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How a Community Made Me a Better Writer

by Daphne James Huff

As I approach my 2 year anniversary with self-publishing, I’ve been thinking about what my favorite part of being an indie author is.

There’s the creative fulfillment. Getting all these ideas swirling around in my head onto paper is extremely satisfying.

There’s the feeling of accomplishing a goal, which, as an INTJ (one of the Myers-Briggs personality types), is basically what my brain was born to do. Every little goal I check off gives me a jolt of adrenaline that keeps me going for weeks – send a newsletter, set up an ad, reply to comments.

Then there’s making money selling something I made, which is a very different feeling than making money by doing work for someone else. It’s definitely one of my favorite feelings.

Finding my writing community, however, is by and large the absolute best part of the indie author journey. And it’s one that helps with all the other parts. With my community supporting me, I am writing better, faster, longer, and making more money.

Community? But I’m a writer, not a people person!

The word community makes us think of large communes out in the desert. But calm down, introverts. Finding your writing community is not an impossible task. You don’t need to have a hundred friends that you meet every week and chat with nonstop. Your writing community can be as small as a single person.

When I started almost two years ago, I thought I had no one. Looking back, that’s not really true. I had a non-writer friend who read my early drafts (and who still does, in fact) and that tiny bit of encouragement, those weekly emails asking if there was something new to read, was the push I needed to finish my first book and hit publish.

Stepping into the larger writing community took a bit longer, however. I hit publish without belonging to any Facebook groups or being a member of any local writing groups. It’s not that I didn’t think I needed them, it’s that I didn’t know they existed. Writers write alone, don’t they? Why would I even need other people?

I had a few books and blogs to guide me through the self-publishing process, and through them, I eventually found my way to other indie authors.

Within weeks I had more ideas and support than I knew what to do with. I started reaching out to others, wildly enthusiastic to find other authors. It felt reassuring to know that I wasn’t totally crazy to want to do this writing thing.

Do you remember that feeling? Joining that first group, sending that first email, the feeling of finally finding someone like you?

Sounds great! BRB, going to join all the groups…

Hold your horses! Here’s the thing. There are communities within communities. You can go to the same high school as a thousand other people, but that doesn’t mean you’re friends with all of them. You have your little circle that you cobbled together through classes, after-school activities, or by taking the same bus. You don’t need to be friends with everyone, just enough good ones to be supported through the pain and joy that is adolescence.

As I’ve grown my community over the past year and a half, I realized that each person and group fills a specific role. There are some I go to for writing craft advice, others for ad advice, some for swaps, and some just for fun.

There was a lot of trial and error along the way, settling into one group only to have it be shut down, or grow so big it doesn’t have the same feel that it used to. I’m a lurker, despite my more extraverted tendencies, and I take the time after joining a group to get a good feel for it before jumping into anything.

One thing I felt I needed almost as soon as I entered the online community space, was other indie author moms. Not finding this within the existing groups, I launched a podcast so that I would have a really great reason to talk to all of these amazing women I was seeing glimpses of in the various groups. Their voices weren’t quite loud enough to be heard by those who needed that kind of encouragement – the exhausted mom trying to get her indie author career off the ground (i.e. me).

Woah. Running a podcast sounds like a lot of work just to meet people.

To put it simply, it is! But it’s been 100% worth it.

Hopefully it won’t come as a surprise to discover that I have not done it alone. In fact, the only reason I have a podcast at all is because of an email exchange with another author in which we mentioned a shared desire to start something dedicated to moms in the self-publishing space. Feeling nervous but excited, we decided to go for it and see what happened.

A year and a half later, we’re over 40 episodes in and have our own little corner of the internet where hundreds of women feel 100% comfortable sharing every aspect of the Writer Mom Life – from the joy of hitting publish and seeing positive reviews come in to the frustration of writing while a toddler bops you on the head with his new lightsaber (Santa did not check with mom and dad on that one…).

This all sounds nice if you need some encouragement or advice, but you mentioned making more money…

Our very first guest on the podcast reached out to me a few months later about collaborating together with a third author. We knew that writing a series was the best way to make money as an indie author, yet as moms we don’t have the time or energy to write a book a month.

So we created a world and decided we’d each write a book. Through an always open group chat, we hashed out details about the town, crossover characters, and dedicated time to reading each other’s drafts. Whenever the murky middle reared its ugly head, or we got to the “dumpster fire” stage of editing, we were there to help push each other through to the other side.

And the results?

When we launched our joint series in early 2018, I made more in the first month than I had in all of 2017. The book is responsible for over 75% of my sales for the year, with the seven books I published on my own making up the remaining 25%.

For every new launch we have, the reach is multiplied by three thanks to our collective platform. We save money by sharing resources like joint newsletter and giveaway accounts, and we each bring our own skills to the mix. One of us is great at running promotions, one does all our covers, and one is merciless with the red editing pen. Whenever we see a new idea for advertising or marketing, one of us can try it and report back, instead of all three possibly losing time and money. We can test things faster, get precise feedback, and adapt in a way that simply isn’t possible if you’re trying to do it all on your own.

Good for you! But I don’t really want to write with others…

That’s okay! You don’t have to in order to benefit from the writing community. Writing together is just one of a hundred ways. The important thing to realize is that joining forces – even in small ways such as beta reading for each other or sharing blurb advice – will get you further than you ever could reach alone.

Welcome to the community! I can’t wait to see what we can accomplish together.

Daphne James Huff

Daphne James Huff

In alphabetical order, Daphne James Huff is a Capricorn, HR professional, INTJ, mother, podcaster, wife, writer, and yogi. She can sing all the songs in “The Pirates of Penzance” from memory and distrusts people who enjoy raisins in their cookies. You can find more about her books on her author website – https://www.daphnejameshuff.com/ – and hear her chat with other writer moms over at Writer Mom Lifehttp://writermomlife.com/ – the podcast and online community created by and featuring indie author moms. You can also follow WML on Twitter (@WriterMomLife) and Instagram (@WriterMomLifePodcast).