On Writing

Why a Writer Needs a ‘Tribe’

September 27, 2013

Your “tribe” in writer-ly terms is your audience. Specifically, it is the group of people you can depend on to find your work interesting enough, and to like it so well, that they plunk down their hard-earned cash to actually buy a copy of your latest book when it is published.

audienceI like the word “tribe.” It conveys people who share your enjoyments, are open to your world view, get where you’re coming from, and welcome your insights — people who would invite you to the pub, a cup of tea (or coffee, depending on what continent you’re on), or lunch or dinner – just so you could chat.

A book, after all, is a long conversation with a reader – and not as one-sided as you might think. Trust me. No reader is going to plow through two or three hundred pages of a novel without pausing now and again to think – if not say out loud – “That’s right,” or “Yes!” Or turn a page without thinking, “Tell me more!”

How many people does a writer need in her tribe?

I remember once reading some statistic to the effect that to make a decent living at writing a writer needed to count on 5,000 readers purchasing his or her book. The article or book or whatever it was I read didn’t go on to say how often a writer needed to produce such a book and I can’t remember what the earnings were supposed to be. But I think the basic idea of aiming to please and to accrue X number of readers is sound.

The math, after all, is fairly simple. You  figure out what amount per book, plus  royalties (if you go with a trad publisher) provides you with what you consider a living wage. Doing the math is even simpler if you self-publish – you just figure out what amount you’d earn in royalties, after deducting any self-publishing expenses (which in today’s print-on-demand and ebook world can be minimal). And you figure out how often you need to publish to keep the inflow of income where you need it to be.

Aiming to sell 5,000 books each time you produce a new novel sounds like the right goal for an aspiring writer. Barring luck or a huge marketing budget, it takes time to build to an audience of 5,000 – but it’s not so lofty a goal that it seems undo-able.

Our tribe truly becomes a part of our work. We literally could not find the time to continue in the craft we love without them. We own them our unfailing gratitude – and our best work.

I am truly and humbly grateful for my tribe. Thank you, to each and every one of you who has bought a copy of a book I’ve written.

Image courtesy of  Wikimania2009 Damián Buonamico; Wikimania2009 Damián Buonamico are not affiliated with jennysoft.com.

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1 Comment

  • Reply Ted September 27, 2013 at

    We’ve all heard the proof of any pudding is in the eating, the same applies to writing; just swap pudding for writing and eating for readers. I alway thought I was a pretty good writer; feedback from “Murder Never Sleeps in Cottage Country” on KOBObooks.com has made me feel good enough that I’m now 2/3 the way through a sequel but I’m having the dickens of a time self-promoting. My lead character is Sue Ellison, a female policeperson so fed up with the glass ceiling when she is falsley accused of sleeping with a suspect she puts her badge and gun on her Sergeants desk. “I have 3 weeks vacation coming, I’m taking them now & won’t be back.” She becomes a Private Investigator and you can imagine the rest. Any ideas how to get to increase my tribe would be much appreciated.

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