What is a mastermind group?
A mastermind group is a gathering of two or more peers who meet virtually or in person to mentor, encourage, and solve problems with each other. For authors, a mastermind group might be focused on craft improvement, book marketing, a specific publishing path, or another pursuit you hold in common.
Mastermind groups have been around for a long time, but they’ve recently made a resurgence.
One of the first mastermind groups was started by Benjamin Franklin. In his biography, he wrote about Junto, a group of about 12 friends who gathered to encourage each other and share what they were learning. They discussed ways to become more successful business people and improve society.
Getting together with a small group of writers to talk about writing or marketing can benefit your craft and career.
What are the benefits of a mastermind group?
Many authors are also entrepreneurs. Whether you are speaking, writing, or marketing, you’re often working alone. When you’re around other authors regularly, you’ll be able to give and receive encouragement for the solo journey.
Gathering around a topic of mutual interest is important. Your friends may not understand what it’s like to run a business or write a book. But when you talk with fellow writers who are facing the same challenges, it can be a great supplement to the community you have in other areas of your life.
When you gather to discuss a single topic, you’re gaining wisdom from each other. People offer different areas of expertise, and as they experiment with different methods of plot construction or marketing, they can share their successes and failures. You can learn from your successes, but you typically learn more from failure. If you can learn from someone else’s failure, you can save yourself some pain.
A mastermind group allows you to learn from the mistakes and success of your writing peers.
One crucial aspect of running any business is building relationships. Business is built on relationships. Your fellow masterminds know people you don’t know, and they’re often glad to make mutually beneficial introductions.
Many mastermind groups offer the external motivation of accountability. If you know someone will ask about the progress on your goal, you’re more likely to complete it.
I once set a goal and shared it with my mastermind group so they could keep me accountable. But because I knew it would be tough to meet the goal, I set up a punishment for myself. I told my mastermind group that if I did not finish the task, I would pay them each $10.
No one asked me to, but it was another layer of accountability to motivate me to accomplish my business objectives. As a business owner, I don’t have a boss above me, so having that mastermind accountability is helpful.
Unfortunately, I did not meet my goal, so I got everyone’s PayPal address and paid my fellow masterminds $10 each.
Marketing Support and Advice
You are marketing in every moment. You’re always selling your ideas no matter where you are. When you hear other people share their marketing ideas, you can implement them in your own business.
Masterminds may help each other market their books. If your audiences are similar, you can share each other’s books or articles with your respective audiences.
How does a marketing mastermind group work?
For years, James L. Rubart and I have been in the same mastermind group with a few other authors and speakers. We meet online every two weeks. We open by sharing a two-minute update on our lives and work. It’s important to limit our updates to just a few minutes so that we have time for the other aspects of our meeting.
After updates, one member might present what they’ve recently learned about marketing or what has been working for them. We also host a hot seat, where one member asks for detailed feedback on a specific project. They share where they’re stuck, and we offer potential solutions and insight to help them overcome the obstacle.
Paid vs. Free Mastermind Groups
Paid masterminds tend to be organized by a facilitator and are comprised of people who probably don’t already know each other. Paid mastermind groups are good for networking and gaining access to a particular guru. People tend to be more committed to a mastermind group if they pay for their membership.
Some people pay $500-$1,000 per month to access a guru who specializes in their area of business or interest. Those groups also tend to be great for networking because the members share the same level of commitment and field of interest. Over time, they may become friends.
Free mastermind groups typically start as a group of friends and peers who deepen their relationships. The facilitator is unpaid, making it more likely that they will lose interest in leading the group.
The mastermind I belong to is a free mastermind group of authors and conference speakers. We each bring something to share and learn about marketing.
Since a mastermind group is about giving and receiving, you want to make sure each member is at a stage in their career where they have something to offer the group and something to receive from the group.
That’s not to say beginners can’t form a mastermind. In fact, forming a group of beginning writers, where each person can share what they’ve learned so far, will accelerate everyone’s progress.
Many of the top indie authors are in mastermind groups with each other. They share what they’ve learned. As a result, everyone in the group learns faster, and they help each other level up.
Technology has made meetings so much easier. Numerous digital tools and platforms offer to help you connect with your people from a distance.
In Real Life
It’s best to meet in person in real life. It may not always be possible, but in-person interaction and communication are far superior to any form of digital communication.
Because of the logistics involved with in-person meetings, some groups may choose to meet only quarterly or semi-annually.
