I recently reached out to several writers in our Write to Publish community to ask whether joining a writing community has helped them get published, grow their audience, and make progress on their journey to becoming bestselling authors.
Getting published is an amazing, exciting process. It can also feel a little mysterious, especially if you’ve never done it before. What does it take to publish? More than that, what does it take to publish successfully—to publish a beautiful piece of writing and share it with crowds of readers?
I’ve worked with hundreds of writers as they navigated the publishing process, sometimes for the very first time. In fact, I built Write to Publish, our platform and publishing program, to help writers master publishing.
The Fundamental Truth About Publishing
There’s one fundamental truth about publishing that many writers don’t realize. Here it is:
That may sound strange. There’s this stereotype of the great author secluded away in a cabin in the woods somewhere, writing all day and night in an isolated haven of inspiration. Eventually, he emerges with a genius manuscript, sends it off to a publisher, and publishes the next Great American Novel.
Personally, I believed that stereotype for a long time. But what I’ve found, and what the eleven writers I talked to have found, is that it’s simply not true.
On the contrary, if you want to be a successful author, you need other people.
Joining a Writing Community Can Help You Get Published
Some writers knew they needed a writing community around them in order to publish their writing. Rev. Jonathan Srock, an undelivered minister who shares his stories and writing about faith at jonathansrock.com, was looking for a writing community when he joined Write to Publish. “I joined the program so I could learn how to publish my work and be surrounded by a community of authors who understood what it was like. And I’ve made some great friends along the way!”
Others discovered along the way how important community is at every step of the writing journey. Imogen Mann, a recovering lawyer who writes fiction and business documentation at imogenmann.com, says her Write to Publish community shifted her thinking about collaboration. “I’ve learned that the writing process is just as collaborative and multi-tiered as the publishing process,” she says. “This was a bit of a revelation but when you think about it, it makes perfect sense — it’s the same in any profession.”
Pharmacist and novelist Kim Williams (birdsofafeatherbooktogether.blog), credits the community she found with helping her actually follow through on publishing her writing. “Being part of a community of like-minded people is worth its weight in gold,” she says. “Left to my own devices, I may not have pursued my passion.”
Psychologist Suzanne Ruiter, who writes children’s books and articles about education at suzanneruiter.com, enjoys getting to know other writers who “get it,” who understand the joys and challenges of publishing your writing. “We writers need each other to get there,” she says. “We are busy doing a difficult job with a lot of tasks we have to get familiar with, and the best people we can find to support us are people who are learning to do so too.”
Each of these writers have connected with a community that supports them at every step—and each one points back to that community as a core part of their success.
Joining a Writing Community Is the Secret to Finding Readers for Your Writing
When I talk with writers about the importance of finding your Cartel, of building a community to give you a boost in your publishing efforts, I always hear some form of the same question:
But I want to share my writing with readers, not other writers. Why should I connect with writers instead?
I get it. We all want to build an audience of readers who will buy all our stories and books and even share them with their friends.
But here’s a truth that might surprise you: the way to build your audience of readers is to connect with other writers.
“I need to build a solid author platform and I feel that the first and best way to do it is to belong to a community of writers,” says Jane Kavuma-Kayonga, who writes stories to change people’s lives at apagefrommunakusbook834350529.blog.
Horror writer Iseult Murphy, who shares her writing at iseultmurphy.com, agrees. “I loved the emphasis [in Write to Publish] on putting together a team of writers who would support and encourage you, and you them, on your writing journey. Then, when it came to your work being published, you had a network of people to help promote your work. I loved this idea and thought I would get plenty of useful tips on how to get my work read, which I did.”
“Most writers want to be read and I can only do that by sharing and being part of a bigger community,” says author David Rae (davidrae-stories.com). “Being part of the community has made me a better writer and more professional and ambitious in my approach.”
“Actual publication is easy, but . . . getting attention to what you publish is hard,” says award-winning children’s story author Tamara Paxton, who shares her writing at tamarapaxtoncopley.com. “I learned that getting an email list, writing cartel, and reviews are everything.”
For Karen Bellinger, a creator of stories across multimedia platforms at thetimescribe.com, connecting with other writers was the difference between successful publication and shouting into the void. “This program has taught me that building a community and using it to help you craft your very best work BEFORE you hit publish is absolutely critical. Not just because it gives you the invaluable feedback needed to improve initial drafts, but because otherwise, your hard work risks disappearing into the internet ether, never to find its audience.”
