Blog Communities: Forming a Safe Place for New Writers in a Scary Online World

Some pretty scary things have been happening in the online book world recently—stuff that's been shocking to those of us who expect our fellow book-lovers to behave like civilized adults.

I spend a lot of time telling new authors how to use social media to create a "platform," but I probably don't warn you enough about the dangers. I did write a post last spring on Gangs of New Media, talking about how the "hive mind" and rage addiction are adversely affecting our industry.

Unfortunately, so many authors have turned into non-stop spam machines that anti-author sentiment is on the rise. There are sites where anti-writer gangs dominate, and others that are tyrannized by groups who treat the Internet as a giant video game in which naivete is a crime and innocents are there to be slaughtered.

The bigger and older the site, the more likely it is to attract sociopaths and semi-literate potty-mouths. I'll be writing a series of posts starting in October about how to stay safe in this increasingly hostile environment.

But international legal teams and the media are gathering information. You can leave an incident report for NBC news here. It's better not to discuss specifics in the comments of this blog, or we'll attract trolls. (If you see a nasty comment, don't respond. That's what they want.)

However, a few out-of-control thugs don't make the entire online book world a bad place.

There are wonderful communities where new writers can network, learn, and comfort each other as they learn the ropes and go through the long and often painful process of learning to be professional authors. As creatives, we're confronting our demons and putting our raw souls out here in public every day, and we need places where we can feel protected and safe.

One of those places is the Insecure Writers Support Group, founded by Alex J. Cavanaugh.

Alex is one of the writing world's most prolific bloggers as well as the author of the bestselling Cassastar sci-fi series.

He's also one of my fellow contributors to the Indiestructible anthology, which donates profits to charity.

The IWSG, which turned two years old this week, is one of the most helpful online writing communities I've come across.

Blogger Julie Luek of "A Thought Grows" says, "I feel like I need to throw a little confetti in honor of Alex and the two year IWSG birthday. Thanks, Alex, for pulling a bunch of disconnected, fearful writers together. You've left quite a legacy in the writing-blog world."

IWSG a kind of monthly blog hop for writers who want to network, but prefer to avoid the "I'm-42-and-still-in-middle-school" atmosphere we find in much of social media.

As artist and blogger Donelle Lacy said in the comments of last week's post "writers need a support group of people who give helpful advice and encouragement. When you get buried under rejections, they can help pull you out. "

The Insecure Writer’s Support Group

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writers.

Their Twitter hashtag is #IWSG
Alex's Twitter handle is @AlexJCavanaugh

I recommend the group to writers who are just getting their feet wet in this business. It's a great way to get new blog followers and members are helpful and kind.

When I was feeling pretty down on the whole online book world recently, I found it uplifting to to visit a community where people haven't forgotten the Golden Rule.

Alex has a success story that proves my theory that a blog is the author's most important tool in establishing platform. Alex doesn't use Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr, or Google+. His blog, Twitter—and his visits to other blogs—are his major online activity. Try Googling him and you'll see how well this has worked for him. I ran out of time after the first thirteen pages of 100% Alex in the search results, but the pages probably go into the hundreds. 

As gangs are allowed to terrorize big book and retail sites, the one place where we know we can be safe is in blog communities we choose for ourselves. Each blogger has the right to block hostile trolls and delete offensive comments. We can set the tone for our blogs and make sure they reflect our brand and standards.

"Insecure" writer Damyanti of the Daily (W)rite says, "I think blogging brings out the best in writers– we become a sympathetic, helpful community (which sometimes doesn’t happen in real life.) IWSG has become a safe place for blogger-writers on the web, and I personally have learned a lot from some of the posts I’ve read, be it writing advice or publishing tips."

Evolved, generous spirits tend to attract other evolved, generous spirits, and that is what what Alex J. Cavanaugh has done. He volunteers with literacy programs and is always looking for ways to make the world a better place.

Today he's going to talk about how to create a blog community of your own.

Yes, I'm always telling you not to market your books exclusively to other authors, but the first step in building platform is to network and build a solid core of online friends. Connecting with a group of writers in similar genres can benefit your career in many ways. Not only can you prop each other up during tough times, but you can publish anthologies, put on joint 99c sales and and team up for newsletters. Writers need writer friends. Forming your own community can pay off in huge dividends later.

Creating an Online Community

by Alex J. Cavanaugh

When I first began blogging, I was one lone writer. Little by little, I discovered other bloggers and writers and began to immerse myself in this awesome community. Through events, blogfests, and memes, I connected with others.

And I noticed something – writers are an insecure bunch!

Most writers are quick to offer encouragement and support of one another. I started to wonder if there was a way to focus that positive energy and make it even more powerful. I wanted to bring everyone together as a group and let other writers know they weren’t alone.

Thus two years ago the Insecure Writer’s Support Group was born!

Its purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Posting schedule: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer - aim for a dozen new people each time.

The success of the group has exceeded all expectations. Every month there are so many touching posts as writers bare their souls, followed by a slew of encouraging comments. Sometimes writers post encouragement, providing others with hope. Now three hundred strong, the group has come together in ways I never imagined.

Groups and communities like the IWSG are where we connect and thrive. Other groups have risen, including the Indiebles’ Indie Day, where writers and bloggers can come together and share their wisdom, knowledge, and experience. It’s a powerful force.

