This week, J and Crys talk about The Author Success Mastermind family and what a mastermind is (and how TASM’s branding is confusing!) They also talk about the kinds of benefits you get from different kinds of communities such as Facebook groups, writing groups, and masterminds.


Crys: Welcome to The Author Success Mastermind episode four. I’m Crys Cain with my cohost…  

J: J. Thorn. What’s up, Crys?

Crys: Recovery! I shared last week what an insane day I’d had, and then it got crazier after that. And. This week wasn’t very productive until yesterday or the day before. I don’t really remember what day it is. But I finally cleaned up from a massive amount of deadlines that I had in January.

Life got chaotic, my house got chaotic, and this week I tidied it up. I moved my office into a spare room from where it was in a bit more open area. And I think that helped a lot. I think clean spaces equal a clean mind and better ability to, focus. 

J: Is clutter a challenge for you? 

Crys: Sometimes I live minimalist on purpose because I think… yes, I will say yes.

And it is not currently a problem often for me because I live fairly minimalist and that keeps me from being cluttered.

How about you? What’s your week been? 

J: Yeah we refinanced our house yesterday, so we had the closing yesterday, which was good. The interest rates are at all time lows and essentially without extending our mortgage, we extended it a few years, but not anything drastic, we ended up shaving like $400 a month off of our mortgage payment. And yeah. 

And the break even from the closing costs is like two months. So we were like, that’s a no brainer. We’re not going to move in the next two months. So we might as well do it. Yeah. So that was yesterday. That was a nice little thing to check off the list. Yeah. 

Crys: Congrats. Saving money. Thanks. Yeah. We are four episodes in and we’ve mentioned our community frequently bringing the questions from the community, but we haven’t exactly talked about what the community is, what The Author Success Mastermind is. And I wondered if you would give us an introduction to what we specifically are versus what the community in general is.

J: Yeah. I think I’m starting, I’ve been calling us a family, and that seems to really resonate with the people in our community. A community, even when we call it community. It’s… that sounds really big. And our group isn’t big by design. 

Essentially what we have is we have a paid community, so people have skin in the game. It’s not like a free Facebook group where you get lost in the shuffle of hundreds, thousands, hundreds of thousands of people. We have a small paid community. 

It has two components to it. One is a website of resources that include tutorials and mini courses and these quick shot, tactical things that you’re creating. It’s a resource library.

And then the other component is the interaction within the community. We’re doing that in a private Slack group. 

The idea is we are trying to help and support other authors who want to become better at all aspects of being an author from publishing to craft to marketing. 

The way that we’re doing that is by building, we hope, these really strong relationships between us and the members of our community and between the members of community themselves. So an example of that would be a Slack channel that we have called accountability partners, where people can pop into a video room, like a zoom room, at any point, and meet with anyone else in the community.

And our members have formed that organically, and they do it for writing sprints or pomodoros where they will come in and do some work and chat for a little bit, and then they go back into their work. 

The big, the sort of the general answer to your question is we’re building a family of writers and we’re doing it because we believe that having a very small community of like-minded people helps everyone who’s involved.

Crys: Yeah. This morning, I actually spent quite a bit of time in the accountability partners group and people came and went, but at max, there are about six of us there ,and I really respond well to I think it’s referred to as buddy working or something like that. I forget what the phrase is that’s used, where you are– body doubling! That’s what the phrase is. And it works really well for people with ADHD and. Other people, but knowing that you are in a space where somebody else’s working spurs you on to also be working. 

What inspired you to create this particular community? This close-knit family community? 

J: I think it was trial and error. That’s what led to it. I think the reason behind it was, I was starting to hit capacity in my client services business. I still do some one-on-one client work, although it’s pretty few and far between now. The reason for that is, anyone that’s done one-on-one client work will know that you only have so many hours or so many minutes or so many clients in you before you just can’t do it anymore.

The demand for my services was outpacing my ability to help those people and having a background in education and knowing the value of sort of a, you know, more traditional classroom setting, most education isn’t done, one-on-one, it’s done in a one to few kind of setting.

So I started experimenting with taking what I would do in a classroom and using it with small groups of authors. And I found that it did two things. It allowed me to help more people and in the same amount of time, but it also started building these great relationships between the people themselves.

I don’t know everything. I barely know anything about the stuff that we’re doing, but when you get other people involved and they bring their own expertise, their own life experience, their own situations, you get this very synergistic problem solving mindset. And it’s extremely powerful.

I think that was the move. I tried a few things here, there, and clearly the Facebook group model was something that was out there. And this is nothing against 20BooksTo50k, I love those guys and what they’ve done and what they’ve done for the indie community.

But the Facebook group is, I don’t know, 40,000 people now? Like… that’s it’s just not a community. I guess if you’re going in there for certain things, you’ll get them. 

I just had this urge to do, to replicate more of what I was doing at my local library and do that online. So for the Cuyahoga County library program, I became good friends with Laurie Kincer.

