THE DARK SIDE OF ONLINE WRITING COMMUNITIES

Updated: Nov 18, 2018

As you know by now, I’m in love with J.A. Konrath’s blog. In a post made a few years ago, one of the things he suggested to do is to join writing communities, particularly online ones.


So, wanting to make use of the advice of a successful professional author, I did it.


There is a boatload of information on writing community websites, especially KBoards. However, one thing I’ve noticed about members of writing communities in general:


Most successful authors go by anonymous names on forums. They don’t want you to know who they are.



Why do authors remain anonymous online?


There are several reasons:


1.) A PR nightmare could manifest from one of their posts. See my post about bad reviews if you want some insight into how this could happen and how sensitive some writers really are. It gets ugly.

2.) Other authors see success on a forum and can get pretty twisted about it. It’s common for an author to get slammed with one-star reviews because of jealousy or something they said. Authors have even hired spammers to make careers go up in flames.

3.) Aside from jealousy and upsetting people, these forums are wonderful places for authors to see who their competition is and what they’re doing, then replicate that.


From what I’ve heard, a lot of great authors don’t even use these sites anymore because they’ve actually hurt their careers. Instead, they lurk in the shadows, taking notes on what people have to say.


I’m really disappointed by this.


Better luck author-networking on social media


I’ve primarily used the #amwriting and #amediting hashtags on Twitter to network with other writers. I’ve never had a problem connecting with people in positive ways there. The big difference, I think, is that a lot of people active on social media are open-minded.


Don't get me wrong, social media can be totally evil - politics in particular just pits everyone against each other - but generally speaking, social media is an awesome place for writers to share their hopes, challenges, and tips. It's also a great place to seek advice.


To be clear: by "social media" I mean Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, etc. The major platforms - not forums.


I love cheering on other writers. I’ve also had some lively debate with people on Twitter and always come out of it feeling respected and better learned.


Moreover, a lot of us just talk about life and non-writing topics. I think about some of the people I chat with online when I'm just mulling about my day. Believe me, I'm way more likely to buy their books over the novels of a hardcore salesperson with decent plot premises. That may not be fair, but it's true, and it applies to a lot of people.


There's also something about slinging your books on forums that just feels greasy. The interaction isn't as fast-paced or genuine. The communication also feels somewhat one-way, like sending an email. In short, forums feel dated.


I can get why some writers hate Twitter, though. There’s a lot of self-promotion there. Social media marketing is most effective when you self-advertise 1 out of every 10 posts or less. That’s a lot of posting, and no one wants to see the same post 500 times.


Serial self-marketers are really easy to unfollow and never hear from again, though.


Being a member of a forum can feel like having a voluntary membership to Hell. You make a new post and… Oh! There’s Grouchy Debbie again, saying something to put someone down or start a fight. After you’ve been targeted a couple times, you honestly start to wonder if it’s you.


It's not.


Look into Grouchy Debbie’s profile. She’s never published a book, she’s written thousands of posts, and Google her real name? She works for the IRS doing admin work and spends her nights flaming people.


But yes, my friend. She is the utmost expert in publishing.


She’s upset a lot more people than just you. I imagine my Grouchy Debbie sipping tea, cackling over her keyboard as she tries to snuff out posters’ self-worth. I'd respect her attitude a lot more if she spent her nights working on novels rather than searching for her next cue for drama.


Insecurity and fear stifle growth


A lot of people who use their real names on forums are paranoid about every word they type and every word everyone else posts because it can go back on them and ruin their reputations. In many cases, they don’t even believe what they’re saying.


Additionally, because of how people used to feel about self-publishing, those who do it tend to still be a bit on the insecure side; some take it too far and their conversations become a contest in regards to who is more professional.


Really. In 2018.


If I was a fan of an author and was reading some of these threads, I’d probably say, “Wow. What dinks. I’ll buy that new King book instead.”


The poor culture of certain communities is just so obviously toxic. It’s all incredibly spineless.


What I’m finding about these claims about some writers’ groups is that they’re true. There are wonderful people there who want nothing more than to help you, but these forums can also place a target on your back. In general, the vibe I get is that there is a lot of cattiness and most people are out for themselves. Many people want you to click their signatures and buy their books and that's their only reason for posting at all.


There are many more articles with opinions like mine out there. Finding the right writing group is critical.


Do you want to be a member of a productive, supportive group that helps you grow as a person and makes you feel like a part of something bigger?

Or do you want to be a member of a glorified gossip forum full of bored “aspiring” writers who seethe at others’ accomplishments?


Culture. It’s important.


I’m so thankful for Twitter – I feel like a welcome part of a community there. If you're reading this, you may have been sent here from a link on my page. Thanks for supporting me and keeping it real!




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