RWA. EPIC. Publisher loops. Writer loops. There are a ton of them out there, especially if you add in groups on social media. I belong to several and have found them to have both benefits and detriments.
They are great ways to network. You meet people who are in similar circumstances as you and face similar situations. You also have the benefit of reaching people with more experience and who can offer advice. I’ve found great assistance offered on the various RWA loops—from advice about how to write, or how to submit manuscripts, to suggestions about what to bring to my first book signing. I even received 1000 “Signed by Author” stickers in the mail from an extremely generous loop member who just wanted to help me out!
Loops are terrific for promoting your work—they’re a built-in audience who understand the give and take desired by writers, kind of an “I’ll read your blog if you’ll read mine.” They usually have large numbers of members who have similar interests as you, as well as their own readers who may want to broaden their horizons by reading your work too.
They can also be great for encouragement. I can’t tell you how many messages of congratulations for a book release, upcoming signing, great review, etc. I’ve seen on the loops.
Facebook also has its own version of loops—groups of people with similar interests. The biggest difference with Facebook groups that I’ve seen is that you have more information about individual members of the group based on the accessibility of their profile. That, and some groups allow you to post excerpts from your work in addition to links for all group members to see.
While I’ve found loops and groups extremely helpful and beneficial, there are some downsides. One is that they are extremely time consuming. While they are great places to post a question, reading every single blog post, interesting article or review can take up huge amounts of time. They give me a tremendous amount of guilt, because since I post my blogs on the loops, I feel obligated to read others’ posts as well. And comment, if I can. But doing so takes hours, literally, and while I’d love to do that every day, there’s just not enough time.
They also generate a ton of email, especially if you receive individual emails of every post. Just seeing the number of emails I receive, or the number of posts that I haven’t yet read in a Facebook group makes me sweat and stresses me out (ridiculous, I know, but...).
Many groups have specific rules that must be followed in order to remain a member. The rules are meant to make things easier for everyone, although I’ll be first to admit that I sometimes find them intimidating. The stricter the rules, the less likely I am to post, although I still read everything that I find of interest to me at a given time.
As a rule, I tend to filter what I read based on the subject of the message. I skip over the topics that aren’t as pertinent to me at the time, and read at least the first in the string of any topic that is pertinent to me. If I’ve done a lot of promo posts, I’ll try to make sure to alert other bloggers that I’ve read their posts or commented on it so that I don’t seem one sided or only a member who’s in it for myself. But it all depends on time.
While loops are great time savers when looking for information or promoting something—it’s one message sent out to hundreds of recipients—they’re also great time eaters, and it’s important to strike a balance between posting on loops and writing!