She would invite me and I would do these evening talks with groups of 12 and 15 people, and they were just so fulfilling for me, and then they were so informative for the people, because it would break up into small groups and they would talk about what they’re doing. 

Then the same people would start coming every single time I gave one of these talks, and that’s when the light bulb went off. 

I can do that. Like, I can transplant that experience online, as long as I don’t want to scale indefinitely. And that’s never been my game. I don’t care about scalability. I just want to make a comfortable living and not have to worry about my bills. 

I think if you have that mindset, then you can just aim small and that was the start of it. That’s what you and I are both trying to do here. 

Crys: In our community, have writers from all different stages of their author journey, all different genres. Nonfiction, fiction, children’s books. If somebody in our listenership were to ask you “Will this work for me?” What are some things you would say to them or questions you would ask them for them to figure out if a community like this would be worked for them? 

J: Yeah. I get those questions more often than I should, which tells me my wording is off, that the branding is off. And we’re in the process of rethinking some of that, because the way that manifests is I’ll get a question that says, “I’m just starting. This isn’t right for me because I’m just… I’m brand new.” 

And then I have to I have to walk that person back and say, “No, really it’s for anyone with the right mindset. It’s not based on your level of experience, or how many books you’ve published, or how many royalty checks you’ve cashed, or how many movies you’ve had optioned. That’s not what this is about.” 

Again, talking about it like a family, if you had three siblings and all three siblings wanted to play one particular sport, you wouldn’t leave one out because that sibling wasn’t as good as the other two.

That’s really the approach. I think that the deal breaker for me, and I think this is good because it does eliminate some certain types of people, which is what we want. We want to attract the right people and repel the ones who are not a good fit.

People who are not a good fit are the ones who have it figured out or they think they have it figured out, and they want to make sure everyone else knows they have it figured out. 

And there’s a bit of posturing that goes on in the online world. It started with the keyboards way back in the day. Kboards now it’s in Facebook groups where, you know, you have people who want to demonstrate their mastery or their perceived mastery at something.

A lot of times that happens at the expense of somebody else. And so I want to avoid that at all costs. 

My goal for this is that you come in with a growth mindset. You go back to Carol Dweck and you want fixed versus growth mindset. I want growth mindset people who are willing to learn, willing to reevaluate what they do willing to admit that they’ve made mistakes willing to learn from other people.

And I’m you and I are trying to do that as well. We don’t have any sort of. Veil of mastery that we project in these communities. A lot of times people ask questions and we go, I don’t know, does anyone else know? Or we mess something up royally like that messed that one up. Didn’t do that one.

We had a town hall yesterday. We had a question and both of you, both you. And I said We can answer that in theory because we’ve never done it. And so I think that, that’s what we’re trying to get at. You get here, we’re trying to get we’re trying to get a true family who really wants to help each other out learn from each other.

Yes, you and I are a little more experienced. Yes. We are the facilitators of this community. That, that goes without saying, but it’s the mindset that we’re looking for. So I think for folks who are looking at. Our flavor of a mastermind or a community or a writer’s group, we’re way more concerned about mindset and attitude than we are experience.

Crys: Yeah. I can think off the top of my head of two people who have, great experience and things that we don’t have that we can learn from. And that’s Angela who we are learning about Pinterest from, and we’ll pepper has done interactive fiction, which I don’t think anyone else in the group has done choose your own adventures.

And that is dead. Like the experimental people and the multihyphenate people are the ones that I think are really attracted to this group in particular. And that you said, we say, I don’t know a lot. I think that’s one of the most powerful things anyone can say is, I don’t know. Yeah, 

J: this is not a, I’m not disparaging these because these communities have their place, but this is not where you go.

You don’t come to our community to optimize your AMS ads or to drill down on keyword research. That’s, those are not the type of activities that are taking place within our community. Those are fine and people need those at certain points, but I agree.

It’s a more holistic approach. You mentioned a few people, Michelle’s in our group, she’s an academic and she’s writing like horror and she’s starting to experiment with a genre that’s not typically written by African-American women. And I love that. And you have Christine who is your… 

Crys: Neuroscientist? 

J: Neuro-psychologist? 

Crys: She’s smart. 

J: Yeah. 

Crys: Too smart for us.

J: Yeah. And she is experimenting with the trad pub route. So she’s really focused on querying agents and pitching contest. And you, and you bring all these people– there’s so many, we’re leaving so many people out. 

But we there’s just so many great personalities in the group and people bringing a variety of experience. And so it’s definitely more of a holistic approach. It’s for people who are playing the long game, who are not  looking to escape their day job in six weeks.

They’re not like what’s the hot genre I can cash in now. Those are not the kind of people that we have in our community. They’re really looking at long-term growth. Long-term sustainability. 

Maybe at some point they’ll transition into writing for a living or maybe they won’t, but they’re really excited about the potential to do that.

And every one of the people in our community have that potential and just allowing them to move through it at their own pace.  I think that’s really the essence of the group. 

Crys: All right. I agree.  So we have TASM, The Author success Mastermind, as a whole, but then we have a smaller subset that is a more intense group, which we call the Platinum level. Can you tell me what the difference is between the two of them?

