I know that many writers join Facebook groups all over the world as part of their determination to get their work known. The theory is that, by being a member of such groups, one has joined a club and will be able to promote one’s work more easily in that space. Some writers look for huge groups on the basis that the more members they have, the more potential buyers there are; other writers make the calculation that, if a group is smaller, there is more chance of actually making real contact with people likely to buy.
For many, it’s all about that: getting people to buy, buy, buy.
There are other reasons why writers join these groups. Being full of other writers, they can be supportive. Writing is the loneliest profession because it can only really be done alone, and this can lead to terrible feelings of isolation and lack of support. Writers’ groups are a valuable thing in this regard — one can join and participate in discussions about various topics to do with writing, get questions answered, learn from the more experienced in the group and generally feel part of a community of like-minded souls.
The ‘Buy, buy, buy’ people can spoil things to some extent for those seeking company, solace and wisdom. In the better groups, a compromise is reached and the selling is channeled and directed so that it has a role but isn’t dominant.
But here’s an idea: instead of joining a writers’ group— or three, or dozens, as many writers do — why don’t you start your own?
‘Gosh,’ comes the response, ‘that would be awfully time-consuming, not to mention a little daunting and vain, wouldn’t it?’
Time-consuming? Yes, it takes a little bit of time to set up and manage a Facebook group, especially if you want it to be successful and balanced, like the better ones are. For a start, you need to monitor who joins it -- if you let anyone join, you will see its definition start to blur and fade and it will melt before your eyes into a general chatting shop, with some of the chats turning nasty. And you’ll need to keep feeding it and policing it or members will drift off and lose interest.
Daunting? Not really. Yes, it means being a little more visible than you might like as a person. In those other groups, you can be one of many, appearing or disappearing as you like; in your own group, you have to maintain a presence and be prepared to express yourself consistently and carefully at all times. But that’s hardly very scary in real terms.
Vain? Well, this is the main point. If you think gathering your own group around you in order to introduce them to your work is ‘vain’, you might be in the wrong business. Your overall goal as a writer is to introduce people to your work, one would hope. And the truth is that Facebook groups are one of the most successful ways of doing that. Besides, this isn’t about you, not really, not centrally: it’s about your work. That’s not vanity, it’s passion. Your work and your identity may overlap in places, but they are not the same thing: you can set up a group that is focused on your work and only play a role when you need to.
Here’s the thing: perhaps the most effective piece of business advice anyone ever gave me was to set up a Facebook group centred around my work. I went from spending hours and hours (not to mention lots of money) spamming and advertising on the international web — time-consuming, daunting and vain in itself — in return for zero interest and zero sales, to being at the heart of a thriving, lively, interactive and mutually beneficial group. And I started to get sales. Not only that, the people who bought my books did more than buy, they forwarded the whole thrust of the thing: the group got bigger, the ideas spread, the whole enterprise took on new shapes and directions.
How time-consuming is it to run one’s own group? I estimate that I spend about one hour a day on it - but that hour is split up into two minutes here, two minutes there, so it looks as though I’m there the whole time.
How daunting is it? It’s not so much daunting as fun. It is live, interactive and an antidote to isolation. In the almost two years since I started the group, I have had to step in to calm a developing upset between members maybe three times. That’s three times out of countless thousands of conversations, interactions and exchanges which occur in a group of any size.
How vain is it? Well, it’s not really about ‘Me’ as such, though I manage the flavour and content of the group: it’s about the work, the projects, the individuals and the ideas. And the fun.
Think about setting up a group of your own. If you need help, or need me to set it up and run it for you, contact me.