Finding Your Tribe

Finding Your Tribe

What does finding your tribe mean? It’s one those buzz phrases beloved of bloggers, marketers and pop psychologists, and it means finding those people who have the same interests as you and who you feel comfortable around, in order to feel accepted and share meaningful experiences. It’s a concept as old as humanity itself and it’s something most of us do instinctively when we forge friendships.

Marketing – the soft-sell approach

Marketers have cottoned on to it because they have realised that the hard sell approach only alienates potential customers. Finding people who have the same likes and interests and connecting with them on a personal level without the obvious intent of selling, results in loyal fans and more customers in the long term – it’s the old adage of people buy from those they like.

Danger – author tribes ahead

The reason I’m mentioning this is that in a few days’ time I will be gathering with some of my tribe at a writers’ conference, GenreCon. GenreCon is a biennial conference held at the State Library in Brisbane for genre authors – which is all of us. Or at least those of us who want to sell our books, as they have to be placed in a genre category to sell them. Even literary fiction is a genre.

Although GenreCon holds some workshops relating to specific genres, the main emphasis is on the aspects of writing common to all genres – plotting, characterisation, themes etc and issues experienced by all authors such as editing, publishing and marketing.

Instant bonding

I’m looking forward to a whole week-end of discussing everything from writing process to motivation, knowing that my fellow fanatics will be able to relate to it all.  At GenreCon there are authors of every conceivable genre (and many like me who write cross-genre) and we all respect each other’s genres, even if we’re not fans ourselves. What we write is irrelevant; being an author gives us an instant connection.

Is there a spaceship leaving soon?

When a non-writer asks you how your current book is coming along and you make the mistake of going into the gory details, their eyes soon start to take on that abstracted glaze, the one where they’re looking right at you but you know they’re not listening, and you can almost see the thought bubble above their head. ‘Will someone please rescue me?”

Commiserations and celebrations.

Whereas if another author asks about the progress of your book, you know they really want to hear about your sagging middle (in the story, that is) and how you can’t make up your mind if you should get rid of/add some characters,  tone down the violence and ramp up the sex or vice versa. You’re guaranteed to be offered tea and sympathy before they regale you with their woes.

Of course it’s not all misery – it’s also a great opportunity to celebrate your achievements with other authors, as no-one but another author understands the blood sweat and tears that go into writing and publishing a book.

Up close and personal

Writers’ festivals are another favourite way of mine to connect with my tribe, and I wrote about that in this blog post Do Writers' Festivals Inspire You? However, although listening to authors and commentators on a panel discussing a variety of subjects is interesting and inspirational, I prefer the hands-on nature of conferences and workshops.

It’s more intimate, you learn more and you have more of an opportunity to meet and get to know other authors. Genre-Con offers a good mix of panel discussions and workshops, as well as social occasions, in which we normally introverted creatures can let our hair down and mingle with our tribe, including the guest authors and presenters.

 The convenience of online

A lot of tribes hang out these days online, in forums and Facebook groups. I belong to a few Facebook author groups and although it’s a convenient and efficient way of connecting with others and getting support and information (just ask a question in any of the groups and someone will know the answer) I get so much more value from meeting in person. There’s an energy, a vibrancy and resonance that you can’t get from an online conversation.

Social engagement is vital

Scientific studies have shown that social engagement is one of the most important contributors to  mental and physical well-being, and it even outclasses exercise and nutrition as a vital factor in healthy aging. And that’s personal engagement, not online.

Those of us who are lucky enough to have close family relationships (and I say ‘lucky’ because I know plenty of people who don’t like their family, and some who haven’t spoken in years) would probably class their family as their most important tribe. Even if you have nothing in common with them, blood ties and a shared history usually overrides it. And if you do have interests in common, it’s a bonus.

And as far as other tribes go, it’s common to have more than one, depending on how many different pursuits you’re involved in. Author usually have at least two – other authors and our readers. Sometimes they overlap – authors are always readers, but readers are not often authors.

Quality over quantity

In business, tribe usually refers to fans or followers.  In his blog post Finding Your Tribe May Be the Hardest Thing You Do, author Jeff Goins asserts that you only need 1000 true fans to become successful in any venture, because not only will they buy every product/service you create, they’ll pass the word on to their own tribes. And if you haven’t got 1000 fans, 10 devotees are better than hundreds of half-hearted fans.

Zombie-erotica anyone?

And no matter how bizarre your niche is – whether it be romantic-historical-space opera, alien-billionaire-fantasy or zombie-erotica, if it appeals to you, you can be assured there’ll be others out there who like it as well.

I made up those genres just then, but I bet if you Googled them, you’d find authors whose books fit them. If you’re interested, I’ll let you know if I meet any of those authors at the conference.

How many tribes do you have?  How did you find them? I'd love to hear about your tribal experiences in the comments box below.

About the Author Robin Storey

Robin Storey is an Australian author from the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia. She has written 7 books, ghostwritten 3 memoirs and is currently fixated on true crime and noir podcasts. Her latest novella, Secret Kill, is now available online.

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  • Gretna Bohn-Hayden says:

    I have no tribe. I don’t think I ever have had one except family and the only connection with them is bloodline. They don’t know me and don’t want to know me. They’ve made up their mind who and what I am and don’t wish to know otherwise.
    I’m looking forward to becoming acquainted with your writing.

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