop or library for hosting and complimenting it, before and after the event.
- If meeting in a bookshop, it would be great to buy some books while you’re there – or if you were about to order something on Amazon, ask the shop to order it in for you in advance instead, so you can collect it at your next meeting. The income over the year from group members could make a significant difference to the store’s takings, and will make sure your group is always welcome!
Top Ten Tips
- Try to hold your meetups on the same day of each month and at the same time, to avoid confusion. e.g. 7pm every third Tuesday.
- Do not be surprised if you can’t find a time or day that suits everyone, just try to suit as many as you can.
- Unless you are sure everyone knows everyone else, get everyone to give their names and introduce themselves to the group at the start of the meeting, so you all know each other’s name and genre, to facilitate conversation.
- No need to take minutes – just advise those who attend that there won’t be any minutes so to feel free to take notes! This keeps the atmosphere informal and saves work for the organiser!
- Check whether anyone has hearing or eyesight or mobility problems and try to accommodate them if you can e.g. avoid venues with background music which can be a problem for those with hearing difficulties.
- Encourage members to support each others’ book events and launches e.g. sharing dates of coming events and new books. One might even time a book launch to coincide with the meeting date, running the meeting just before.
- Encourage members to get to know each other better by reading each others’ books and blogs.
- Facilitate book reviews by inviting members to contribute one review copy of each other books to the group, and allow members to choose discreetly from your group’s “review library” if they wish to, without putting pressure on anyone to do so.
- You may occasionally want to invite guest speakers but it’s not necessary. peer-to-peer networking is immensely invaluable for authors.
- Remind members to bring along their author friends.
MeetUp.com has lots of tips for running a successful group.
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OVER TO YOU
Please feel free to share your top tips for running effective indie author groups.
I began WoE! (Writers of Essex) over the Christmas holidays and we now meet quarterly. We meet in a cafe so buy their wares. I tried to make it as central to the county as possible so chose Chelmsford which is an hour’s drive for me but most of the writers I know live a stone’s throw from there.
So far it has gained a little interest but like everything it has to grow slowly.
If anyone else in Ireland would like to jointly start one up (or even better, two other people,) I’d be delighted. I’ve organised a bloggers group for 5 years (we meet most months) and it’s brilliant for learning from each other as well as providing support and growing a community.
I wd love to have a group here … Oxford is a somewhat daunting place to drift into a group of writers you don’t know, trade published, well known, etc …