The Importance of the Tribe

I’ve got news for you, folks. It’s a big, wide, crowded world out there. And here we all are trying to be artists and have our voices heard in this world. The lives of artists have never been easy, be they writers or musicians or painters or dancers. For millennia we have scrounged and suffered for our art, not to mention funding for our art. This is par for the course for the creative soul.

Nowadays we’re in a unique situation as artists. I speak for writers, but the same is now true for musicians and visual artists as well. We have an unprecedented ability to broadcast our art independent of any authoritative power and at a relatively low cost. I’m talking, of course, about the Indie Revolution. Now anyone can write a book (or produce an album) and publish it electronically (or release it on iTunes). Yay!

Except not.

Yes, we all have the ability to publish, but if a book falls out of a tree in the woods and no one is there to read it is the author really heard?

I read recently that Amazon’s revolutionary new self-publishing tools were not, in fact, designed to find the next J.K. Rowling amidst the sea of writers who haven’t had success at selling their work to a Big Six publishing house. In fact, this article stated that Amazon only ever expects their self-published authors to sell about 100 books total. They still make a tidy profit with this model and the legion of so-so writers out there gets to feel good about themselves.

There is another article floating around out there that suggests that the majority of Facebook Pages has less than 256 followers. And there are scores of Facebook Pages littering the internet these days.

There are literally millions of tiny sprouts popping up out of the fertile ground of internet land these days. Most are doomed to wither like something I’ve attempted to grow from a seed on my porch.

So what do you do to stop this grim fate from being yours?

I am a firm believer in the importance of belonging to a tribe. Maybe it’s my Native American background or maybe it’s my historical knowledge of the importance of guilds in Medieval society. Or maybe it’s just common sense. There is not only safety in numbers, there is caring, support, and networking. Even the very best writers have “critique partners” who they go to for opinions and encouragement.

I’m lucky enough to belong to a particularly wonderful online writer’s “tribe”: Novel Publicity. Novel Publicity is technically a company started by Emlyn Chand that offers advice, technical help, and promotions to Indie Authors. Their services range in price from free to really, really not free. There are lots of sites out there that offer promotional tools and advice to writers, but Novel Publicity offers something more.

The beauty of Novel Publicity is the online network of writers that have banded together around the concept of karma. For me it all started with the “Friday Karmic Liking Chain”. The way this works is that you as an author add the link to your Facebook Page to a thread (now a document) on the Novel Publicity Facebook Page. As other authors add their links you follow those links and like their pages and they do the same for you. The result is that in short order you gain a lot of likes, and I mean A LOT of likes. More than 256 likes.

Now cynics might argue that this is all well and good, but ultimately it’s just a bunch of hollow, meaningless likes. I would strongly disagree.

Through its original Friday Karmic Liking Chain Novel Publicity has expanded to become a large, vibrant, encouraging group of like-minded souls with the same mission. We’ve found each other, talk to each other, help encourage and promote each other. In essence, we have banded together in this vast sea of independent authors to form a tribe.

Maybe Novel Publicity isn’t for you.  Maybe you’ve got some other wonderful group out there.  But everybody needs somebody.  I can’t stress how important this is. Think about what any given Indie Author is up against. There are millions of titles for readers to choose from. The cold algorithmic fact is that your book isn’t likely to be seen by anyone unless someone has told them about it. You just can’t hope to succeed in any way as an Indie Author without a little help from your friends. Granted, this does not mean that everyone in your tribe, be it Novel Publicity or any other online group out there, will buy your book. In fact, I think a teeny, tiny percentage of my Novel Publicity tribe has bought my books. It doesn’t matter. They’re not my market, they are my support system.

It’s a tough row we have to hoe, folks. You need people there to cheer you on. You need “imaginary friends” to “like” your posts and to comment with things like “Way to go! You made that word count!” and “Keep at the revisions. You can do it!” Because chances are that your family members and the people that surround you in your everyday life don’t get it. These people get it. You need back-up. You need to know you’re not alone. There are other nutty souls out there who can share your crazy.

So my advice to you if you want to keep doing this crazy thing called Indie Publishing for longer than a year or so is to find yourself a tribe. Join it and be active. Help out when help is asked and don’t be afraid to ask for support when you need it. It takes a tribe to publish a book. They’re out there, ready and willing to be the wind beneath your wings.


7 thoughts on “The Importance of the Tribe

  1. What a wonderful post, Merry. And you’re so right, support is needed in this business. There are so many times when we feel like quitting (any of us, me too), but that network really keeps you going. That’s the power of knowing you’re not alone.

    Hey, if you want to cross-post this to the Novel Publicity blog, we’d love to have you as a guest 😀


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