Top 5 Discussion Forums for Self-Publishers

by Joel Friedlander on February 18, 2010 · 34 comments

The greatest asset an author has to help them navigate the unknown waters of self-publishing is the accumulated wisdom of people who’ve been there before. I’ve always been impressed by how friendly the independent book publishing community is. Maybe part of the reason is that books very rarely compete with one another.

As readers know, I’m a big fan of local independent publisher’s groups (check the IBPA directory of affiliate organizations to see if there’s one near you). You’ll meet people of all experience levels only too willing to help out. We have new people every month at our Bay Area Independent Publishers Association meetings.

But there are numerous resources online as well. One of the best sources for information are the many discussion forums where you can register, become a member and participate in conversations, ask questions, and generally gain a lot of good information. You’ll also run into knowledgeable suppliers, industry professionals and lots of other authors.

Here’s a bunch to get you started.

Top 5 Forums for Self-Publishers


Absolute Write Water Cooler
absolute writeMacAllister Stone’s forum extension of the Absolute Write Blog, this huge community of writers can offer conversation, discussion and enlightenment on many writing-related topics. The link will take you to the Self-Publishing and POD forum, where the discussion mostly involves self-publishers.

There are over 500 threaded conversations in this forum, so searching the archives can often answer your question. Check out the thread on experiences with LuLu, for an example of what you can expect.

Nathan Bransford’s Forum
Nathan BransfordA relatively new forum attached to the blog of literary agent Nathan Bransford, the All Things Publishing forum is becoming more popular every week. This link is to the part of the forum related to publishing, but other areas offer threads on writing, submissions, and other aspects of the writer’s life.

Currently there are 58 threaded topics with almost 400 posts in this forum, which is only a few months old.

John Kremer’s Book Marketing Network
John KremerFrom indie book-marketing guru John Kremer. This ning community has groups, forums, blogs and other social-media functions. There are active discussions on the What’s Your Biggest Challenge With Your Book and What’s Working For You? forums.

This network has over 5,000 members, and many forums and blogs where you can interact with other authors.

SPANnet
spanDeveloped by the Small Publishers Association of North America (SPAN), this new social network has over 300 members and several lively discussion forums. One of the new discussion forums focuses on Books and Blogs, and if it keeps growing, it will be a valuable resource.

self-publishing reviewOf course, you all know about the great community building up at Self-Publishing Review, where Henry Baum has added lots of social-networking goodies including member blogs, groups, forums, and all the other bells and whistles. In the six weeks since its launch, the membership has increased to over 220 members. Active discussions take place in groups and in comments on the many blog posts on the site.

One unique feature of SPR is the Book Design for Self-Publishers group where I post my Design Reviews of books self-published authors send in, brave souls that they are.

Check out these forums. You’ll find camaraderie, entertainment, and a lot of very knowledgeable people to whom you can put questions. As with any new endeavor, after you register spend some time just listening to get a feel for the general tone of the discussion before diving in. If the forum has an “Introduce yourself” thread, go over there and post about yourself. Set up your forum profile and your signature. These communities can be invaluable as you progress as a self-publisher.

Another great location for publishing discussions is the social networking site LinkedIn, which I’ll be covering in a separate post. Although there are many communities for writers, these are the most active self-publishing forums I’ve found. If you know of others, I’d love to add them to my list. Thanks!

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    { 23 comments }

    Hamish MacDonald February 18, 2010 at 5:39 am

    Litopia.com is another popular one, though there’s some silliness about becoming a “full member” by being vetted by somebody, somewhere, who decides whether you’re a proper author. (The idea was anathema to me as an indie and I went no further.) They do, though, produce the Litopia podcast, which is quite good.

