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Insecure Writers, Here's Your Support Group! — An Interview with Alex J. Cavanaugh

Posted in: Perfecting your Craft on January 26, 2015 27 Comments 💬

Reedsy Lighthouse

Author communities, groups, forums, alliances and collectives are developing and proliferating at enormous speed as writers seem to be both excited by the new publishing world and worried it’s gotten too big and competitive to navigate on their own.

Some groups focus on the writing, and have their members critique and hone each other’s writing skills. Others focus on the publishing options, and particularly the DIY one. Many mix both.

When I first heard about the Insecure Writers Support Group, I liked the fact that it was both targeted (it’s for insecure writers) and open to all (mainstream, hybrid, indie). By clearly stating its purpose, IWSG fosters more transparent and open conversations around it.

Today, we interview Alex J. Cavanaugh, sci-fi author and founder of IWSG.

Hi Alex, great to have you here. Firstly, how did you start the Insecure Writers Group?

Thanks, Ricardo! I started it after making a random comment to another author that he needed such a group. The idea caught fire and in September 2011, we launched the group. Everyone posts the first Wednesday of the month, either about their insecurities, breakthroughs, or triumphs, and then they visit other blogger to encourage them. In September 2013, we launched the IWSG website and the IWSG Facebook group. Last year we joined forces with another Facebook group and formed the IWSG Critique Circle and we put together a book, The Insecure Writer’s Support Group’s Guide to Publishing and Beyond.

There is a cliché that all authors are insecure about their writing, at least in their early years. Do you think there’s any truth behind that?

Absolutely! Writing is such a personal and creative thing, and we all have doubts about our abilities. I’ve yet to meet a writer who thought he rocked right out of the box.

What’s your ambition for IWSG? You’ve added a lot of resource materials and some conversations are now more focused on tips and tricks for writing, marketing and publishing (as is the case in most author communities). Do you want to keep the “support” as core value in the group, or do you see it branching out?

The tips and tricks are all part of the support. We can provide support through those posts and the database we maintain.

I want to see this group grow on all fronts – blog participants, followers, and Facebook members. I want the site to become THE database of databases for writers. I’d also like to start a newsletter in the near future. Whatever we can do to connect authors and offer help.

Orna Ross has been quoted saying: “A few years ago, writing was a very solitary profession. Now, I believe it’s one of the most social ones.” Is IWSG a good example of that?

One of the best! Many members say IWSG post day is their favorite of the month and they receive so much encouragement – and give it. We’ve brought together so many writers, connecting them as friends, critique partners, and doorways to other opportunities.

Do you think a lot of fantastic writing has never seen the light of day because writers didn’t get the moral support they needed when they doubted themselves?

I’m sure there is some great writing hidden in the drawers of the world. It’s sad when writers don’t get support at home and can’t find connections elsewhere. Yes, you do have to have a thick skin and a strong drive, but everyone needs a boost now and then.

Have you ever had to face writer’s block or self-doubt, and how did you overcome those?

I’ve not really faced writer’s block. By the time I begin writing, I’ve had months to plan and form a detailed outline. Self-doubt has come with each new book I’ve written. Will my publisher accept it? Will fans like it? Will new fans find it? Between my fan base, friends, and the IWSG, everyone has pushed me through those doubts.

I like the image of the lighthouse. It’s one we’ve been using at Reedsy too. I feel like the waters of self-publishing are very unsure at the moment, almost impossible to navigate without first going through a very painful learning curve. What problems out there would you like to see startups like us try to address?

I think letting writers know the process and the steps from writing to publication would give them an idea of what to expect. Just being able to connect with those who can help them is a big bonus with your site.

One of our coming posts will be on author bundles. Do you think, like Mark Coker, that 2015 will be the year of collaboration between indie authors?

I think it’s already happening. I know many self-published authors who have gotten together and created bundles. It’s a great way to gain more exposure.

One of the things I’d really like to see, also, is more collaboration between indies, hybrids and mainstreams. Do you see something like this happening anytime soon, and what form could it take?

I’d like to see that as well. The IWSG book was a collaboration, as we had a mixture of all three types of authors. I think the main thing would be working together and helping one another, and that could involve a lot of things – books, websites, tours, etc. After all, no matter the path, we’re all authors.

Thanks again for the opportunity, Ricardo!

