Does it take a tribe to write a book?
There are plenty of writers who will tell you this job is perfect for the introvert and while that is mostly true I’ve learned it takes a tribe to write, polish, and publish a book. I’m not just talking about the editors and publishers—though they are important—I’m talking about the tribe of people writers should have at their side throughout the whole process.
And like a good suspense writer, I decided to share the top three gangsters you need to have in your mob, I mean tribe.
The first person you should recruit is your Partner in Crime. AKA-Critique Partner. This person (or persons) is invaluable, if given the choice between taking the gun, cannoli, or critique partner—take the critique partner!! I have one maybe two people I will allow to set eyes on my early manuscript drafts and trust their suggestions like I’d trust Mona Lisa Vito’s knowledge of tire treads.
- If you haven’t found the perfect partner in crime, I suggest looking to writing groups. Near or far. I met mine via an email and for the last six years we’ve worked together in a coffee shop, via text and email, from across the country and now with an ocean separating us.
- Once you find the person you think will “go to the mattresses” (fictionally speaking!) with you make sure you build a relationship outside of your pages. The best way to know each other and the true voice of their story, is to chat about life outside of the writing. When you get to know your partner, you will know how to read their work ensuring they are staying true to their voice.
Your next recruits are your Henchmen. AKA Cheerleaders. No, I’m not talking about pom-pom flailing…wait, yep—that’s exactly who I’m talking about. Pom-poms, optional. These people are the ones who are going to do all the bragging, shouting, cheering, sharing about your work. They are vital. While a writer is in the middle of edits, a new story, and the marketing promotion for a new release, these people shoulder the burden so writers can you know, eat, sleep, shower.
- You’ll find your best henchmen are likely going to be your family and friends but don’t dismiss reaching out to readers online. Instagram is loaded with #bookstagrammers who love sharing about the books they read. BUT—here’s the deal. You must be professional and kind, understanding this requires relationship building. You can’t expect to cold message someone and expect they’re going to take photos of your book to share with their followers. Follow them, get to know what books they like, comment on their posts, and be genuine.
- Start a street team. You don’t necessarily have to be releasing a book to begin forming a team of hench—cheerleaders. You can start an online group through social media and talk about what you’re doing, where you are in the writing process, about books by other authors—even start a book club! Nothing builds relationships faster than bonding over life and books. Then, when it’s time to get ready for that cover reveal or new release your team will be prepped and ready to shout the good news to all of their friends and family, pom-poms in hand. J
Alibi Witnesses. You’re probably wondering why in the world you’d need an alibi witness but these tribe members are also known as your supporters. “But isn’t that the same thing as cheerleaders?” Yes, but mostly, no. An alibi witness is someone who will provide testimony and evidence on your behalf. There will come a time—or many times—throughout the writing and publishing journey where you will doubt every single thing about your life. Your writing. Your books. Read one bad review and it’s all over! This is where you alibi witnesses come in.
- Remind you that your writing is NOT the worst thing in the world—being in an elevator has it plummets to the ground, yes. Being stuck in the school carpool lane (without a book), absolutely. But your writing is not—no matter what @johndoehatesreading says!
- They will talk you off the ledge of insecurity and remind you that just because you write, it’s not the only thing you do. Life existed before you started writing and will exist after you write that final page.
- On that same note, these members will encourage you to get out of your writing cave, set the laptop down, and live. They’ll drag you outside, remember the sun? They’ll invite you to a movie—wait, Thor got fat? They’ll force you to ignore the voices in your head and talk to real humans, they’re not so bad.
The Mob Boss. The Negotiator. AKA: Your agent. I’ll be honest, when I first started pitching to agents for representation I did a little bit of homework but was in the mindset that if they liked me then I liked them even if everything I knew about them said to run the other way. What I learned is that the right agent is everything in this business. They’re the ones fighting for you and your story so the last thing you want is someone who hates romance when you write romance.
- Writing conferences are the single best way to get some one-on-one time with an agent (preferably not cornered inside the restroom). Sign up for an appointment or attend a panel so you can hear them speak about their roles, the industry, and their clients. This is a great opportunity to get to know them.
- You don’t always have to pitch your story during your appointments. You can use this time to further get to know the agent and ask them questions. You’ll be surprised how quickly you’ll know whether or not your compatible and it’s likely that in the getting to know each other, the agent will still request your work because they like you—and that is literally half the battle!
- It is 100% okay to say, “No, thank you,” to an agent wanting to represent you. The relationship is a partnership and not every personality works well. In those early days of seeking representation I had an idea of who my ideal agents who I thought would be perfect for me. However, at the end of my search I realized the agent I needed wasn’t even one I considered and thank goodness I waited because I couldn’t imagine myself with any other Mob Boss.
- The last thing I’ll mention about your Mob Boss is they should be open to communication. They’re going to fight for you in contract negotiations but also for your story and you. If you have an editor requiring changes you don’t feel are right, it’s your Mob Boss who is going to the ring on your behalf. The lines of communication must be opened and both parties must understand how the other works in order for the relationship to be mutually beneficial.
That’s it. The three top tribe members I think every writer needs in their corner. Writing is solitary by nature but I’ve found with the help and support of these three groups I can focus more of my energy into my writing. A great weight is lifted knowing my supporters, critique partner, and agent have my back, which gives me the freedom to do what I love.