Writer Aileen Weintraub shares how to find your writing community in the process of launching your book.
Writing can be a lonely endeavor. Mostly, it’s just us and our screens trying to find the right words to win the hearts of our audience. However, long before our books are ready to launch into the world, it’s important to have a support system in place. After all, no one understands a writer’s angst better than another writer.
As soon as I received an offer on my recently released book, I started thinking about ways to collaborate with other authors. Here are six steps you can take to connect with other writers ahead of your launch.
Step 1: Form a New Release Group Online
Each time I have a new book releasing, I immediately begin looking for a New Release book group online. I’ve found them on Slack, Facebook, and even Twitter. Digital spaces like these are where people who have new books releasing get together to discuss the challenges and successes of publishing a book, while also offering unique marketing ideas, opportunities for collaboration, and overall moral support.
You can usually find one of these groups by doing a quick search on social media, but you can also create and moderate your own group and invite others to join. As my publishing date neared, my online group became a lifeline. Not only did they offer incredible advice, but I also made many new friends that understood exactly what it was like to launch a book into the world.
Step 2: Start a Writing Group
One of the best ways to build your platform and get word out about your book before your launch is to write companion pieces. These are pieces that are topic-adjacent to your book that you will hopefully publish in splashy magazines with large audiences. If you’re not used to writing and pitching, forming a small group of three to four other writers with whom you can swap pieces and offer feedback can be incredibly helpful.
About 18 months before my book released, even before I had a signed contract, I was invited to join a bi-monthly Zoom group. Each writer would submit their work, which we would read beforehand, and then we would spend 15 minutes providing feedback. Every single piece I workshopped in this group was eventually picked up by a publication.
Step 3: Put Together In-Conversation Events
Unless you are a well-known author or have a large following, most bookstore and library events are likely to draw a larger audience if there are at least two people discussing a specific theme or topic. This can be an in-conversation style event or an event in which one author interviews the other.
Either way, you are likely to get twice the attendance with two authors, and bookstores are more likely to be on board if they have the opportunity to sell double the amount of books. Reach out to authors who write in the same genre as you to see if they would like to collaborate on an event. Once you solidify the theme of the event, craft a well-thought out pitch letter and then approach libraries and bookstores to see if they are interested.
Step 4: Pitch a Panel of Authors to Organizations and Festivals
To further extend the life of your book, consider collaborating with between three and five other authors to form panels which you can then pitch to literary events, festivals, and other organizations. Although it’s always preferable to be in-person for these events because of the engagement and energy of the audience, Zoom events have allowed authors from around the globe to share space and discuss important topics.
I’ve done successful literary festivals online that have helped me reach new audiences, all while collaborating with authors who live in other parts of the country. Now that my book is out in the world, I’ve recently worked with two other authors to pitch a panel about how to cope with the book launch blues. There are always new opportunities and angles to explore!
Step 5: Sign up for Story Slams and Readings with Multiple Authors
Writing your story is much different than reading it out loud in front of an audience of strangers, and it can feel unnerving, especially for introverted writers. Do it anyway! Being part of a reading series that includes other authors will not only engage your audience but offers a great opportunity to find new readers.
Often, local libraries host reading series, but you can also put one together yourself. Find authors you already feel comfortable with and whose writing complements your own and ask them if they would like to participate. Once you have the lineup, contact venues, including bookstores, bars, and community spaces that might be interested in hosting a reading series.
Choose a standalone five-to-seven-minute excerpt that will make sense if readers aren’t familiar with your story, and don’t be afraid to adapt the writing as needed. Skip parts that require an in-depth explanation and make sure when you are introducing characters it’s easy for the audience to figure out who they are.
Here’s an example of an excerpt from Knocked Down I like to read that was recently published in Huff Post. You’ll see that the parts in italics are adapted so the story makes sense as a standalone piece.
Step 6: Exchange Moral Support Texts
As you get closer to your launch date, unless you are a superhero, you are likely to have a lot of concerns about how your book is going to be received once it’s out in the world. Having other writers that you can confide in about your concerns is enormously helpful. I have a great network of writers that I met online whom I now text when I have concerns, just need to connect, or even want to laugh about the whole writing and publishing process. It has made what could be an incredibly daunting process a fun one instead, plus I’ve made lifelong friends.
As you think about how you are going to market your book, remember that support and advice from other authors is immeasurable. So many of my marketing successes came from brainstorming sessions and connections with other writers. Writing may be a solitary endeavor, but marketing doesn’t have to be.
In online lectures, supplemental readings, and written assignments and exercises, we’ll talk about how to source, prioritize and develop topic ideas; compose and refine pitches to multiple outlets; stay tightly organized about submissions, follow-ups and correspondence; and execute assignments brilliantly—as well as why writers who query well, deliver on time and prove easy to work are gold to editors everywhere.