This week authors J. Thorn and Crys Cain answer questions from their listeners to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the podcast.


Crys: Welcome to the TASM podcast. I’m Crys Cain with my cohost J Thorn.

J: Hey, you got new hair! Tell them about it.

Crys: For anybody who knows that I look like in person, right now my hair is actually mostly my natural color. Shocker. Because I chopped most of it off. The sides are pink right now, but the length of hair is mostly my natural color because I have not gotten around to messing with it yet.

J: And what brought you to this point of hair chopping?

Crys: About 10 seconds before I grabbed the scissors, I decided I was going to do it. Which is how I cut my hair. One time I did not have scissors available, and so I took the sharpest knife I could find. I was hung over, my sister and my ex-husband had just gone to pick my parents up, and it was just a thing that happened. Cause that’s how I cut my hair.

J: Nice.

Crys: So how’s your week gone? J’s hair is still long everybody. So we’re good there.

J: Mine’s still here.

Yeah, it’s been crazy. I’ve been in the discord server for the BookCoin drop of Mark Manson’s book, and it’s been nuts. It’s been it’s crazy. They’ll definitely be more to come on it. But as we’re recording, the first 1000 on the wait list are now minting. They got it like a 24-hour window and Mark Manson himself has been in discord, throwing some comments around here and there. And it’s just been an education for me just to kind of watch how this unfolds and study the behavior around this thing.

It’s very different than what authors are doing, or want to do, I think. This is definitely more in like the collectible NFT crowd space. Talking about things like floor prices and pay for hands and authors are like, what? But it’s been fun to watch and just paying attention to the behaviors of people, and how they’re reacting to this, and what they’re valuing has been really interesting.

Crys: I’m gonna want you to kinda keep notes on this, because this is supposed to be our emerging tech episode, but because it’s episode 52, I made a call out to our group and said, hey, our community, what should we talk about?

We got some really great questions. But I still want to have our emerging tech episode next week. So maybe we can talk about the process of buying an NFT and like what that looks like right now, since this is like the first book-related one that you’ve participated in. You’ve done some other stuff, but this is the first book related one. So let’s put that for next week. Teaser for everybody.

Now getting into the questions that our group asked us, one of the biggest one was like, what’s the state of the union of the community? And so we have a teaser, we’re not going to tell you everything yet because we’re still figuring some big stuff out, but I’m going to let J tell you what one of the biggest visual things is that you’ll see.

J: Yeah. Since November, I want to say November, I’ve been working with an agency on a major rebrand. I say rebrand, it’s really a brand because I never intentionally branded in the first place. I just threw up a website in 2017 after I went to the Story Grid certification, and I’ve just rolled with that ever since.

I’ve never been intentional on the non-fiction platform around branding. And I thought, okay, it’s probably time to do that, and time to invest some money in it. So I’ve been working with Gretchen and Trino, who are incredible. I’ll do more of a formal introduction for everyone later. But essentially it’s rebranding my website, taking a good look. It’s still going to be called The author Life, but it’s more intentional, it’s more me.

I didn’t build it. That was the other problem is I just used the page builder, didn’t really design it from a design perspective. And part of that rebrand is going to be unifying all these other things that I have.

The Author Success Mastermind is a mouthful and there’s a whole story behind where that name came from, which maybe I can share later. But the community is going to fold into The Author Life and it’s going to be re rebranded that way. So there’s going to be a lot more coming around that, but that’s one of the big things, and there’s a lot of technical stuff that’s involved, mostly on my website, but it won’t change what we do or who we are.

Crys: Yeah. Now that we’ve let the cat out of the bag, it may be by next week you’ll see us show up in your podcast feed as something different. I’m not sure when that’ll be, the next week, or it will be in the next few weeks, but just be aware, that’s something that’s coming.

J: Yeah. It’ll be a new name and a new logo, but everything else will be the same. So that’s kind of the big thing. Then do you want me to mention about some of the events?

Crys: Yeah. Let’s talk over the events that are happening throughout the years that we know that the community and any of you who are listening who are not part of the community are totally invited to and would probably be interested in.

