Literary Citizenship: Point and Counterpoint

literary citizenship and marketing to the right audience

Targeting the right market is about connecting with people and sharing a similar conversation

One afternoon during the annual Interlochen Writers Retreat, author Patricia Ann McNair led a round table discussion on literary citizenship. This broad subject can pertain to anything from ways to tactfully promote and endorse the work of others in public forums, to ways to support individual writers in their unpublished endeavors at the desk. From this experience, plus my own reflections, I want to broaden the concept beyond literary citizenship and into literary stewardship, which, to me, brings to mind ideas of tending and sustaining.

Therefore, Literary Stewardship is built on these foundational beliefs:

  • Authentic engagement (marketing, networking, sharing, creating) is about contributing and collaborating, not taking and capitalizing.
  • People want to know about how your imagination and creative life comes together to make what you write possible.

If you’re interested in how to connect with your audience and contribute to conversations you care about in lasting, time-effective ways, sign up for my course on Literary Stewardship and Marketing

Read on for further highlights from Patty’s presentation, which  I quite enjoyed:

If you’re in a book club, suggest a friend’s book that you know and/or organize a “meet the author” event with several book clubs and have the author Skype in or meet folks in person. Keep in mind that this is often “unpaid work” the author offers, so make the time worthwhile by having a good crowd, offering a meal, preparing the group with background on the author, or tapping into the group members’ skill sets (ex. if someone in the book club works for a newspaper, see if they can get the author’s book reviewed or listed in an article somehow). This takes time and if you’re in a book club but pressed for time, there’s still one simple thing you can do: remind each member of your book club to write Amazon and Goodreads reviews of the work. This helps tremendously!
If you buy used books, especially via Amazon, then consider that you can balance the karmic scales (buying books is good, and Amazon is practical, but authors get no money from used book sales) by writing a review of the book on Amazon and Goodreads in the very least. This helps “pay it forward” in more ways than you can imagine.
Share what you are reading with others in clever ways, such as posting a fave sentence as a status update on Facebook, using the “I just bought this book” icon when you make online purchases (which often links your activity purchase to your social media accounts, spreading the word), or Tweeting “at” the author with a thanks or a fan note. This can make someone’s day, expose the author to an audience she or she may otherwise never have reached, and–above all else–uplift the “social media chatter” from pet pics and complains to something more inspiring, such as a beautiful sentence from a  character.
Read the book in public places, with the cover visible and a smile of literary satisfaction painted across your face. 🙂
Buy books as gifts and buy from multiple places. Not everyone can afford first edition hardbacks in new condition, and that’s fine. But when you do purchase, review those books and vary where you make purchases–some online, some from indy booksellers, and some from the author him/herself if that is also an option. If you already have a copy of your fave book and you see the author at an event, so what? Buy another copy. Chances are good that within the next few months, you’ll find a holiday or occasion to give this book to someone as a gift and brighten their day.
Ask for the book at your local library, even just by calling them on the phone and asking them if they can get it in stock so you can check it out. Whether or not you end up actually checking it out is beside the point (because hopefully you already have your own copy), but just know that if every library in the country stocked 1 copy of an author’s book, that book would be listed as a “bestseller.” No joke.
Attend events for free and bring a friend or date with you, when possible. These events are hard on authors. They’re delightful and helpful, too, but they’re unpaid work and writers are often spending money out-of-pocket just to get to an event. Even if you can’t afford to buy a copy of the book, you can be a warm body in the room, you can ask 1 question, and you can bring a friend. All of this is free, enjoyable, and absolutely in the spirit of literary citizenship.

I’ve written extensively about these topics in my Literary Stewardship course. You can deep dive what it means to be a Literary Steward when you purchase the e-course, it even comes with personal instructor assistance at the $87.00 level, or just DIY-it for as low as $15. Click here to read more about topics covered in the course.

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