Academy of Wayward Authors: What Does It Mean to Belong? Why Community Is the Backbone of Your Business

The power of belonging

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 our 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?

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

Keeping all of this in mind, let’s look at the group 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, consider 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 to buy from you, but there needs to be a reason for them 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.

Cultivating community for your readers

We are a culture driven by experience, and you are in the experience business. It just so happens that you deliver those experiences via words. If you dream of having your stories adapted into film, you also 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 to advocate for your brand, which will, in turn, build other enthusiasts.

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That means you must define why a reader wants to belong to the community. The significant part is that it has way more to do with emotion and how people frame their identity than with 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 artificial intelligence and ads, you will have a brand cult of readers who find 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 to scale. The problem is patience.

You want it now.

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

Read: Using Identification and Transportation to Captivate Your Readers