You can follow Alex J. Cavanaugh, Reedsy, and myself on Twitter: @AlexJCavanaugh, @reedsyhq and @RicardoFayet

What do you personally think of the proliferation of communities, groups and alliances? Has being an author become one of the most social professions? Do you think insecure writers can benefit from a “support group”? Do join the conversation in the comments below!

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Alex J. Cavanaugh

Thank you again, Ricardo!

Christine Rains

Great interview! The IWSG is a fantastic resource in many ways for writers. The support, encouragement, and advice is invaluable. I do believe being an author now is more of a social profession because we must market ourselves. It's tough, because all we really want to do is write, but groups like the IWSG make it a little easier.

Donna K. Weaver

I love what Alex has done with ISWG. It might seem odd, but hearing other author's insecurities as well as their successes can be so educational.


it's just incredible what he's accomplished with the IWSG.

Susan Gourley

Alex created a very dynamic group and it's lots of fun. I know a few author friends who have had great success with 'bundles.'

Patrick Hatt

IWSG is sure huge and the ninja wannabe has accomplished a lot haha oh yeah no one thinks they rock at the start, heck most with any common sense don't think they rock ever. Unless you get a billion dollars or are a cat, then maybe

Heather Gardner

I love the IWSG!
It's a fantastic group of people who just want to be able to share and encourage.
Alex makes everyone feel important because they're important to him.
He's become a key player in the blogging world by being a genuine good person and leader.
Writers at any stage in their journey should think about joining.
Heather M. Gardner

Louise Barbour

I love the IWSG! I joined the group about eight months ago, and I have found that it has supportive and encouraging members and a lot of useful information and resources. It's good to know that others share your struggles and that they have pushed through them to reach their goals. Alex did a wonderful thing in starting the group. His leadership and generous, welcoming personality have helped it thrive. He has gathered a number of talented and dedicated administrators who help share the work of running the IWSG. I am so glad that I found the IWSG! (I am… Read more »

Nick Wilford

IWSG is a fantastic group. It's great to share advice because writing and publishing anything definitely isn't easy.

Ricardo Fayet

Great to see so many IWSG members here! As I say in my intro, when I first heard about it I loved the idea. In the author world (or the startup one), one of the things we need most is to exchange about each other's successes and failures and, more importantly, to have this safe place you know you can go to when going through a rough patch.
And I've also been amazed at Alex's welcoming personality, it was great to be able to have this interview!

Sherry Ellis

I really like the new IWSG Critique group on Facebook. I now have some critique partners - something I've really missed since I moved from Cincinnati about a year and a half ago.

Alex J. Cavanaugh

Sherry, that's awesome to hear!

Donna McDine

I joined IWSG several months ago and I can't say enough what supportive and inspiring group it is!

Alex J. Cavanaugh

That's wonderful to hear!

Sandra Cox

Greet interview, Alex.


Alex is the best at giving support to us writers! Writers like him that I've met online have given me life-saving support! I'm grateful every day for their friendship. And with publishing changing so quickly and constantly, whether traditional or indie, we all need the latest news and tips. Thanks, as always.

Alex J. Cavanaugh

Appreciate that, Helena!

Jamie Ayres

I like the idea of author bundles! Great interview 🙂 IWSG is my favorite post of the month!!

Ricardo Fayet

I've actually got a post coming tomorrow analysing the dynamics (dos and don'ts) of author bundles -- stay tuned for that 🙂


Working with other writers is no more work and gains visibility. IWSG has been a great way for many writers to connect. http://mpaxauthor.com

Julie Musil

I am SO thankful that Alex created IWSG! And I've heard great things about Reedsy.

Elizabeth Seckman

Alex ninja master and writer's best friend and the IWSG is the sanity saver. Best group I ever joined!

Lexa Cain

I'm so glad to find Alex here talking about IWSG. It's such a fun hop, and the website is a fantastic tool for all writers. I loved the Orna quote - yes, writing is now very social. I don't know what I'd do without my writing pals on the net. 🙂

Karen Lange

Enjoyed the interview, thanks to you both! It's always good to hear from Alex and learn more about the IWSG. It's a wonderful idea!

Toinette Thomas

I think writing groups are very social and the support is priceless. Thanks to people like Alex, writing isn't so solitary anymore.

J Lenni Dorner

Very cool! You picked a great one to interview here.


Shouldn't the group be called the Insecure Writers Support Group instead of the Insecure Writer's Support Group? I assume there are more than one…

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