Academy of Wayward Authors email 41 of 45: What Does it Mean to Belong?

To what do you feel that you belong?

A family, a church, a civic group, this newsletter, a Facebook community…

Why do you belong?

The choice was made for us in some cases, like nationality or religion. We accept it as our identity and continue as if there was no choice.

Think about the groups you chose to join.

How does that define your identity?

Why do you think the group benefits you?

Is it financial, emotional, or for fellowship?

Now, think how much of this was consciously your decision.

Keeping all of this in mind, let’s look at the group that you have created or are looking to create. The one where you hope readers will assemble and you can activate when it comes time to sell them something.

Does your group have any of the compelling reasons to belong?

You can lure people into joining, but they don’t belong to your community. They are looking for a reason to stick around, and the attention clock is ticking. They are only a name on a list. You have to get them to believe your brand matters for them to act like it matters.

When you create a group for your readers, why would they choose to belong? It’s not to be sold something.

If your brand delivers the experience they desire, they will be waiting there to buy from you, but there needs to be a reason to stay, and that reason needs to stand on its own.

I’ve touched on fellowship. This emotional framework is self-sustaining. We feel we get some emotional support and reciprocate by supporting the community.

You may ask, “Why?”

This seems so far from being an author and just another thing to do.

It’s not.

We are a culture driven by experience, and you are in the experience business. It just happens to be that you are delivering those experiences via words. If you dream of getting your stories into film, you seek to deliver experiences via a visual medium.

I suggest you have a community experience medium that can drive your business further and faster than advertising ever will.

Sure, ads can get you quick discovery, but what sells them a book?

That’s a vicious cycle.

A community of brand enthusiasts will use word of mouth and advocate for your brand to build other enthusiasts.

That means you must define why a reader wants to belong to the community. The significant part is it has way more to do with emotion and how they frame their identity than a financial reward.

Think about the groups you tie your identity to and explain why. Start with the groups you chose to join, not the ones determined by who your parents were or what country you were born in.

How do they make you feel and why?

Your community will be your competitive advantage in the future. While others worry about AI and ads, you build a brand cult that finds sanctuary in your story.

You have a minimum viable community if one fan contacts you. If you have three to five super fans, you have all it will take. The problem is patience.

You want it now.

For a community to build, members must build bonds beyond you and your characters—the need to connect with others and see that what is shared is your brand.

Thank you for your attention,

Joe