    There’s also Inked In, a Facebook-style community built on the Ning engine. It’s a very supportive place, started by the generous and wise couple behind The Burry Man Writers Center (burryman.com):
    http://inkedin.ning.com/

    It’s great to find community with other like-minded people, and there’s an incredible amount of freely shared knowledge out there. It’s awfully easy, though, to end up in emotion-sucking debates online, or to listen endlessly to people who:
    a) are just repeating what you already believe, which is encouraging, but of limited use,
    b) say things that violate your principles, which soon is wearing, especially if you can’t muzzle yourself and just leave them to be right or wrong, or
    c) spend all their time fighting with people in both A and B.

    So I dunno. It’s good to dash in, get the information you need, and dash out. That’s why I keep revisiting this site: it’s steak, not hot dogs.

    Ultimately, though, doing the work is ultimately what gets us to our goals, but is easy to avoid with distractions like social media.

    Joel February 18, 2010 at 9:45 am

    Hamish, thanks for the tip. I just joined Inkedin (although I am awaiting approval at the moment) to check it out.

    And yes, it’s true that debates often rage in the forums, although some might be drawn to that kind of fun. However, in the interest of full disclosure, there are risks to participating in these forums as well:

    1) You can find a lot of information, but there is often misinformation as well. It’s not unknown for people to post about areas they have no great experience in, and on forums we rely on the moderators or other active and more experienced people to bring these errors up. But as will all things internet, caveat emptor (let the buyer beware).

    2) Time suck. With so many threaded discussions, back and forth arguments, and vivid personalities, it’s actually pretty easy to find yourself just having wasted a perfectly good hour of productive time on aimless reading.

    But I’ll keep serving up the steak, so I recommend a balanced diet. Get the nutrients you need, but add a little spice and expand your circle by learning to navigate the forums as well.

    This post is also related to the 3 Indie Publishing Discussion Groups: Getting Your Questions Answered post I did in January. For beginners, finding a way through the confusion is paramount, so I want to make sure readers know as many ways to get information on self-publishing and the book world in general as possible. And Hamish, thanks for your continued contributions.

    Janet Angelo July 8, 2011 at 3:09 pm

    Hi, Joel, I just found your website from doing a google search with the words ‘Do you have to use an aggregator to upload your books to Apple’s iBookstore?’ — and from there I’ve been all around your site and love all the helpful information (and I my answer, and have already set up an account with them and am awaiting approval).

    I’ve been a freelance developmental editor and manuscript formatter for more than ten years and have edited over 200 books in that time, 95% of them for self publishing authors. I’ve always believed in self-pubbing, and so many authors wanted me to continue providing services for them after I was finished with editing.

    That, and the amazing changes happening in the book publishing world today, prompted me to finally start my own independent epublishing firm called IngieGo ePublishing.

    I loved this line from your article above — “But I’ll keep serving up the steak, so I recommend a balanced diet. Get the nutrients you need, but add a little spice and expand your circle by learning to navigate the forums as well.” — because it alludes to my first published book called The Eating Enigma, a nonfiction work about how to stave off diabetes and obesity through good nutrition, mainly avoiding processed foods that are loaded with sugar. I already have the book on Amazon in both print and Kindle versions, and on B&N, Google Books, Smashwords (which prompted me to ask that question in google…), and hopefully soon will not use an aggregator at all.

    Here’s the book link:
    http://www.amazon.com/Eating-Enigma-1-Janet-Angelo/dp/1463618808/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1310162825&sr=1-1

    and you’ll hopefully see more of me on the great forums you listed, though I agree that they can be time wasters, which is why I have been silent for so many years when it comes to social networking — too busy editing, and now publishing! But I need to connect to grow this business of mine.

    Thanks again for your great info :-)

    Janet

    A.R. Williams August 19, 2011 at 12:03 pm

    Hi,

    A forum where I have learned a lot about self-publishing is the Kindleboards Writer’s Cafe. There is good discussion on numerous writing and self-publishing related topics.

    Here’s the link: http://www.kindleboards.com/index.php/board,60.0.html

    nokia October 15, 2011 at 10:36 am

    For beginners, finding a way through the confusion is paramount, so I want to make sure readers know as many ways to get information on self-publishing and the book world in general as possible. And Hamish, thanks for your continued contributions.