Google+ Video Hangout or Zoom
If you don’t have a local group, or if you write in a very niche genre, you can meet online via video by using Google+ Hangouts or Zoom. In a video conference, you can see each group member’s video on your screen, and even though it’s not an in-person meeting, it’s still a good way to connect.
Video conferencing is better than phone conferencing because you can see each other’s faces and expressions. The visual connection helps with clear communication.
A phone conference meeting can work for certain people or groups, and it’s better than nothing, but the lack of visual communication can hinder your group’s cohesiveness.
Email & Facebook
I have seen authors try to facilitate mastermind groups in a Facebook group or through email, but they’re just not as effective. Our mastermind group started as an email group, but it didn’t take off until we started meeting via video conferencing.
Our group members are spread throughout the country, with members in every time zone. We meet every two weeks by video. We also have a group email where we can communicate more frequently. Once each year, we meet in person for four days, and we have rich and inspiring conversations.
Email is a great way to augment any type of group, but it’s less effective by itself.
Our group begins with introductions and updates. Then we have a presentation, teaching, or hot seat. Because we are a Christian group, we end our meeting with prayer.
Franklin’s Junto Format
Franklin’s group would typically start with discussion questions that would help them learn from other people’s failures and successes. For example:
- Has any citizen in your knowledge failed in his business lately, and what have you heard of the cause?
- Have you lately heard of any citizen’s thriving well, and by what means?
They also occasionally invited each person to write an essay that the group could read and discuss, and they covered a wide variety of subjects.
The classic format is typically a four-hour meeting once a month.
Everyone brings a question that revolves around the group’s focus, and everyone brings a tip or resource to discuss. Those two items could easily fill an afternoon.
Our mastermind likes to limit our bi-weekly meetings to one hour. It’s easier for members to carve out an hour in their week than to take an entire afternoon.
Choose a time and format that meets your group’s needs. The fewer members you have, the more time you have for sharing with each other.
Tips for Starting Your Mastermind
Set expectations upfront.
What is your mastermind about? Setting the expectations will help you determine which people to invite and who will be a good fit.
Identify the goal.
Our group is about marketing, so members might post a marketing plan or copy for feedback. Our group doesn’t focus on the craft of writing, so our members would never post their manuscripts for feedback.
Explain how a mastermind works.
Many people are familiar with small groups, but not everyone knows the purpose or function of a mastermind group. If a potential member is unsure about joining your mastermind, consider sending them a link to this article to explain how it works.
You only need two people to start a group. It’s better to have a small and effective group than a larger group without structure or cohesiveness. Start small and build slowly.
When a mastermind group gets too big, the quality of the group suffers.
Be picky about who you add.
One bad apple can spoil the batch, and uninviting a member can be awkward. Our group membership is by-invite-only. To add a group member, we require unanimous consent from the current group. Since our group is invite-only, the new members we consider don’t even know they’re under consideration. If the group is not unanimously in favor, their feelings aren’t hurt because they didn’t know about it.
You want people to feel safe sharing their failures and struggles. If people can’t share their challenges, your meeting will turn into a bragging session and won’t be helpful. It could even become discouraging for members who are stuck. You can learn from successes, but you’ll learn more from failures.
Have a diverse but related group.
Invite people who have something to contribute and something to gain. A little bit of diversity can help. For example, fiction and nonfiction writers in the same group can drastically improve their writing by taking skills from one genre and applying them to the other.
While your group should stay focused on one purpose, you should still have diversity within the group. If everyone is at the same stage, you’ll have trouble helping each other. If the members are too diverse, for example, if they’re all working in different fields, you won’t be able to share the vocabulary of a common industry.
Invite people who can benefit from the group.
If members feel like they don’t need the group, they won’t prioritize attendance.
Choose a format.
Select a format that works best for your group members. You can choose one of the formats listed above or perhaps combine the formats to your liking.
Set an agenda and take notes.
For each meeting, our mastermind group follows a loose agenda. It helps us stay on track and within our time limit.
We also have a Google doc for our meetings where we can take collective notes. Our group has been meeting for a couple of years, so we have pages of notes and information in a single document that we can all access.
Starting a mastermind group will require intentionality and planning. An organized facilitator can mean the difference between a group that thrives and one that fizzles. But once you establish an effective and helpful group, each member will go farther and faster in their career since they’re supported and helped by a knowledgeable mastermind group.
Want to join a Novel Marketing Mastermind group?
Find our more about our three Novel Marketing Mastermind groups led by Thomas Umstattd Jr. To learn which group would be best for you or to submit your application, click here.