When you connect with other writers, you gain access to a much wider base of readers. If you want readers to find your writing, reach out to other writers first.
Sharing Your Writing Is Hard—And Rewarding
Publishing your writing is thrilling and terrifying at the same time. When you publish, you invite other people to read your writing. That’s a vulnerable thing to do—your writing is your personal creation, after all, and you never know how people will respond to it.
One of the best things you can do is to share your writing with a few writers you trust before you publish it publicly and send it out into the world. Supportive writers will give you the feedback you need to craft your best piece of writing.
Plus, the act of sharing in a small, low-stakes setting is great practice for sharing your writing with the wider world.
Of course, that doesn’t mean it’s easy. In fact, for many writers, this was the hardest part of Write to Publish.
“[The most challenging part of this process was] shyness,” says David. “We’re all self-conscious shrinking violets. Sharing work and communicating to other people does not come naturally to me at any rate.”
But he says it was worth it to be bold and share his writing. “Almost always, sharing and reading comments on your work leads to improvement and to seeing your work move in exciting new ways. And really, what is better that having someone read and comment on your work?”
Imogen and Karen agree. “Having to collaborate and ‘expose’ myself online was hard. I’m naturally a self contained person, so working with people I didn’t know was initially uncomfortable,” says Imogen. “I’ve always had to do this in my work, and it never gets easier, you just get better at dealing with it.”
“The hardest thing for me has been stepping out of my comfort zone — not just writing my stories down, but releasing them into the greater world and soliciting feedback on them,” says Karen. “Necessary as both publication and critique are if we are to improve as writers, that’s really scary!”
Jonathan appreciates the feedback and support of his fellow writers, which makes sharing more than worth it. “Having others [look] at my work and critique it is extremely helpful. . . . The kindness of other writers . . . is both helpful and welcome. They make me a better writer!”
It’s Okay to Ask for Help from Your Writing Community
For some people, sharing their writing was the hardest part. For others, it was asking for help.
“The most challenging part has been learning to ask for help from other writers. It seemed impolite to ask,” says Cathy Ryan, who writes speculative and real-life fiction at cathyryanwrites.com. But, she adds, “writers need to help each other so our voices can be heard.”
Madeline Slovenz, who writes realistic fiction for children, young adults, and open-minded grownups at madelineslovenz.com, agrees that asking for help takes courage, and that it’s absolutely essential. “I have learned that it takes courage to ask for help, but unless we can step up and say, ‘I’m excited to tell you that I’ve published a story,’ our work will sit in a digital file that is unlikely to be found.”
“Dare to ask,” says Suzanne. “Make that first step with people who are in the same position: you are not the only one who is struggling. There are very warm, intelligent other writers who also try to find their way in this.”
When You Join a Writing Community, You Might Make Surprising Connections
You never know how someone might respond when you reach out.
Iseult knew before she began that she needed the support of other writers. What she didn’t know was how to connect with authors she admired — authors a few steps ahead of her in their careers, people who seemed inaccessible until she reached out.
“Because of this course I have approached successful authors I have read and admired for years and they have agreed to talk with me — something I would never have considered before taking the course,” she says. “I have learned a lot from my conversations with them.”
It’s intimidating to reach out to other authors. But many writers are far more accessible than you might imagine, and are happy to connect with another writer.
They know as well as anyone that building an author career isn’t a solo activity. We all need community to support us along the way.
The First Step to Publishing: Find Your Writing Community
Publishing your writing is an amazing goal. But before you publish, I have a question for you:
Have you found your writing community yet?
Who will support you in your writing and publishing journey? Who will give you feedback, spur you on when you’re discouraged, help you navigate unfamiliar challenges, and celebrate with you when you share your writing with the world?
And if you haven’t found your community yet, or if you want to publish but you’re not sure how to get started, I’d love to support you.
The next semester of Write to Publish is now open. Will you join Cathy, David, Iseult, Jonathan, and more in connecting with writers and publishing your writing?
Your writing is worth sharing. And if it’s worth sharing, it’s worth collaborating with other writers to share it.
How do you collaborate with other writers? Let me know in the comments.
Today, your challenge is to share your writing. You can do this in two ways:
1. Choose a piece you’d like feedback on and share it here in the comments. Be sure to leave feedback for other writers, too!
2. Choose a piece you’re proud of and share it with a friend. Print it out and give it to them, email the link, or even publish it on your blog.
However you choose to share, today, invite someone else to read your writing.