Those of you who’ve followed this blog for a while know I have a love-hate relationship with Facebook. I’ve thoroughly outlined the reasons why it’s good to step away from time to time, but I haven’t delved into the main reason I always come back.
I’ve met amazing individuals online who share the same interests, obsessions, goals, dreams, and hobbies as I do. Whether they be reader or writer, they’re wonderful folks I don’t have around me in real life. They get me, in all my word nerd glory, they support and encourage me in my endeavors, they enrich my life with their own unique lights and talents, and some of them even buy, read, and review my books. This is enough to get me through even the bleakest of days as an indie author.
One of my favorite places to find such people is the Facebook group, Band of Dystopian Authors and Fans. When I stumbled upon this gem in the sand I was mesmerized. There was something different, a magnetism, a life I hadn’t yet found in any other FB groups. Until that point, most of the bookish groups I’d joined were a conglomeration of spammy promo posts and other such noise that felt similar to being at a street market where everyone spoke different languages than me. It didn’t take me long to figure out that BOD was a special place. I’ve made tons of friends, gained readership, and had a blast being in this group, so I thought I’d get to the bottom of what makes BOD tick. The moderators of the group, Cheer Stephenson and ER Arroyo, have graciously agreed to lay out all the juicy details for your visual consumption. Enjoy 🙂
Hey, Cheer and ER! Welcome to A Spark in the Dark. Thank you so much for taking the time to answer some questions about Band of Dystopian Authors and Fans. Can you tell us a little about yourselves?
Cheer: I’m an avid reader constantly on the lookout for my next escape. If I’m not reading, I’m a mom to three amazing kids and I work as a Dental Hygienist. Before BOD, I was a moderator for a group on Goodreads that focused on YA dystopian and apocalyptic fiction. I was able to connect and interact with some amazing authors, including ER Arroyo, which eventually led to the genesis of BOD. I guess you could say I enjoy promoting books and being a cheerleader for my favorite authors.
ER: I’m an author of young adult, dystopian, apocalyptic, and post-apocalyptic fiction (Antius Ascending Series, Prep For Doom, The Doomsday Chronicles). I created and edited Band of Dystopian’s anthology, Prep For Doom. I’m also a wife and mom.
~How did Band of Dystopian Authors and Fans come to be?
ER: BOD was the result of a discussion I had with a friend who’d encouraged me to join a dystopian book group on Facebook. At the time I couldn’t find a single one. I took the idea to start one to Cheer, and it all just fell into place from there! I’m pretty sure she came up with the title, too.
Cheer: I, for one, refused to believe that dystopian fiction was a fad on its way out, but no matter where I searched, I could not find an active community dedicated to the genres I love. When ER approached me with the idea of starting a Facebook group where fans and authors could mingle, I jumped at the chance. From that moment on, we were flying by the seat of our pants.
ER: For the record, we are no longer flying by the seat of our pants. LOL.
~What do you love most about BOD?
ER: Camaraderie among the authors and the sense of community throughout the group, fans and authors alike.
Cheer: What do I love most? Oh, that’s a tough one. I guess I appreciate the fact that members come from all walks of life, with different backgrounds and beliefs, but we are bonded by a common love for dystopian and apocalyptic fiction. Despite our differences, we are honest, yet courteous. So I guess that means I love the RESPECT I witness every single day on BOD.
~What’s the deal with zombies? Why the obsession?
ER: This was kind of a discovery on Cheer’s part. It was never really a big deal when we were starting out – it wasn’t, like, a goal of ours or anything to make a big deal out of zombies.
Cheer: A lot of apocalyptic stories involve zombies and the zombies refused to be ignored. Prior to BOD, I discovered authors like Carrie Ryan, Ilsa J. Bick, and Rhiannon Frater and surprise, I fell in love with zombie fiction. Apparently, I wasn’t alone, thus the birth of BOD’s zombie craze.
~Why do you think people are so fascinated with Dystopian and Post-Apocalyptic fiction?