J: I’m going to be sending an email about this. I don’t know if the email will come out before or after this episode, but essentially there are three to four different events that we’re working on, I’m working on with Zach, working on by myself, for 2022. I feel even better now than I did a month ago, given where the pandemic situation is, mask mandates rolling back, people more willing to resume travel.

So I really feel like we have some momentum now. And some of the things that we were not sure about, we’re going to move forward with. So without getting into a lot of specifics, I want to say this, first of all, these are not necessarily TASM specific events, but they might turn out to be that way, and here’s why.

They are very small events, our biggest event is going to be 50 people. We are going to open those tickets up to the people inside the community first. And some of these events are four- or five- or twelve-people events. So if everyone in the community buys a ticket, they’ll never be announced. They’ll never be open to the public.

Now the flip side to that is, if you’re not in the community and tickets are available, part of that ticket is going to be a certain number of days of free access to the community because we want to bring the community and the events into the same place. So if you’re an existing member, you’re like, oh dang, they get some free months and I’m paying, the flip side to that is as a member, you get that first opportunity and those tickets might not even be there for the general public.

So that’s kind of at the high level, here’s what’s in the works. They’re pretty close to being done. When I say done, I mean like a landing page and an announcement.

 Zach and I are working on a summit that is definitely going to happen this year, probably in the fall. I’m working on a pilot program called a Three-story Method weekend where you come into the weekend with something, an idea, or nothing, and you walk out on Monday morning with a plan for that book using Three Story Method.

 There’s most likely going to be a world building weekend at some point in 2022, to be determined. And probably in the fall, I’m going to run another Three-story Method Editor Certification course. And a number of people have been asking me about that. That will also be a very small event, probably 10 people or less. And that’s coming as well.

So those are some things that are in the works. We can’t get any more specific about them yet until we have those details nailed down. But if you’re just thinking about how you want to spend your time this year or how you want to allocate some money to in-person events, those are the things that we have in the works.

Crys: Yeah. Excellent. So I am going to switch from a big question to a little silly question now, and that’s: when can we get TASM camo shorts as merch?

J: It’s a silly question, but it’s not. And part of the reason why it’s not is because very early on, this was before slack, so the OGs of TASM will remember this, I built a bulletin board and that’s where all the community interaction was happening. And it was kind of lame, it didn’t really kick off until we got into slack. But there was a request for merch at that time.

I think it was Steven who mentioned it first. I’ve been thinking about that, but I’ve also known for chunk of time now that I was going to rebrand and probably change the name of the community. And I didn’t want to create merch with a name that wasn’t going to be in place.

There is going to be merch opportunity, fly your colors, after the rebrand is done at some point this year. I snuck a peak, I think that was a Chad Boyer question. So there you go, Chad, there might be some camo shorts on the way.

Crys: I’m just saying, if we’re going to do camo shirts, there will have to be a pink option for representation, just saying.

 Okay, so this one I feel is possibly going to be our hardest question, so let’s make sure we have time for that. And that’s: where did we expect to be a year ago? And where do we expect to be a year from now?

J: Yeah. Do you want me to go first or do you want to take this?

Crys: I’ll take the first half first. Where did we expect to be a year ago?

I didn’t really know what to expect. Because it was just under, or just over a year ago, that you had said like, you know, I just don’t have time for the energy this is taking. Is it something you want to take over? And I was like, it’s not something I’m willing to take over by myself. And we decided to go at the new energy of it to together.

So, I didn’t really know what it was going to look like, because for me, the first six months of anything I do, in general, is very much a test of how much energy it takes to do the things I’m doing and whether they’re flying. And so for me, it was just like, this is the year that I sit and experience with my responsibilities. Because I’d experienced it as a member, but not as a manager, if that’s a better word. Owner just feels weird, even though that’s the technical-ish-ness of it, I don’t know, but manager in the community and see what that looked like over a year.

And now I guess I can go into like, where do we expect to be a year from now? Now that I know what that is, I have a better idea of the things I want to do and create. And one of the things we’ve talked a lot about, and one of the things I’ve spent a lot of time studying how you do things because you’ve been a teacher for so long, is teaching and doing classes.

And one of the things that I really want to start having more of in TASM is classes. And I don’t know if that is more active classes, if that’s more, I upload things and it’s self-paced for people. But that’s one of the things that I’m looking forward to having more of in a year.