J: Yes. Again, I didn’t quite nail the branding. There’s two problems with “The Author Success Mastermind.” The first one is the length of that and saying it is a challenge. And trying to type in the domain name is a challenge, but it was like unique. 

The other thing that’s misleading about as is we call it The Author Success Mastermind but the mastermind, the true mastermind experience as a subset of the family. Of the community. 

We’ve talked about the greater community, which involves the the library of resources and the S and the Slack group. And then within that and this happens only once or twice a year where I invite people who I feel are ready for the next level into an even smaller group.

This is typically 12 people or less, and this is where we do the more traditional mastermind model. It’s a one hour a week zoom meeting. And in that one hour, everyone gets on the call at the same time. And there’s basically three components.  The first component of the mastermind is the weekly wins, where everyone talks about little successes or big successes that they’ve had during the week.

And it synchs everybody up, gets everyone back into the head space. And people will give us updates on problems that they had in the past and that sort of thing. 

And then we move into like a learning or education module, and that can involve a live scene analysis that one of the people in the mastermind group wrote, it could be an analysis of a masterwork. It could be part of the business model canvas that we’re working on and building businesses around this. So that’s like the middle component of the hour. 

And then the last section of the hour is the very traditional hot seat. A different person every week is tasked with bringing a problem or a concern that they have and the whole group troubleshoots and comes up with ideas on ways to solve that problem.

That happens every week. There’s some other other components involved. There’s some projects that we’re working on. I think it’s important to recognize that it’s a group within a group, so it gives the people who are in the community and who are maybe not ready or can’t commit to something that intense to kind of have that on the horizon and think, maybe I would like to do that at some point.

People who are ready to maybe take it a little more seriously, or be able to commit more minutes to it, whatever it happens to be, then they get invited to this smaller group. So even though the whole thing is called The Author Success Mastermind, the more traditional mastermind format is a group within a group.

Crys: One of the things I love on both levels, especially the smaller group is many of the people who have participated in that, they don’t participate every time, but the relationships are built really intensely in those weekly meetings. So many of those people have remained my friends in the months, and you’ve been doing this for over two years now, the small group and those people have now become part of my core writer circle. 

And in the larger community, I’m slowly building up those new friendships as well of people that I know that if I have this kind of problem, they’re a good person to talk to or so-and-so is going to be in the writing room every day at this time. So I know if I need somebody to just be there and by their presence, guilt me into doing what I’m supposed to do. They’re going to be there.

J: Yeah. Yeah. It’s the power of the relationship. I think that’s really, what’s at the heart of this whole endeavor. And, there are multiple people who are in the mastermind right now who’ve been in my mastermind from day one. There are people in the mastermind now who left and came back it’s, and I think that speaks to it.

It’s not a transactional situation, like when I do editing or diagnostics for people it’s transactional. I know that they know that there’s nothing inherently negative about that. But if you pay me to read your manuscript and give you feedback, and I do that great. I benefited, I made some money, you’ve got the feedback you need and you move on and I move on and that’s transactional.

And we need that and that’s appropriate. But that’s not how this is. This is definitely more of an ongoing relationship. 

I think the people within our group view it as an investment as opposed to a cost. And that’s the difference. If you’re having a cover made or you’re paying an editor to publish a book, that’s a cost on a product that you’re going to sell.

Whereas anytime you educate yourself, whether it’s an online course or a community, like we have, it’s more of an investment. Like you are going to get a return on that investment. It’s not something that’s necessarily going to happen right away. Or it, in, in more traditional ways return on investment from paid advertising, But it is, it’s an investment in you.

And I think those, all of our people know that I think they embrace that. 

Crys: Yeah. One of the things that you just cannot buy is the trust that is built in groups like this with both individuals and with the group as a whole recently it’s come out in the news that Facebook groups are going to be changing.

I am still a member of a lot of those. And as I was reading the changes, Facebook’s going to be de-prioritizing them. They’re not going to be showing them up in our feeds if they’re not linked to a local location. And I’m worried about losing access to some of those groups, because they have wonderful focused sources of knowledge that I’ve been reaping the benefits from, but we’re at the mercy of our tech overlords there.

And I know that with this group, I’m not going to lose that. This is managed by people we know, you and me currently, and we’re only going to do what has the community’s best interests at heart and not the bottom line. 

J: That is a fascinating you’re going to have to share some resources with me on that. I hadn’t heard that about Facebook groups. That really underscores this idea that you really need your own real estate. Like you if you’re building your community on someone else’s property, these kinds of things are a possibility. 

Crys: Absolutely. We could talk for hours on this subject and pretty much do every week, but if people want to learn more about masterminds in general, I really want to recommend the book you wrote, The Secrets of The Author Mastermind. I’ll put the link in the show notes. 

That goes really into depth on some of the things we’ve covered here briefly about the small group.

Thanks for joining us this week. Comment below! If you would like to be part of the conversations in real time, you can join us at The Author Success Mastermind