    Heather December 15, 2011 at 6:53 am

    I’d definitely take Absolute Write off that list – they are Absolutely NOT supportive of self publishing. In fact, they regularly degrade the self-publishers whenever any of them (that are left anyway) try to tell their stories. If you’re a self publisher, don’t count on Absolute Write to be a support center for you.

    Joel Friedlander December 15, 2011 at 3:58 pm

    Well, Heather, I guess we’ve had different experiences on Absolute Write. I’ve been contributing there off and on for almost 2 years and there’s a pretty steady stream of people inquiring about self-publishing and I’ve never had anyone denigrate them. Keep in mind it’s a huge site and the publishing discussions are confined to the “Self-Publishing and POD” thread and may not be welcome elsewhere.

    Alex April 6, 2012 at 2:47 pm

    Heather is right. They are not supportive of any notion of doing it yourself. Any positive comment about doing something yourself is met with criticism and eventually attack. More opinionated people (like some self-publishers tend to be) will go straight in the fray resulting in their ban. It’s disappointing really.

    J. Sarayda Shapiro June 6, 2012 at 1:59 pm

    My experience with Absolute Write was the same as Heather’s and Alex’s — or perhaps even worse. I was told that ALL worthwhile books get agents and traditional publishers, and that since I hadn’t been able to find an agent, my book must be cr*p. I was also told that self-publishing is for chumps, and that I should abandon my book project (that I’ve worked years on.) Maybe Absolute Write was different when you first wrote this post, but my experience is that they are very hostile to new members, as well as opposed to self-publishing. You have three people now giving warnings about Absolute Write. Please take Absolute Write off your list of suggested sites.

    Joel Friedlander June 6, 2012 at 3:00 pm

    Thanks for the feedback, J. Did you post in the “Self-Publishing” thread or a different one?

    J. Sarayda Shapiro June 7, 2012 at 1:26 am

    I’ve posted on several of the forums there, including the self-publishing forum. I have encountered hostility to self-publishing pretty much everywhere on the Absolute Write forums, including the one for self-publishing.

    You may want to check out Absolute Write’s own description of their self-publishing forum, which states: This is NOT a “rah-rah! ‘Indie’ Self-pubber!” cheering section.

    And I miscounted the number of people here warning others away from the Absolute Write forums. There are four people (including me) posting warnings about Absolute Write, not three.

    TurkeyVulture August 27, 2012 at 11:25 am

    I’m with the others who say that AW is most definitely not a self-publishing friendly place. I’ve been a very active member there since 2007 and have several thousand posts on AW. It is very much a forum full of people who are dogmatic about traditional publishing. Any mention of self-publishing outside the designated forum (and as J. Sarayada Shapiro notes below, even the description of that forum is hostile) is met with unmoderated sarcasm (violating their “respect your fellow writer” rule), outright insults, and unchecked bad behavior until the self-publisher shuts up and goes away or defends him/herself enough to warrant a ban. The place is an orthodoxy, not an open-minded forum.

    That being said, it CAN be a great resource if users know how to use it. Don’t go into it expecting that all the opinions you get from the die-hard trade-only-publishers there are the gospel truth they make it out to be. AW is, generally speaking, very reluctant to embrace the change that is on the publishing industry right now, so anybody going there to seek information about the contemporary market should take it with several pounds of salt and with the knowledge that AW is staunchly pro-traditional publishing and anti-self-publishing.

    It will be interesting to see how AW’s overall culture changes over the next few years (much later than the rest of the author communities out there), as many long-term and very active members, including me, are quietly slipping over to “the dark side” and self-publishing. As more of us gain success with independent publishing, AW may have no choice but to give up the hostility toward self-publishers and become the welcoming and open-minded place it claims to be. Until that happens, though, user beware.

