Been thinking a bit lately about the networking / interpersonal side of the business. There have been some recent incidents that have made this ever more apparent for me that this business is made up tiny cliques, of which being recommended to join them can make a difference in an author’s careers.
So, I wanted to give a quick glimpse (from what I’ve seen – and again, this might not be the same experience for everyone) of the author side of the world (again, indie author side and mostly online).
For the most part, being an author is a lonely business. The job is done mostly in your head with your computer or pad of paper or typewriter as your only companion (mostly computer, though there are some old school people out there!).
As such, our methods of networking generally evolve author groups that we find online, whether it’s via forums, Facebook groups or social media locations like Twitter. There, if you show up, talk and chat, you might just find yourself making friends iwth others.
If you have the money and inclination, in-person conferences are available too, along with the usual gamut of classes, courses and critique circles and the like. All ways of meeting other like-minded authors.
Just like any profession, it helps to be able to talk with people in the same profession, who understand the pain you’re going through, who can maybe help with personal or professional issues you face (more on that later).
And there’s nothing wrong with any of that. It’s normal, it’s common, it happens and it’s necessary.
Rivalries and Beef
From my experience, there’s a not insignificant number of authors who are extremely asocial and/or on the spectrum and/or have other disabilities or just, frankly, overweaning egos.
Add that to the fact that many aren’t able to seperate critiques of their work from critiques about themselves and even the most innocous of statements can trigger bad feelings.
In addition, there’s no single road to success. There’s no easily replicably way to become successful (or as successful as X next person who did it before / after you). There’s an element of luck and timing to this career, along with an element of inalienable skill.
All of which that sometimes, even the best intentioned advice can fall flat; because either the person offering hte advice is not conscious of their advantages (luck, skill, timing, genre, voice, etc.) or because dumb luck works the other way, and said person receiving the advice never encounters the problems we might be forecasting.
Either way, good advice can seem bad, bad advice can turn out good and people get grumpy and annoyed with one another.
Networks and Cliques
Which leads to cliques. Groups of authors who hang out with one another.
Sometimes, it’s simply because of genre – the LitRPG authors and romance authors don’t have a lot to talk about when it comes to craft, or launch tactics or best places to go…
Other times it’s because of how/where we publish. 20booksto50k tends towards more of a KU focus, whilst Wide for the Win focuses on success outside of Amazon and indie authors have trouble speaking with trad authors because our routes to success look so different.
There’s nothing wrong with any of that. After all, with more focused advice, you get.. .well better advice.
But within these larger groups, there’s often smaller groups. More exclusive ones, which are invitation only. You might never hear of these groups or even know they exist until you get invited to them. Others are more public (chat groups for all the authors of a small publisher for example).
And there’s nothing inherently wrong with these groups, often made up just friends and people who are just, well, willing to chat and share information with one another. I’m in a few, and one of the major advantages of a smaller group (especially one that is made up of individuals roughly within the same level of career progression) is that you can provide and get advice that is much more targeted.
In addition, it encourages the sharing of information that one might not necessarily want to share across a larger group. I might share my current marketing plan, my release schedule, the way specific newsletters worked for me and the CPC, etc as well as my sales because of that… where I wouldn’t do so to a group that is not as exclusive.
All good things and useful.
There’s also the problem that often such groups, by being exclusive and/or requiring control, requires that new people coming into the group have to be trusted. And if they are shown not to be trustworthy for one reason or another, when they’re shown the door, such individuals might lash out and/or bad mouth the group or those within it.
Which creates further rivalries and bad blood really.
On top of that, some of the information shared privately could be useful on a public basis. In a few groups I’m in, certain suppliers and authors are placed on a ‘be careful with dealing’ list.
Reasons for this can range, from just generally bad interactions to slow response and overpromising on what they can provide to outright scam artists.
Whisper networks, to help authors avoid wasting money.
Yet, here’s the problem – such knowledge could be, should be to some extent disseminated to the general industry.
Who wants to be the one putting their necks out there? Look at the kind of harassment Victoria Strauss gets for Writer’s Beware. It’s an invaluable tool, but she gets trolled on the regular.
Worse, there are individuals and groups which aren’t illegal, just scummy (or lousy at their jobs). Yet, warning or providing such information in a public way not only highlights you as a target, but some of said individuals DO have adherrents, do have fans who can be weaponised.
So, rather than face the criticism, the trouble and potential legal ramifications of taking a public stand and decrying them; we move towards whisper networks.
Leaving new authors hung out to dry.
I don’t really have a solution to this. All I can say is that, in the wider public groups, if you can find them; ask. You never know the kind of answers you’d get, both in public and in private.
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