man watering a chalkboard plant

Why You Should Grow AND Trim Your Tribe

Today I want to talk about why your tribe matters and why it’s a good idea to keep it trimmed.

(If you prefer audio, you can listen to this episode on the Smarter Artist Podcast)

A tribe is, as an artist, the most important thing that you have.

I probably don’t need to talk about the 1,000 true fans, but really quickly, it’s the idea that 1,000 true fans can sustain any artist.

And a true fan, these are the people who will buy your books, not just in digital but in print. These are the people who will tell their friends, or buy them as Christmas presents, or go to your book signings, or just really support you.

They’re not just the people who say awesome on Twitter when you release something. They’re the people who really fund your life. They’re the ones who pay for your art.

You really have to develop that crowed, because without it you’re not going to have a sustainable career.

You may have a couple of hits, but you can’t count on I’m going to release this book and then I’m going to be to focus on writing the next book because that book is going to generate a certain amount of income.

That’s really important when you’re an artist, whatever you’re doing.

This is very true for musicians, it’s very true for artists.

My sister makes greeting cards and she knows that every time she designs a new card, she’s going to have certain buyers who are really excited to buy that card in bulk. That’s what feeds her. That’s what sustains her business.

The things that we’ve done at Sterling and Stone would be absolutely impossible without that core group of fans. Our tribe. Our tribe is really special. I know I’m partial, but I think our tribe is much more special than the average tribe.

I think you’re supposed to feel that way.

Friends readingIf you don’t feel like your tribe is extra special, then there’s something wrong with you or your tribe.

We’ve done a lot of awesome things because of our tribe.

Write, Publish, Repeat we wrote for our tribe. We didn’t really want to write a non-fiction book, but we’d had the podcast for two years and felt like we owed, as off topic as we are on that show, we really wanted to distill our two years of production into an on-topic book.

We wrote that for our tribe.

Launching a podcast network, finding people to help us grow our business. Our team, these are quality people and they all came from our tribe. We’ve only hired from within.

Fiction Unboxed, Story Shop, both very different projects. Really high touch and very different. Both were funded on Kickstarter from our tribe.

Our Smarter Artist Summit, the Stone Table, these are game changing things that we’ve done as a company that were only possible because we had the support of our tribe.

It’s really important to not only gather your tribe, but to gather the right people, because our tribe could be bigger, but it couldn’t be more special.

The people who make up our tribe are writers who believe in doing the work. They believe in perseverance.

fingers touching with a spark between themI firmly believe that what you put out there is what you’ll attract.

This was never clearer to me than after the Smarter Artist Summit. It was just amazing that we had a couple of hundred people there and they were all artists who were doing the work.

There wasn’t a sense of entitlement at all. I know I’ve told this story but it’s a great story and it really illustrates the power of our tribe and exactly what I’m talking about here.

So, Julia Kent took the stage and she whispered to me right before we were about to start, I just made USA Today! And I encouraged her to open with that, and she said no, I can’t do that, that’s bragging. You’re not supposed to do that at these kinds of events.

And I said our tribe will want you to.

So, she did, despite her reservations, and she got a standing ovation.

That’s kind of amazing to me. It’s really indicative of the kind of people that we attract. We attract those people because we’re also repelling the people who aren’t right for us.

Trimming your tribe is equally as important to growing your tribe.

We attract people who want to do the work. They’re willing to spend the money because they’re willing to treat their writing like a business.

So, they’ll pay for good covers, they’ll pay for good editing because they understand that you’re going to pay for publishing no matter what, even if you’re paying for a loss of readers, or too many years running in circles because you’re not doing things the right way.

Those are the core values of our tribe. We just a got one star review on Iterate and Optimize. Our first. It’s all five stars other than this one review. The review is complaining that the book is $5.99.

That’s not our tribe.

customer feedback 5-star ratingGive us a one star, we don’t want you here because you don’t find value in a 100,000 word book that has a lot of ideas and is $6.00 because that’s too expensive for you.

This writer also dinged a couple of other books about writing for the same thing. You can’t charge $2.99, you can’t charge $4.99. This is information that’s available for free.

So, that’s the kind of writer that we don’t really want in the tribe because it decays the value of the tribe as a whole.

Us being off topic, our language, these are things that we do that are core to our personalities and we’re okay if it doesn’t resonate with everybody because the people that it does, really love us for that, and they want to bring their friends and their best selves along for our journey.

You can’t ever be hesitant about saying good bye to people who aren’t your people.

Tribes are iterative.

You have to keep growing yourself, and you have to keep growing your tribe, and you have to always be welcoming to the new people who want to join you.

Never be exclusionary or turn people off just because they’re new or different. But you always have to be willing to say you know what, our values aren’t in alignment, so it’s okay that you don’t belong here.

And you have to feel comfortable enough with your message and your core beliefs to hold firm to that.

But your tribe does matter and keeping it sacred matters. So, do both as best you can. Always thing of ways to be growing your tribe and connecting with your readers, and always be vigilant about keeping your tribe a sacred space.

As always, good luck with everything that you do. Make great art and make people love it.