Literary Citizenship, pt. 4: Social Media and My 80/20 Rule by Katey Schultz

February 19, 2020

The final part of Katey Schultz’s great Literary Citizenship series is now live! If you’ve missed the previous three posts, they can be found at part 1, part 2, and part 3. In this final post, Schultz discusses her 80/20 rule. And after you’ve finished this post, head on over to Katey’s post on revision from last year and check out her books, Flashes of War and Still Come Home or one of her great writing courses on her website!

Social Media & My 80/20 Rule

I have really good news to share with you: Posting on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter doesn’t have to take over your life (and it shouldn’t; you’d rather be writing, after all). By now, you’ve determined what conversations you care about and started to connect with key professionals in your field, either online or in-person—and probably both. The next step is to make a clear-cut decision about your relationship with social media. For me, hands down, the most effective use of my time and energy has proven to be the 80/20 Rule.

What is the 80/20 Rule?

In keeping with the spirit of literary citizenship, the 80/20 Rule states that 80% of your posts should contribute to the conversations you care about, and only 20% should be a direct ask or call for attention to your work. That means that 4 out of every 5 posts are “givers,” and just 1 out of every 5 is a “taker” or an “asker.” Conveniently, there are 5 work-days a week; so if you’re looking for a guidepost for how frequently to share on social, there you have it. Post once a day through each outlet, follow the 80/20 Rule for your content, and you’re good to go.

Does following the 80/20 Rule actually help?

Remember that the bottom line in literary citizenship has to do with making connections and contributions. Shifting the tone of your social media content so that it lines up with conversations you care about won’t make you “lose” sales or followers. On the contrary. According to a $35,000 study conducted by the International Thriller Writers, who researched the question, “How do people decide which books to buy?” fewer than 1% of people bought a book from an author promoting their book on social media. How do people choose which books to buy, then? The study found the following:

  • Readers select new releases from an author they’ve heard of before.
  • Readers take recommendations from friends, reviews, family, and advertisements in respectable outlets.
  • Readers buy books based on happenstance (they see someone reading it and inquire, they pass it in a store, or they’re drawn to the cover, etc.).

So what does this actually look like, in practice?

Here’s how a week’s worth of posts might look on my Facebook page:

MONDAY: “Finished author @Marilynne Robinson’s novel GILEAD this weekend. Still reveling in my favorite sentence from this book: ‘Light is constant; we just turn over in it.’ [link to image of book cover or my review of the book on Goodreads]”

TUESDAY: “My friends at @NC High Peaks Trail Association are on the trails today, clearing brush from Cattail Peak to Deep Gap. I feel so grateful to live in a place where people care for the land and celebrate it in ways that inspire others. [attach pic of local mountain range]”

WEDNESDAY: “Got a great question from a participant in my Literary Stewardship e-course this week. She wanted to know about the best times to post on social media. Curious? Learn more: [link to my website page and course offering]”

THURSDAY: “Barrel racing, folks. BARREL RACING! I mean, what’s not to love bout bourbon culture? I think in another life I must have been working in a whiskey storehouse.

FRIDAY: “Headed to Writer’s Coffeehouse at my fave indie bookseller @Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe tonight to meet other literary stewards…and probably buy a few new paperbacks. Can’t wait!”

And here’s how I might handle Twitter:

MONDAY: “@USMC Marines featured in @outsidemagazine article studying #mindfulness, #nature & #ptsd. Great read: [link].”

TUESDAY: “New blog post: #warlit video interview w/ @MattGallagher0 [link] @simonschuster @WordsAfterWar”

WEDNESDAY: Retweet a tweet by someone I follow, preferably a tweet celebrating someone else’s literary accomplishment

THURSDAY: “#AfghanistanYouNeverSee amazing pic via @bsarwary. ‘Determination is an understatement.’ [attach pic]”

FRIDAY: Retweet

Do you draft this ahead of time? One day at a time? On the fly between errands? It all depends on what feels most sustainable and enjoyable for you. If the thought of pre-drafting social media content makes you want to gag, don’t do it. If you’re worried you “won’t post enough,” shift your expectations and set a goal that works with your current lifestyle, professional stage, and desires—post once a week on each platform, and schedule one literary-related something once a month. Done and done.

Whatever approach you take, keep your goals in mind and check-in with yourself after a month or a season, to make any necessary shifts. When you’re just starting a business or launching a book, your goals are going to be about audience expansion, clarity of messaging, and growth. If you’re between projects, wanting to start slowly, or feeling reticent, your goals are going to be to create a baseline plan that feels good and fits seamlessly into your lifestyle. You might have to experiment before you find the right balance for yourself, but that’s exactly the point—that’s authentic, that’s you, that’s citizenship.

Ready to start? Already started and buzzing with questions? Email me anytime and tell me your goals or your approach and I’ll happily reply.

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


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