If the number of members doesn’t get too big, Facebook groups can be a working alternative to the more traditional mastermind model. Groups are usually founded by a person with a passion for a certain interest. In the case of writing, there is no shortage of author Facebook groups.
In my experience, Facebook groups can serve some of the same functions as a mastermind. However, once the number in the group reaches 20, things start to break down. People don’t get to know each other as well as when they are communicating with only a dozen or so other people. And because of that, Facebook groups tend to be dominated by only a few people, and engagement can drop as the size of the group grows.
Also, some authors prefer to join Facebook groups and do what is called “lurking.” Lurkers read everything that is being posted, but they do not post or comment. And while there is nothing wrong with lurking in a Facebook group, the true value of the mastermind session is the interaction between all members. 100% engagement is expected, and the most beneficial to all members. While Facebook groups are not ideal and I would never run a mastermind inside of one, they are a way for authors to get a feel for what it would be like to be in a real mastermind.
Many author conferences and workshops can also provide a mastermind experience in more of a one-off situation. Certain sessions will give you a seat at the table with other authors discussing a certain tactic or strategy that is hyper-focused and led by a moderator. These types of sessions can be highly beneficial, especially when you have a specific issue or problem you are trying to solve. Other writers in that group have been having the same problems, and some of them may have already found solutions or partial solutions that you would find helpful in your situation.
The downside to sitting in a workshop at a writers’ conference is that it is a single event and not an ongoing relationship. One of the true powers of the mastermind group is getting to know the other members and regularly helping each other. You get to know the fellow members in a way you can’t do at a conference or workshop. However, sitting in one of these hands-on workshop-style sessions can give you a feel for what the optimal mastermind experience would be like.
I’ve become known in the independent author community as the “author on a train guy.” Back in 2017, my business partner Zach Bohannon and I began organizing trips. The first few that we ran started in Chicago and ended in New Orleans. We would meet a group of 12 to 15 writers in Chicago. We would get to know each other during the train ride, brainstorming story ideas. Then, we would spend a week in New Orleans working on world-building for a short story anthology that we would publish. During that time, the authors got to know each other and collaborated on a short story. This is one example of an author event or retreat that functioned like a mastermind.
Since those first Authors on a Train trips in 2017, we have held many more, including weekend world-building events in Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Seattle. For every single event, we structure the experience as a mastermind. We set the agenda and lead the exercise, but we open the room up to conversations, troubleshooting sessions, or anything else attendees would like to discuss.
The key is for us to foster deep and meaningful relationships with the other people at the event because that is what anchors the mastermind experience. In fact, many of the writers who have joined my mastermind group have done so after being part of one of my conferences or events. However, you do not have to take a train to New Orleans or plan a sophisticated weekend in a city on the other side of the country. Holding a writer’s retreat in your hometown over the weekend can be a great way of using the mastermind model without an investment in time or money.
Project collaborations provide a working alternative to the mastermind model, in addition to generating revenue as an author. Creating an anthology or a collection for publication can be a way to give each author a mastermind experience while still focusing on a shared goal. Whether you’re combining novels into a box set or bundling short stories into an anthology, these types of collaborative projects can build a foundation of relationships that can last for months or years.
Collaborative projects aren’t the same as being part of a mastermind, but many of the elements are. These types of projects require a single person to be in charge and to make sure everyone else in the group is held accountable for whatever it is they’re supposed to be doing. Also, problems will arise in the group, which will be better equipped to solve them instead of relying on an answer from a single person. Even if you are the one in charge of heading the collaborative project, you are not expected to come up with the solution to every single problem that is raised.
The downside of collaborative projects is that they usually require some type of revenue splitting once the project has been completed, and this can be a deterrent for many people because of the administrative energies it requires. If you are the official publisher of an anthology, it is your responsibility to not only split the royalties but to then distribute them to the other members of the collection. Many authors, myself included, find this to be tedious, and the bookkeeping can cut into your writing time. One way to avoid this issue is to create a collaborative project or anthology with all proceeds going to charity. This still provides a single focus for the group and makes it goal-oriented, but it eliminates all of the back-end work that can usually be a drag when it comes to collaborative projects.
If you are outgoing, or simply enjoy having conversations about the profession of writing, podcasting can be a working alternative to a mastermind group. Instead of creating a private session, you can host a podcast and have several friends on in a roundtable-style discussion about any topic or problem that you’re facing. Because podcasts are released regularly, you’ll develop a working relationship with your fellow hosts from week-to-week or month-to-month, depending on how regularly you publish episodes. Because you are talking regularly, you will know what your fellow authors care about and what’s important to them, which is a key component of any mastermind group.
While hosting a podcast can be a great working alternative to a mastermind group, it is not the same. Typically, other authors would not pay to be on a podcast, and therefore, you will still have the volunteer issues that crop up in many of the other alternatives to the mastermind group that we’ve already discussed. Many podcasts start and end after only a few episodes because there is not an investment in time or money. Also, if you are the one hosting the podcast, you have an extra burden of administrative tasks that include post-production of the audio, uploading, hosting, posting, and marketing. While a podcast can feel like a mastermind, the structure and work required to keep it running does not always make it worth it.
Your time and efforts are valuable, so if you’re considering joining an existing mastermind or even an alternative group, it’s always wise to discover what past participants thought of the experience.
Want to take your writing chops and business savvy to the next level? Check out The Author Success Mastermind group at https://theauthorsuccessmastermind.com/join/