a: membership in a community [or] b: the quality of an individual’s response to membership in a community (Merriam-Webster.com)
What does it mean for a writer to practice good literary citizenship, and why is it so important? As writers, we’re members of the literary community by default. Every time we write a blog post or caption a photo on Instagram with #amwriting, we’re naturally participating in book-focused circles. Whenever we share about our current projects or invite people to subscribe to our newsletters, we’re reaching out to other readers and writers for support.
At the end of the day, our success as writers depends on the health of the literary community. Without publishers, there’s no one to get our books into the world. Without readers, there’s no one to read our books. And without fellow writers, there’s no one to help us walk through the journey of creating our stories.
Practicing good literary citizenship, therefore, is vital to our writing lives. As members of this community, we want to see it thrive, and we have the opportunity to contribute to its growth. The first step is simply to think about how we’re engaging with other writers and readers. Rather than focusing on how they can help us, we should look for ways give back to community and support our neighbors in the reading world.
So how do we do this? To get you started, here are 5 ways to practice good literary citizenship:
1: Share your current reads:
Every book we read offers us a chance to support other authors and to connect with fellow readers. For example, sharing pictures of what you’re reading on social media is a great way to connect with your audience. It sparks discussions with others who also enjoyed the book, allows you to give recommendations to friends, and encourages others to talk about what they’re reading as well. Another option is to post reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. Your reviews help readers to know a little more about what they’re buying, while also improving the book’s chances of being found.
2: Commit to Authentic Engagement Online
It’s easy to get lost on social media when our focus is on building numbers. Rather than trying to find tons of people to follow at once in hopes that they’ll follow you back, commit to authentic engagement. Try to find one or two accounts at a time whose messages resonate with you. People whose causes you believe in, or who talk about topics that matter to you, even if you don’t fully agree with their perspectives. Building your social media networks organically ensures that you’ll have a community you’ll actually want to interact with.
Once you connect, don’t forget to interact. Take a moment to comment on posts that make you think or make you smile, rather than just hitting like and scrolling on. Leave a note when you read a great blog post, and respond to questions or polls if you have the time. We all know how discouraging it can be when we take time to share content and no one responds to it. If you’re online anyway, why not make that time meaningful by encouraging your fellow readers and writers and engaging in conversation with them?
3: Consider Joining Blogging teams or Book Launches
This one takes a little more effort but can be super rewarding. Many publishers and individual authors seek out people to review their works and join in launch teams when a new book is coming out. Some will send out private invitations, but others will simply put requests online. For example, I recently joined in a book launch after seeing a call for bloggers on Instagram. If you’re following writers and publishers on social media, or if you’re part of author groups on Facebook, chances are you’ll see these requests from time to time. Volunteering to help is a great way to support new books, plus it can be really fun getting to read advanced reader copies.
If you’d like to find more formal opportunities, try checking publishers’ websites to see if they’re looking for to reviewers. Ambassador International, for example, has a Blogger Review Program, and they put out some fantastic faith-based books for bloggers to choose from. (Here’s the link to sign up if you’re interested: https://ambassador-international.com/about/blogger-sign-up/ ). Focus on reviewing books in genres you enjoy. You’ll give better reviews and have more fun participating in the launch of the books.
4: Find ways to Support Reading in Your Day-to-Day Life
It’s easy to focus on literary citizenship online, but we can also find ways to engage in person. For example, the town where I live has “Little Free Libraries”, which are boxes on the street with free books for people to take. If you have one near you, you could consider donating old books to refill the libraries. If you don’t have any near you, could you start one? (Here’s a link to their website, if you’re interested in learning more: https://littlefreelibrary.org/start/)
Another idea is to give away books as gifts. Have your read something recently that you think a friend would enjoy? Send them a copy with a note about why it made you think of them.
5: Support Your Friends When They Get Published (and when they don’t)
Sometimes this support looks like buying their books. Sometimes it means attending author signings or readings in your area. You can sign up for friends’ newsletters and subscribe to their blogs. You can also offer to be their beta readers when they reach that stage.
If nothing else, share posts from your fellow authors when they announce a new book or blog coming out and celebrate milestones with them along the way.
Good literary citizenship simply means finding ways to give more than we take. It means caring more about the reading/writing community itself than about what that community can do for us.Tweet
You don’t have to do all these things to be a good literary citizen. Good literary citizenship simply means finding ways to give more than we take. It means caring more about the reading and writing community itself than about what that community can do for us. The ideas I mention above are just thoughts to help you get started, but there are plenty of other ways you can connect.