    Sondra March 1, 2012 at 2:29 pm

    Absolute Write is not only a nightmare, it’s hostile, and loaded with ill-informed jerks.

    Of the past four small-pub flame-outs I’ve followed, all four had threads at AW where MODS and regulars recommended the pub, only to later join the “we’ve been robbed” sob-fest.

    Unprofessional, poorly policed, and loaded with know-it-all mods with no talent and no conscience.

    Joel Friedlander March 5, 2012 at 10:12 am

    Sondra,

    I’m sorry you’ve had such a bad experience on Absolute Write. One of the facts of internet life is that there are trolls everywhere, and we have to deal with them. I’ve been involved in many interesting publishing discussions on Absolute Write and never encountered that level of hostility, so maybe I’ve just been lucky. I have noticed that if you post in the wrong thread there, people will pounce on you so I only contribute to the self-publishing threads. Perhaps one of the other forums will suit you better.

    Kat September 25, 2013 at 10:31 am

    I’d recommend the Writers Cafe at Kboards.com, which is actually how I found your site.

    I’ve had great experiences with AW’s genre forums, but their self publishing section is about the worst place on the net to look for information. They’re very hostile to indies and don’t seem to know much about how things like KDP work. I’ve seen several things posted by mods that are just plain wrong and when someone tries to politely correct them, they usually respond with anger if not a ban.

    Lawrence Fisher March 11, 2012 at 3:04 am

    Joel

    Thanks for the information as always. As you know, I have had a nightmare with my experience with iUniverse and I am going to now totally self-publish.

    Here is my story and I know there are illegalities involved.

    http://killmenow.org/iuniverse/

    Lawrence

    Annabel Smith May 7, 2012 at 8:01 pm

    What a great post! I have had 2 books published ‘traditionally’ and am planning to experiment with self-pubbing my third, and had no idea about ANY of these forums. So thank you – I’m going to have a good look around at them.

    Marion Gropen August 1, 2012 at 12:26 pm

    Consider adding the Yahoo Self-Publishing Group to your list (about 3200 members), and the Linked In group Ebooks, Ebook Readers, Digital Publishing and Digital Content . . . (about 51,000 members). The latter has a self-publishing subgroup with about 3500 members, but the main group has an enormous depth of information available. Most of the members are from mainstream large publishing houses, and other big industry players, so the main group isn’t the place to ask about ISBNs or something similarly basic, but it’s a good place to hear the answers to questions you might not even know to ask.

    Joel Friedlander August 7, 2012 at 11:43 am

    Marion,

    Thanks much for your input. This article, written over 2 years ago, really needs an update which I will undertake soon. I did talk about the Yahoo groups in 3 Indie Publishing Discussion Groups but it looks like both of these posts could be combined into one.

    Sarah Stephens August 20, 2012 at 10:17 pm

    Trafford.com is one of the most popular self publishing. I chose to publish with Trafford because they are the pioneers in on-demand publishing. They really know their stuff and I was amazed at the speed and efficiency of the whole process they have.

    Jennifer Kyrnin March 6, 2013 at 4:03 pm

    I realize that the post is old, but the additional resources listed in the comments are helpful too. It can be so lonely being a work-at-home writer and with self-publishing, you aren’t even working with a publishing house (much) or only talking to them by email. Forums like these can be really helpful to remind you that you’re human. :-)

    Joel Friedlander March 8, 2013 at 12:01 pm

    Jennifer, in the last few months I’ve been enjoying the communities that are springing up on Google+. There’s a Digital Publishing group that’s very active, and another organized by Guy Kawasaki from his book APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur. These groups are active and have thousands of members who can be very helpful, I recommend you check them out.

    Elaine Wilhelm June 3, 2013 at 11:30 pm

    I agree, it would be fantastic if you’d like to update this some time..I thought AW was by far the main place to go for info, I hadn’t noticed that attitude there but then again I hadn’t posted there yet..now I’m thinking it might be good to check out some other communities as well. Really appreciate all your helpful info.

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