Build a community by creating a group

Your book’s success or failure can hinge on your personal community or network.

Whether you call the people you’re connected to your tribe, fans, followers, or community, you want to be linked to people who will want your book or can help you tell the right people about it.

In the publishing world, that’s known as a platform.

One of the best ways to build a community that will become interested in your book is to create a group for your book’s topic on an appropriate social network. What you don’t want to do is try to build that community on your book’s website.

Where do people gather already?

I’ve worked with a few authors who asked their webmasters to incorporate forums into their fledgling websites. Each had hoped to create ongoing discussions around topics related to their books. Because these authors didn’t have large platforms in place already, getting people to register for their forums and participate was next to impossible. (Should their webmasters have foreseen this and informed them? I think so. Do you?)

I wished these authors received the advice I’m giving you: Create your community where people are already gathered.

Fish where the fish are. Create a group on an established network such as Facebook, LinkedIn, or Goodreads.

Start slowly

Here are a few things to keep in mind as you consider the possibilities:

If you aren’t familiar with groups, join a few first.

Monitor the flow. Determine what you do and don’t like about each group. Get a sense of the structure and rules that might work for your group. To find groups to join:

  • On Facebook: Type the topic and the word “group” in to the search option.
  • On LinkedIn: Select “groups” on the (tiny) pull down menu next to the search box at the top of the page, then type your search term.
  • On Goodreads: Select “groups” in the top toolbar, then type your search term into the “Find groups” search box.

Pick the right topic so you attract the right audience.

Don’t shoot the messenger here, but honestly, too many authors spend too much time communing with other authors instead of with their book’s target audience. If your book’s audience is authors, that’s fine. If it isn’t, make sure you’re focused on a topic that’s central to your book. Then reach out to people who are interested in that topic.

RulerSet rules and enforce them.

I’m a member of several LinkedIn groups with rules that vary. What’s acceptable in one group isn’t acceptable in another. Some appear to be completely un-moderated – those are the groups where spammers start discussions that are just product advertisements. On the other hand, when the rules are so strict that they inhibit conversation and learning, I usually leave the group. Find a balance that’s a good fit for you and your members.

Make sure you have the time to moderate your group and participate in it.

I watched a Facebook group dissolve because a personal crisis kept the founder from blocking spam and keeping conversations on track and relevant. It does take time to police your group. You want to make sure people treat each other with respect (this can be a challenge, unfortunately). Depending on your goals, you might also want to monitor it for spamming and blatantly commercial messages.

Some group managers set their systems up so that they approve every discussion comment before it goes live. Do you have time for that, or do you need something that’s a little less hands on? Figure out what suits your needs as well as the group’s.

Does it make sense for you?

Starting, growing, and managing a group is an excellent way to find and connect with others who are as passionate about your topic as you are. It’s not an option for every author, of course, but it’s something to consider If you’re in this for the long haul.

What groups do you belong to? What do you like about them?

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  1. Interesting read, I’ll put this to use. What about Google+? There are a lot of communities set up and running on a number of subjects. I’m planning on joining one of relevance in the future (or create one myself if none exist).

    1. Great addition, Adrian. Thanks. I’m a member of a Google+ author group that seems to be dormant. I’d love to hear from authors who are making it work there.


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