This talk is about the value of the writing community. I’ll explain how it’s helped me, look at three key problems facing writers today and what resources are available to tackle them.

I’m a founder member of Triskele Books, which is a European author collective of five authors To all intents and purposes, we operate like a small publisher, ensuring that every single book we publish deserves the Triskele logo.

triskele books 28.11.12

The difference is that we each keep our own rights, and 100% of our own profits. We’ve published 21 books between us and we stand for five key principles: high quality writing, professional presentation, a strong sense of place, ethical operations and support for other writers.

We publish a literary magazine for writers – Words with JAM

We operate a review site for readers – Bookmuse

Run events such as The Indie Author Fair – a farmers’ market, but for books.

4a739-triskele_logo_books_posIn Switzerland

I’m co-editor of The Woolf Quarterly, Zürich’s literary ezine, whose aim is to keep the English-speaking writing community connected, entertained and informed. We also organise WriteCon, an annual writers’ workshop weekend each spring. Next one coming up this May.

w-green-howlI’m also the Swiss Ambassador for The Alliance of Independent Authors. This is a global organisation supporting self-published authors. ALLi offers connection and collaboration, advice and education, advocacy and representation to writers who want to self-publish well. Our motto is Working together to help each other.imagesSo you can see why I’m passionate about the benefits a network of writers can offer.

Writers face three problems these days. And I’m not talking about backache.

One, creativity is undervalued. The availability of so much free content means an expectation that we should all be pouring out words for the privilege of exposure.

Two, the task of writing is a solitary occupation. Just you, in a room with your imaginary friends. Unlike many creative endeavours, writing is something most of us do alone. Which can be lonely.

Three, and this may sound contradictory to the previous point but I believe it’s a contributory factor, TMI. Too much information. The Internet is awash with advice for writers and publishers.

Some sites are excellent such as Jane Friedman, Roz Morris, The Creative Penn or This Itch of Writing.

IAF buzz

Others, however, can be confusing, erroneous or agenda-driven.

How can a writing community or network counter these problems?

My advice would be to find your tribe.

For example, you can join an organisation which represents your genre, such as the Romantic Novelists Association, the Historical Novel Society, the Crime Writers’ Association or SCWBI – Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America has an excellent section called Writer Beware, which flags up unethical competitions, service providers and so on for all writers.

There are broader organisations such as ALLi, the Society of Authors or the Society of Women Writers and Journalists (SWWJ). My colleague Catriona Troth put together a comprehensive guide to useful professional organisations, the reasons for joining, costs and entry requirements called Where Do I Belong?

Photography by Libby O'Loghlin

Or make your own. Find a critique group locally or set one up. (The members of Triskele Books met as we graduated from one online critique group to the next.) Form your own collective – pool your skills and play to your strengths. Short-term or project-specific alliances often bring about greater than the sum of its parts results. One team of seven indie authors collaborated on a limited-time boxset, containing one novel from each member. A group of traditionally published historical fiction authors I know offer themselves as a ready-made panel of experts to festivals and events.

Refine your information sources. You can’t keep up with all the developments in the publishing word, so filter according to your priorities. Subscribe to blogs which provide the kind of content that interests you, such as agent Andrew Lownie’s informative site or the Self-Publishing Advice blog from ALLi. Get the digest from The Bookseller or Publishing Perspectives to keep your finger on the publishing pulse. Seek out specialist resource sites such as DP Lyle for crime forensics, or if you’re seeking authentic speech patterns from The Old Bailey archives for historical crime.

Get out there. Join workshops, meet people, introduce those who might help each other and be altruistic about it. Networking is not a dirty word. Support other writers. Authors who view each other as competitors are missing out. I write crime and consequently read a lot of crime novels. Just because I recommend Sheila Bugler’s Hunting Shadows or Chris Curran’s Mindsight doesn’t mean I’ve shot myself in the foot or lost a sale. Readers buy more than one book per year.

And one last thing. Writers are readers too. If they’re not, they have no business calling themselves writers. So see the writing community as colleagues, potential collaborators, sources of information and support, valued creators, storytellers and maybe even future readers of your work.

I have a whiteboard beside my desk, cluttered with all kinds of precious round the edges. But in the middle, there is a white space containing three words I interpret differently each day.







theo fennellDecember 6 2007.

A hotel room in London.

An old friend and I sat chatting about life, work, family, friends and writing. We agreed the old adage is true – a friend in need is a friend in deed – but a true friend will still be there applauding from the sidelines when that same person achieves extraordinary success. No envy or green-eyed venom, just genuine joy for well-deserved recognition.

The world of writers is small and in my experience, warmly supportive. Other authors have taught me a great deal and many have become close friends. This is a community in which I feel at home. Not all my colleagues write the kind of books I want to read, and not all of them read what I want to write, but I respect and admire their talents.

Today, I was shocked and alarmed to read of truly vicious attacks on authors by fellow writers/publishers who should be above such behaviour. Sock-puppetry, fake reviews, sham websites, trolling and online abuse to a degree which requires official investigation – how do they carve out enough time in their days of spite to actually write?

I’m not going to link to these nasty stories, as I don’t want to promote them or their unpleasantness. Instead, I want to draw your attention to this:



This is the Ethical Author Code, from The Alliance of Independent Authors

I’m an Ethical Author and I’d like you to be one too. It costs you nothing but bolsters the message that the majority of us are decent people. We support each other, rejoice in everyone’s successes and admire creativity with words. Sign up, whether you’re a member or not.

Sooner or later, the good will outweigh the bad.