ER: We’ve asked this question in the group before to see what people would say, and the reasons vary. I can only speak for myself in saying it’s because it allows me to imagine a world with a completely different set of rules, different set of stakes, but it’s still so grounded in our actual reality that it’s relatable (as opposed to fantasy genres or others similar). It’s easy to imagine ourselves in these dystopian, apocalyptic, or post-apocalyptic situations and settings. For some reason, our current society has kind of romanticized the apocalypse. I’m not sure why. I read an article recently that said young people identify specifically with dystopian so much because this generation of young people are more aware of social injustice than generations past. I think there’s something to that.
Cheer: We see major changes happening in the world every day and fiction is becoming reality. We are experiencing terrifying world events we never would have believed possible. In part, it’s a reality check, but the fascination runs deeper than that. I think the idea that people’s values and motivations change when stressed, for either good or bad, makes for situations that are riveting and horrifying at the same time. What kind of person would I be in an apocalypse? Would my morals change as I struggle to survive? It just makes you stop and think.
~What’s the hardest thing about running a group this size? How on Earth do you manage to keep order in a group of over 3,000 people?
ER: With a dystopian-style iron fist! Just kidding. It’s a lot of work, honestly, but we divvy up. I tend to watch over the group during the day, Cheer does more so at night. We also have slightly different roles, Cheer being more of the face of the thing and me being the behind-the-scenes one. We have rules in our “about” section, and we do our best to fairly apply them. We are very attentive to what gets posted, and we keep an eye on conversations/comments. Basically, Cheer’s the party and I’m the gatekeeper. If you have ever had a post come up missing, it was most likely me who deleted it. I delete a LOT of posts (usually advertisements unfit for the group’s focus, like cookbooks for example). We are hyper-aware of the atmosphere in the group, and we work hard to preserve it, because we think that is the best thing we have going for us. But preserving that is also the hardest part – having to constantly keep an eye on things and delete posts that are out of pocket, and even worse, when we have to message people and ask them to stop doing something, or to change something they’re doing. Confrontation sucks. But we would much rather confront one person than allow drama to infect the atmosphere in the group at large. Our “culture” is important to us. Say it with me… “BOD IS A HAPPY PLACE.”
Cheer: Team work! Maybe it was just luck, but ER and I seem to strike a healthy balance. We have different talents, strengths, and weaknesses, but combined we are a fierce team. We also have an amazing line-up of assistants for which I am truly grateful.
ER: True that on the assistants!
~How would things be different if the number of members surpasses, say… 10,000?
ER: That’s tough to say! Maybe we would need more assistants? Maybe even stricter rules, hate to say it. We attempted to not have any rules at the start but as we grew, we had to add guidelines.
Cheer: Goodness! Let me wrap my brain around that number. Nope, can’t do it. We will embrace that challenge as it comes.
~It’s obvious you’re very committed to BOD. Are there ever times in which you feel you need to back away and breathe? If so, what do you do?
ER: I think our partnership is key (teamwork). No decisions are made that Cheer and I don’t discuss and decide on together. We help each other out. There are ebbs and flows in the group and in our lives. We do our best to support each other and help fill in the gaps when the other is spent. And as Cheer mentioned, our assistants (currently we have five). We definitely all need breaks from time to time, and the other members of our team are usually right there to jump in and keep it covered when we ask for a break or for help.
Cheer: We have incredibly busy lives outside of BOD and at times that can be overwhelming. We are really good at communicating when we need to step back for awhile. Luckily there’s always someone willing to take the driver’s seat for awhile. ER and I try to always make sure our team isn’t overburdened. We want this to be fun, not just work.
~What would you say are the three most important rules for running an effective Facebook Group/Community?
ER: A lot of this depends on the intent of the group. A group with a different purpose would have different goals and therefore different rules. For BOD, I would say…
- Keep it FUN – People genuinely enjoy spending time in BOD. We don’t ever want that to change.
- Foster COMMUNITY – Real friendships have been made in our group, and many of us feel like a big family. You have to remember that we are united by a common interest that most of us don’t have people to share with in “real life.” BOD is a tribe. People should feel safe expressing themselves with us. And they can be as nerdy as they want with no recourse.
- Stay EFFECTIVE – We have learned what does and doesn’t work for us. We get ideas from people all the time, but at the end of the day, Cheer and I have to trust our gut and stay within the realm of what our experience has taught us will be most effective and enjoyable.
