Here’s a formula for difficulty:
- Take the over 1 million books published in the U.S. in 2016. To keep it simple, let’s not even think about the books published in the UK, Australia, etc.
- Add the millions of previously published books still being sold today.
Millions and millions of books = a hard road ahead.
If you want to write and sell stories to people outside of friends and family, you’ll face a ton of competition. Even writing a novel of bestseller-quality isn’t enough to succeed.
Many new authors give up writing because they don’t understand the process of creating, publishing, and marketing their books. They get overwhelmed and experiment with things the hard way, losing time and money. But they could have avoided many of those painful lessons by doing one thing:
Joining a writers’ group.
A good writers’ group provides critique sessions, special events, workshops, and networking opportunities that can help you avoid the obstacles keeping you from success.
What exactly does a writers’ group offer?
Support & Inspiration
- Other writers understand the challenges of being a writer. The constant research. The quirky rituals. The self-doubt, where you think everyone will hate what you wrote. The soaring confidence, where you see Hollywood paying you millions for the film rights. Writers’ groups understand these peaks and valleys and encourage you at every step. Most importantly, they’ll help you keep reasonable expectations, so you aren’t tempted to give up when Oprah doesn’t come calling.
- One of the best things about a writers’ group are the critique sessions. They provide helpful guidance, especially as you write your first book or try a different genre. You don’t want to rely on friends and family for this. If your writing needs work, they’ll gloss over problem areas so they won’t hurt your feelings. Critique groups give you the objective feedback you need. Plus, they can point you in the right direction for story research.
- Critique groups aren’t the only way to tighten up your writing. I highly recommend attending writers’ conferences. They offer various workshops, and many conferences are organized by writers’ groups. These conferences are the best way to network and meet agents, publishers, and editors.
- Writing the book is just the beginning. Promoting the book is where the work comes in. Unless you’re already famous or have a huge following, it’s going to take time and money to make a name for yourself. It’s possible to spend hundreds on Facebook and Amazon ads, only to sell a handful of books. Being in a writers’ group saves you trouble by allowing you to learn from those who’ve found marketing success.
Help with the Publishing Process
- If you’re self-publishing, you’ll need to do everything. How do you find a developmental copy editor? Or a line editor or proofreader? Do you know the difference? How do you find a cover artist? How do you market your book or find professionals who can do it for you? How do you even know who you need? And if you find these people, how can you know they’re any good? Even if you’re seeking a traditional publisher, you’re still going to have to do most of these things anyway. You’ll need to submit a polished manuscript to convince an agent and publisher to sign you.
- By now, you see the recurring theme. A writers’ group can get direct referrals for proven professionals. Most of them will already have been vetted by fellow authors, giving you greater assurances than if you randomly plucked someone from the internet.
With all of the benefits they provide, most writers’ groups charge only a small membership fee. Many are free to join. All of them will offer new and published authors a value they can’t get anywhere else. You can easily find groups on google or Meetup.com.
Trying to become a published, successful author without connecting to a writers’ group is setting yourself up for failure. Don’t go at it alone. Join other writers by finding a group near you.
James Reid is the author of the police procedural Monsters Behind the Gates: A Detective Novel.
He is a Coast Guard veteran and marketing consultant in Dallas, TX. Spurred by the murder of a close relative, James has done extensive research into homicide investigations, including joining detectives on live police calls. He enjoys photography, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and international travel with his wife. He is currently finishing his second novel.
You can reach him at www.jreidbooks.com.