Where My Peeps At?: How Online Communities Can Elevate Your Career
Contrary to what many believe, being a writer is not a solitary endeavor. And in contemporary society, working in a silo could prematurely tank your career. We all need to find other creative professionals to connect with for savvy advice, emotional support and promotional opportunities. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a plethora of in-person writing events have shifted online—or have been indefinitely postponed. This is where cultivating a digital tribe of writers with similar goals can be a beneficial in terms of providing useful feedback and helping to cross-promote each other’s work.
Four social media platforms I think are good places to start in regard to finding like-minded writers in your region or genre(s) of interest are:
- Twitter: Stay plugged into what's trending in the publishing world and make new writing buddies. (Pro tip: Look for weekly or monthly live chat threads such as #WriteandWine and #bookmarketingchat.)
- Facebook: Network via writer and editor groups to find new professional opportunities and paid freelance gigs. (Pro tip: Search for topics of interest or groups for writers specifically where you live like Food Writers of the Sub Binder, Loft Indigenous Writers and Writers of Color, and Seattle Writer and Readers’ Network. You also may need to request to join before having access to shared posts and the ability to connect with group members.)
- LinkedIN: Share blog posts or articles you've written that reflect your knowledge basis and the genre(s) you're passionate about. (Pro tip: If you haven’t identified yourself as a ‘writer’ or writing as a ‘skill’ yet on your profile, do so ASAP.)
- Instagram: Prime online space to get tips on improving photography skills on a low budget. (Pro tip: Also best place to cultivate an audience if your ideal reader is in the under-45 crowd. Kidlit, middle grade, and YA lovers, I’m talking to you! Same goes for TikTok.)
For additional suggestions, I reached out to several debut and award-winning authors to share their POV’s on the value of networking online with others in the publishing industry. Here’s what they had to say:
Social media is my bread and butter for promoting my work. I've seen some writers shy away from it and still manage to move their work effectively, but it is a great resource to make use of if you have the temperament for it. To be specific, Twitter is a great recourse for writers—especially kidlit authors. I've found the community to be both vocal and welcoming on Twitter. It also helps to have a polished author website where folks can find pre-order links and peruse other samples of my work.
—Author and poet Ty Chapman
Though only moderately active, I connect with other kidlit writers and illustrators through social media of course (Facebook, Instagram, Linkedin, and Twitter). Also, I am a member of SCBWI and speak and present workshop via this organization. I am the president of the Society of Illustrators of Los Angeles (SILA) as well. Like many other creatives, I meet regularly with a critique group.
—Illustrator Joe Cepeda
Twitter is a platform that helps me stay connected with likeminded people. Also, as part of the Latinx community, we tend to stay connected, make group chats, and we follow each other’s work through social networks.
—Author and illustrator Yuyi Morales
I have many other writer and illustrator friends who have been incredibly generous with their time both in person and through email and electronic means. I also am grateful to several organizations that have helped connect me to children's book creators. The Jewish Kidlit Mavens, a group I helped found, helps connect me to Jewish writers and illustrators . . . . Each creator I've met has helped in my writing journey.
—Author Susan Kusel
I love meeting people at conferences and conventions. With the pandemic I've had to rely more on Twitter. I've made a number of meaningful connections on Twitter in the past two years and wound up cowriting a book with an author I met there.
—Illustrator Sean Rubin
I’ve fallen in love with sending a monthly newsletter I call my “Sub List” to my community. I love doing giveaways, offering discounts to friends and scholarships to BIPOC folks. Newsletters are also savvy in the way that they aren’t dealing with changing algorithms and the powers that decide what trends (though sometimes they get sent to spam/programming so you have to have folks check!). I personally love getting a good newsletter from author/writer friends that feels authentic and supportive. Also I am on Twitter and Instagram because I just enjoy them, and it’s a way to keep up with friends, the industry, and book news.
—Author and poet Ari Tison
I like going to conferences, workshops, and retreats to meet up with other kidlit creators I know and make new connections. During the pandemic, I've attended virtual writing events as well as had group Zoom hangouts with writer friends. I also rely on my online critique group, which has been together for over a decade!
—Author Andrea Wang
So try one—or all—of the above tips over the next four weeks. Because next month I’ll reveal the rest of what these published pros had to say about finding fellow writers to brainstorm, edit, and collaborate with. Give yourself permission to be authentic, and vulnerable, in your work. The real hook is always the connections made through words—and the reverberating impact.