You've heard it before: in the writing game, it's who you know that counts! That's not entirely true, but it's not entirely false, either. It certainly helps to have an insider on your side. If you don't, however, all is not lost.
On my scriptwriting blog (http://www.ScreenwritingSuccess.com) I posted about a group of recent USC film school grads and the artist's collective they have formed. Some are writers, some want to he directors, others producers, etc. The idea is that whenever one of them gets a job on a film or TV show, he or she will try to make an opportunity for others in the group as well.
Doing this as prose writers is a bit different. It could be made up of writers anywhere, using the internet. It would be more about sharing information that can help you open doors. The kinds of information you could share could be about:
* writing contests
* writing conferences, especially ones where you can meet agents and publishers. If one of the members attends, he or she can send the others notes, or record the lectures if that's allowed, etc.
* new literary agencies being set up, or news about an agent moving to a different agency, which is the time when they are likely to be most receptive to taking on additional clients
* publishing opportunities
* publishers to avoid because they don't pay or are in danger of going bust
Members could decide to specialize in any of these, therefore dividing up work that would be difficult for any one writer to to. For instance, one might be the "Agent Information Officer," and do daily or weekly searches for news regarding agents and agencies. Another member might monitor the writing contest scene. The updates can be posted to a private joint blog or website.
Aren't writers competitors, though? In a way, yes, so perhaps I wouldn't have the whole group made up of writers who all work in the same genre. But if one of you writes sci-fi, another writes mysteries, another writes non-fiction, for instance, the overlap in the jobs or even the agencies you would be going for would be minimal.
The connections can come when one member signs with an agent and after a time asks whether that agent would consider the work of another member. Or when one member finds a publisher for his science fiction novel and mentions to his editor that he knows of a terrific mystery writer and asks whether the editor would pass it along to the colleague in charge of mysteries.
Connections and opportunities--if nobody hands them to you, create them!
(For ideas on how to market yourself and your work without spending a fortune, take inspiration from my book, "Do Somethign Different," published by Virgin Books with a foreword by Sir Richard Branson. Also see the chapters on book marketing in "Your Writing Coach," published by Nicholas Brealey. Both are available from Amazon and other book sellers.)