(We realize selling books is an intent of authors in the group, and it’s one that we welcome, but when we focus more on keeping people excited and having a good time, they find great books to buy and read as a byproduct that we don’t have to push for. It’s why we are so strict about promoting.)
Cheer: ER nailed it.
~Have you ever had to ban anyone? If so, why?
ER: LOL – yes. Spammers usually get removed or blocked (Ray-Bans, anyone?). We also remove people, without necessarily blocking them, for joining the group and promo-dumping stuff that has nothing to do with our genre guidelines. So help me, nothing will get a person booted faster than promoting a romance novel. Indie author promotion places are SWIMMING in romance titles. We created BOD so our niche genres could stand without being drowned out by the (many, many, many) romance books. We aren’t against those authors or those books, this just isn’t the place for them (of course this doesn’t refer to dystopian, apoc, or post-apoc romances; those are welcome, but it would help to include one of those keywords in the written part of your post if you share a romance-looking book). But seriously, go to literally any other non-niche Facebook group and see how long you have to scroll before finding, say, five titles that aren’t romance. We also get random stuff like cookbooks and self-help that we delete, and if the unfit posting persists we remove the user. And of course, if someone is nasty towards others or blocks an admin, we remove them from the group as well.
Cheer: Reluctantly, yes; however you really have to work at getting banned. We are fairly tolerant, to a point.
~What are your thoughts on adding people to a group without their permission?
ER: This isn’t something I’ve given much thought to, honestly. We haven’t had any issues that I’m aware of. But I’ve heard some people get pretty agitated about it.
Cheer: Yeah, I don’t like that at all. In the beginning, I would message authors and invite them to check us out. Invite, don’t add without permission.
~From personal experience, I’ve seen the outcome of your awesome release parties for your “BOD Authors.” They’ve helped me hit the Amazon bestseller list each time. I’d totally understand if you charged, and I’d also be willing to pay you, as I’m sure many authors would. So, my question is: Why do it for free?
ER: We’ve had this conversation several times actually. I think it’s because Cheer is so generous. Also, we spend a LOT of time focusing on our readers. We want authors to know we support them too. If we ever start to charge, it’ll be because it costs us money, and it costs whoever is hosting a lot of time.
Cheer: It goes back to our mission, we want to introduce fans to authors and encourage reading. When money is involved, the atmosphere changes and we have worked hard to maintain a positive vibe.
~Why do you think a lot of Facebook groups don’t “work?”
ER: I can only speculate, since I’ve not really been exposed to other groups with any sort of regularity. But maybe because it’s a lot of hard work – that would be my guess. This is a day in and day out burden of responsibility. Also, I hear drama is a big problem in other groups. We strive to be supportive and positive and insist our members behave that way as well.
Cheer: I’m guessing that groups without purpose, consistency, and dedication fail over time. In addition, I believe our motivation is pure and sincere, and members can sense that and want to stay.
~To sum up, what advice would you give someone who wants to create and run an effective, fun Facebook Group?
ER: Be ready to spend some money on prizes :). Figure out your group’s purpose in advance, create guidelines to help achieve it, and be proactive about pursuing your goals. Do your best to squash drama ASAP. Have tough conversations with people in private when needed, never in front of others. Keep a positive tone and don’t complain publicly.
Cheer: Respect your audience. Listen to their needs and ideas. Serve your fans and authors and in turn they will reward you with their loyalty. Keep it fun and real and leave your insecurities at the door. Recognize that you will never please everyone and that’s okay. Sounds like a checklist, but it’s not. It’s just about being kind while doing what you love.
~What should the person reading this do if they’d like to join BOD?
ER: Visit www.facebook.com/groups/bandofdystopian and click join 🙂
~I ❤ BOD SWAG. Can you share some pics with us, and maybe a link to where we can get some of our own?
Cheer: We periodically have BOD tees up for pre-order, but merchandise, such as swag, is primarily for giveaways. We like to keep it special. I’m not sure how much longer we can hold out though. Fan loyalty demands representation.
Thank you so much for giving us your time and insight, ladies! I look forward to the amazing things BOD has in store for the future.
**What about you? Have any experience with Facebook groups you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments below.