J: Nice. Yeah. Well said. Just if you’re new to the podcast or you’re not a regular listener, we run this community together and there’s a lot of overlap, but basically you are focusing on content creation and my focus is on community building.

And so part of what I see my responsibility for community building is bringing new members as well. This community has only been, we’re coming up on two years, which is not a long time for a community. And really the first year, I just didn’t even know what I didn’t know and just stumbled my way through it. And then realized that I couldn’t sustain it on my own and asking you to become part of this was a big growth point. And we’ve talked over the past couple of months about where we want TASM to be in another year or so.

We both agreed that we don’t want to run a huge community. We’re not interested in scaling to thousands of people. We have about 100 really active people in the slack group who are part of the community. There are some people who part of the community are not in the slack group and that’s fine. But if we’re looking at really engaged, active users, it’s about a hundred people.

And we both said, like 200, 250, that’s probably it. We don’t want any more than that. Our strategy is very different than I think what you might hear in other podcasts and other communities where they’re looking at massive expansion and building teams, and neither you nor I want that.

So part of getting to that is I’m trying to schedule a monthly webinar with other people’s audiences who are similar to ours, and like if five or 10 people are on that webinar and then decide they want to join the community, like five or 10 people a month, in a year or two we’ll probably get to the ideal size of the community.

There’s reasons why we want to make it a little bit bigger, that it provides a little more diversity, it provides a little more opportunity for people to interact into smaller groups and smaller segments. So there’s nothing wrong with the size of our community now, but we think it can be even better, but there’s a tipping point too. And we feel like going past that 200, 250 max, it starts to get to a point where we can’t manage it or people don’t know each other.

 Overall, I’m pretty optimistic. I think I was hoping growth would be faster than it is, but I’m not upset that it isn’t. I think it’s growing at the pace that it needs to for what it is. And all of our listeners know this is a long play, it’s a long tail. Whether you’re writing books or building communities, it’s not something you necessarily want to have explode in a month or two, because that’s not what you’re trying to build.

Crys: Yeah. And you and I have both done a lot of studying on community building and community participation. And it’s not because we want this to be the biggest community ever, but because we want it to be the most connected community.

J: Yes. Yeah. In fact, it’s almost the opposite. I don’t want it to be the biggest, I want it to be one of the smallest. And there was a post recently in slack about a really big author event that was coming up. And I basically said like, wow, I’m really happy for those people and I’m sure that’s going to be great, but I’m just not interested in that. I’m like, I’ll stay over here in my little corner and do my little thing. And other people feel the same way.

And I think that’s what’s great about being where we are in this day and age in 2022, is we can all have these very tiny micro communities that we’re part of that are very fulfilling for everybody. They don’t have to be massive and I’ve just no aspirations to making it big.

Crys: Yeah, I’ve attended both large and small events, and my personal preference is small. That’s just what works for me and for a lot of the folks who are drawn to this group.

J: And if people in our community want to go to those big events, they can certainly go. We’re not trying to dissuade anyone from doing that. In fact, I would encourage you to do it and bring back what you learned, but that’s just not what we want to build.

Crys: All right. So the next question, we’ll go silly again, and that is why is JP Rindfleisch our favorite member?

J: The hair.

Crys: The hair very envious.

J: Can we say that JP has the best hair of any member in TASM? Can we make that statement accurately?

Crys: I don’t think that anyone would disagree.

J: No, I don’t think anybody would. I love JP. It’s more than his hair. He is a loveable human.

Crys: And for anyone listening who does not know JP, he is my co-host on the Write Away Podcast. He started another podcast with another community member, he’s doing projects with J, he is just someone who has his foot in everywhere, helping everyone he can.

J: Yes. And this was a guy who wasn’t part of any community a few years ago. And I love hearing him tell that story about once he found community, he just found a purpose. And he’s co-writing with Abe, and he’s attending the events, and he’s an editor, and yeah.

And yeah, it’s the hair.

Crys: To match that, why is Zach Bohannan our least favorite member?

J: His beard. His beard is awful.

Crys: It’s not just jealousy there, J?

 Zach ran a podcast with J for how many years?

J: Too many.

