In the third part of this special four-part series, author Katey Schultz suggests the best approach to your literary citizenship may also be the simplest. If you need to catch up on this series, be sure to check out part 1 and part 2, and then join us next Wednesday for the culmination!
What’s the best approach to literary citizenship, for me?
There are all kinds of video tutorials, how-to books, and marketing guru articles out there about what to do when you want to make a good impression. While I find some of these tips useful, I also believe the best advice is the simplest in this regard: Just be yourself.
Before you roll your eyes, remember that “yourself” is something you’re working on articulating right now, as you zero in on a sustainable approach to using social media and being in public as a writer. That’s not to say that literary citizenship is changing who you are (though I’d argue that, in fact, it can), rather, that you’re making conscious decisions about what you stand for, what you care about, and the causes and curiosities you want to ally yourself with. To that end, all you have to remember when you’re engaging in person and online is what we’ve covered in the last two articles. Here’s a refresher:
- Literary citizenship is about contributing and collaborating, not taking and capitalizing.
- People want to know about how your imagination and creative life come together to make what you write possible.
That’s it. Stick to that spirit of delivery and those focused topics, and “just being yourself” won’t feel like such a huge task. In fact, with a little practice and precise attention, it will feel completely natural; as it should.
Now you’re ready to consider a more concrete plan of action. Will most of your literary citizenship take place online, or in person? Will it be a mix? There’s no recipe, but it’s useful to consider what you prefer or are most likely to be able to maintain, then build a loose plan from there. For instance, I’m currently touring for my second book, a novel titled Still Come Home, so my literary citizenship contributions lean very heavily on social media in general, and in-person engagement specifically, when it comes to bookstore events. A year from now, what I’m doing online will be very different, and I won’t be interacting in-person with audiences nearly as frequently. So I’ll adjust. I’ll check-in and see if the conversations I care about have shifted, if I need a break from one social platform or another, and if I’d like to align myself with any additional communities and audiences types, based on what I learned from the tour.
If you’re just getting started, aim for a mix of online (about 65%) and in-person (about 35%) engagement in small doses for one month, and see what it feels like. After one month, check in with yourself about what felt good, what worked, what you don’t want to repeat, and what surprised you along the way.
In general, online engagement is for you if you want to connect with key professionals you may never cross paths with in person, or if you want to increase your learning curve by watching and engaging with the pros. In-person engagement is best for writers who want to make connections that last longer than a single publishing credit, review, or sound byte; writers who have a clear understanding of what they have to offer; and writers who want a community or setting to return to again and again, over the course of their career.
Like anything, sharing part of yourself as a literary steward comes with advantages and risks.
Here are the advantages:
- Expand your audience base through each post or in-person experience.
- Clarify what you care about and why, through each interaction you have.
- Benefit from hard lessons other writers have learned, whether indirectly through a shared link, or directly from a heart-to-heart story he/she might share at an event.
- Find tremendous inspiration by engaging with precision—whether through filtering your News Feed on Facebook, scanning your custom highlights on Twitter, or making time for just 1-2 special causes or groups you care about.
And here are the risks:
- Making the wrong impression when trying to connect with people you haven’t met in person.
- Getting lost down the rabbit hole (link, after link, after link, after…).
- Losing momentum.
To help you say on the “advantage” side of literary citizenship and proceed with confidence, for my final installment I’ll share tips on the 80/20 rule for social media, a week’s worth of sample posts, and a final note to consider as you get ready to let engagement become sustainable and fulfilling in your long-term life as a writer and author.
KATEY SCHULTZ is the author of Flashes of War, which the Daily Beast praised as an “ambitious and fearless” collection, and Still Come Home, a novel, both published by Loyola University Maryland. Honors for her work include the Linda Flowers Literary Award, Doris Betts Fiction Prize, IndieFab Book of the Year, five Pushcart nominations, a nomination to Best American Short Stories, and writing fellowships in eight states. She lives in Celo, North Carolina, and is the founder of Maximum Impact, a transformative mentoring service for creative writers that has been recognized by both CNBC and the What Works Network. Learn more at www.kateyschultz.com.