There are five ingredients and steps in creating a successful group:

1) Leadership - In any group, there are those who participate and those who facilitate. You get more when you are directly involved. Whether organizing or teaching or leading – you learn and benefit. You are able to give back. This benefits you in countless ways.

2) Value – There has to be a purpose and meaning behind the group. What can you and the other members offer? How will everyone benefit? Is there a real need that can be met?

3) Time –Do you have the time? Plan it out first. Perhaps get feedback from a couple key blogger friends. Make sure you think of every aspect and how long it will take to implement. Setting up the mission statement, sign up lists, badges, pages or group blogs, etc. – it all takes time and a commitment.

4) Involvement – Entice others to get involved not just with the group but with each other. This starts with you first. The leader must be involved. He must promote and uplift more than anyone else and set the example for others to follow. Find ways to actively involve the members.

5) Keep it going – Never lose the passion. If the leader loses it, the group falls apart. Delegate where necessary, because you can’t do it all. Evaluate members and make sure everyone is participating. Continue to promote and encourage. Be prepared for growth and adjust for it.

The IWSG has been a huge blessing to me and all who’ve participated. The comments and emails of thanks often pour in as writers tell me it’s their favorite day of the month. I’m no longer able to visit every single post (despite rumors I have clones) and have three rotating co-hosts every month. The group has grown large and I’ve already made plans to take the next step up and propel it into the future by setting up an IWSG dedicated site.


Alex J. Cavanaugh has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and works in web design and graphics. He's experienced in technical editing and worked with an adult literacy program for several years. A fan of all things science fiction, his interests range from books and movies to music and games. Online he is the Ninja Captain and founder of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. The author of the Amazon bestsellers, CassaStar and CassaFire, he lives in the Carolinas with his wife.

For more on creating online communities check out this post by Alexis Grant on Jane Friedman's blog.

Are you part of the IWSG? Have you ever thought about starting your own online writing group? Have you been bullied or treated rudely in other online communities? What other communities can you recommend that are friendly to new writers?

CassaStorm by Alex J. Cavanaugh

Available in paper at Barnes and Noble & Amazon 
and for Kindle for $4.99

From the Amazon Best Selling Series!
A storm gathers across the galaxy…

Commanding the Cassan base on Tgren, Byron thought he’d put the days of battle behind him. As a galaxy-wide war encroaches upon the desert planet, Byron’s ideal life is threatened and he’s caught between the Tgrens and the Cassans.

After enemy ships attack the desert planet, Byron discovers another battle within his own family. The declaration of war between all ten races triggers nightmares in his son, threatening to destroy the boy’s mind.

Meanwhile the ancient alien ship is transmitting a code that might signal the end of all life in the galaxy. And the mysterious probe that almost destroyed Tgren twenty years ago could return. As his world begins to crumble, Byron suspects a connection. The storm is about to break, and Byron is caught in the middle…

“CassaStorm is a touching and mesmerizing space opera full of action and emotion with strong characters and a cosmic mystery.” – Edi’s Book Lighhouse

"Cavanaugh makes world building on the galactic scale look easy. The stakes affect the entire known universe and yet Cavanaugh makes it intensely personal for our hero. The final installment of this series will break your heart and put it back together." - Charity Bradford, science fantasy author of The Magic Wakes


2 Bestselling Thrillers for the price of one
Killer Thriller boxed set by Ruth Harris and Michael Harris only $4.99 at Amazon,  Nook, Amazon UK and $4.93 CND at Amazon CA

"Slick and sexy. All the sure elements of a big seller written by pros who know how to tell a story." -
-Publishers Weekly

"Delivers the goods: thrills, gut-churning suspense, nightmarish terror. Ruth and Michael Harris have delivered another great read and sure bestseller. I dare you to put it down!" --Bob Mayer


The Harper's Bazaar UK Short Story Prize is open to all writers. NO ENTRY FEE. Are you the next Dorothy Parker or Anita Loos? Submit an original short story (up to 3,000 words) on the subject of 'spring' The winning entry will appear in the May 2014 issue. Its author will be able to choose a first-edition book from Asprey's Fine and Rare Books Department to the value of £3,000 and enjoy a week-long retreat at Eilean Shona House, on the 2,000-acre private island off the west coast of Scotland where JM Barrie wrote his screenplay for Peter Pan. Deadline December 13th.

The Rumpus has launched the Weekly Rumpus and is calling for submissions. They are interested in "sharp, fresh, original work that grapples with life as it is really lived and felt in the world today. We want writing that walks on a wire, questions conventions, conveys a vision." 1000-6000 words. Here's their submissions page.

Quirk Books "Looking for Love" contest.
They offer a $10,000 prize for the best quirky love story of 50,000 words or more. Visit the Quirk Books website to download the entry form or for further information. Quirk Books was founded in 2002 and publishes around 25 books each year. Their bestselling titles include Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. Entries close October 1. 

Get your book international visibility for a reasonable price. EBookBargainsUK
 is now advertising bargain books to close to a dozen countries, including the US and Canada. You can get more info here. Make sure your book is under $3.99 and provide links to all stores, not not only Amazon (unless you're in Select.) Ads go for as little as 10 bucks. These guys made my Camilla boxed set a bestseller in Canada: #2 in women's fic. between Margaret Atwood and Bridget Jones! (Which kind of perfectly describes what I aspire to in my fiction.)

And you can sign up for the newsletter for your country right here. I've signed up for the new US version. If you like bargain ebooks, this is a great free service.

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