Crys: A lot. They co-wrote together. He has his own podcast now called Creator Dad, which I was excited to be a guest on a while ago. I’m sure you’ve been a guest early on. I think you’re required to be guest number one or something like that.

And he is not our least favorite member. We don’t have one. But if we had to pick one, we’d pick Zach, just because he could take it.

J: And because he likes corn pops.

Crys: So what has happened in the community that has surprised you? Something that’s happened organically, perhaps?

J: I mentioned this earlier. I think there were two things that really surprised me, or one thing that surprised me, which led to a great outcome, and that was moving to slack. I think this community would have died if it hadn’t moved to slack. Like it was just really hard to engage.

And I really studied, I listened to the experts, I took the courses, and everyone said like, you know, if you create your own little walled garden, people love that. And they just didn’t. And it wasn’t until we moved to slack, we really started to pick up on engagement and people participating. And that’s what led to bringing you on.

I think that was at the time, it was disheartening for me because I spent a lot of time building that tool. But it’s not about the tool, it’s about the engagement. And so I just had to quickly let that go and say, okay we’re going to move to slack. I understand. I don’t own slack and they can change their terms, but at least now we have a community. I feel like if we had to leave slack, like it wouldn’t be a big deal because the people now are so close and it wouldn’t be a deal breaker. So I don’t feel as badly about using slack even though we don’t own it.

Crys: Yeah, for sure. For me, I don’t think there’s been much that surprised me. And that’s more just because I came in in more of a, a learning phrase of mind. When you’re in that mind set, there’s very little that takes you in a right-hand turn where you’re like well, I didn’t expect that to come that way. But you’re just like, okay, cool, this is happening.

 There were a lot of things that we hoped for, and that was a lot of like membership led gatherings and connections. And so we have a couple of people who are leading writing times where everybody hops on their cameras, or keeps their camera off, but they hop in the same kind of virtual room, and they say, okay, we’re writing for 20 minutes, 25 minutes. And then we’ll have some chat time, has some water cooler time, because I think that’s something that a lot of people miss out on is that what would be coffee shop time if you had writer friends in your hometown. And so that’s built into that.

And then also the genre groups. One of our members is leading, I think two groups a month for sci-fi and fantasy, and I’d love to see more happen. But it just depends on the right person having the right time and energy to be able to manage that. But they are doing critiques of each other’s work, discussions on whatever’s pertinent to their genre as far as business or craft and meeting fairly regularly and doing that.

And that probably been one of the things that I’ve just been really pleased to see. It was something we hoped would happen, and it’s really lovely to see it happening.

J: Agreed.

Crys: So is this our last question? I think it is. Our last question is: how has the community impacted us?

J: Oh, that’s not easy to answer.

 It’s easy to answer, just not easy to articulate. It’s just really lit the fire under me. Like this is the first time I’ve done something, other than the act of writing, that I just can’t wait to get up and work on. And so many great relationships I’ve built, and so many people that I’ve met through this community and through the events that are better than any of the friends I have in the rest of my life.

Crys: Like that particular thing, the community, the connection, the friendships, that I had just as a member because of the community you created. So that I did not lose in taking on more responsibility. What I gained in taking on more responsibility, is that I love teaching.

 So, often my teaching has been just in one-on-one conversations with new writers, with friends. And that hasn’t stopped, I still love doing that, but it’s given me an avenue to share it with a larger group. And particularly a group who is drawn to this community because we tend to learn in similar ways, not everybody, but there’s a reason they’re drawn to this group.

And then also too, it’s given me confidence in my knowledge that I do have and knowledge on the ways to share it. Watching you, working with you, is one of the best teaching methods. But then also putting it into practice is a very necessary part of learning. And stepping into that, and figuring out what works and what doesn’t, has been very helpful.

J: Excellent. That’s a great question to turn around and ask our members, right?

Crys: Yeah. So if you are part of this community, how has it impacted you? And if you’re not part of this community, what would you want out of a community that you’re not getting in your life right now?

J: And if you want to ask us, we’ll tell you. And if our community isn’t a good fit for you, we’ll tell you that too.

Crys: Yeah, for sure.

Crys: All right. Thank you for joining us again this week. If you would like to join this conversation in real time, we’d love for you to pop over and check out what The Author Success Mastermind is all about.