While the writing process may be an independent venture, the literary community at large is full of writers who need and want your support as much as you need and want theirs. Here, author Aileen Weintraub shares 6 steps in becoming a good literary citizen.
Long before I had an accepted offer on my book Knocked Down: A High-Risk Memoir, I began thinking about how I could make a positive impact in the literary world. I knew that putting in the effort before I had a published book to promote would help people get to know and trust my work.
One of the best ways to build your platform is to become a good literary citizen. This means giving back to the literary community in a meaningful way, making yourself available to other writers as time allows to provide your knowledge and expertise, and championing other people’s successes.
Here are 6 steps to becoming a good literary citizen:
Step 1: Establish a relationship with your independent bookstore.
Independent bookstores are the foundation of the literary community. It is where author events happen, readers socialize and meet one another, and owners with buying power make critical decisions about which books they will consider stocking. By spending time in local indies in and around your community and by purchasing books there, you are signaling your support. If the owner knows who you are and that you are a frequent customer, it will be much easier to approach them when you want to do your book launch, book signing, or in-conversation event.
Step 2: Mentor other writers.
Offer advice, teach a workshop, and be available to writers who are still learning what you’ve already figured out. Chances are someone helped you get to where you are; now it’s your turn to provide the inside scoop. This could mean helping a writer decide which publication to pitch an essay to, providing feedback on a query letter, or simply answering questions. When my memoir released, I was asked to speak about my marketing strategy in an online workshop. I was more than happy to spill my marketing and publicity secrets. Over 140 people showed up, and many of them purchased a copy of my book.
There are only so many hours in a day, so you can set limits on this—but making time for others shows that you are someone who is knowledgeable and trustworthy, and that can translate to book sales down the road.
Step 3: Form a writing group.
One of the best ways to connect with other writers is to form a writing group to read and critique one another’s work. This almost always leads to future collaborations, not to mention lifelong friendships with people who support and understand you. Having read your work in its early stages, your writing group will become invested in your success. Likewise, they know that when it is their turn to put a book out in the world, they will be able to count on you to champion their work. You can often find writing groups online, at your local library, or your independent bookstore.
Step 4: Sign up for newsletters.
One of the best ways you can support another writer is to sign up for their newsletter and tell others about it. Seek out writers you admire on social media and sign up and then check out their website to see if they have a newsletter sign up. Many newsletters have a compilation of events, new book releases, or links to pertinent articles, providing you with content you will likely find helpful or interesting, and even if it’s not your cup of tea, giving the newsletter a quick click and scrolling through provides the author with a higher open rate, ultimately helping them grow their audience.
When your book launches, if you’ve become familiar with the content of a few newsletters, you will be better positioned to reach out to them to see if they are willing to do an interview with you or feature your new release.
Pro tip: Create your own newsletter with easy-to-use software and feature other authors.
Step 5: Shout out other people’s accomplishments.
Hype fellow writers when they publish a book, an essay, or an article. One of the easiest ways to do this is by posting about it on social media. You can also share interesting events or panels they have planned.
If you see an acquaintance’s book in your local bookstore, snap a photo and post to your social media account. Rave about their book, especially if you enjoyed it, and be sure to tag them!
Choose their book as your book club pick, request their books at your local library, and if you can, buy their books. Don’t forget to attend their book signings and bring friends.
One of the absolute best and easiest ways to support another writer is to write a review on Amazon or Goodreads. Many authors will remember your kindness and do the same for you.
Step 6: Form or join an online debut group.
Knocked Down: A High-Risk Memoir came out in 2022, and I along with two other authors set up a Facebook group called New in ’22. This was a place for authors with books coming out around the same time to share ideas, ask questions, and find fun and unique ways to collaborate. I met so many wonderful people in this group and became real-life friends with many of them. We read and reviewed each other’s books, shared pitch ideas for companion pieces, and even collaborated on literary events together.
Being a good literary citizen not only supports other writers on their journey to publication, it helps you build your own platform, expand your audience and gets the word out about your writing. When you lift up other writers, they will do the same for you when it’s your turn to shine.
The goal of this course is to teach you how to structure your stories, develop your storytelling skills, and give you the tips, techniques, and knowledge to adapt your own life stories into a chronological memoir. Learn more about the genre through Writing and Selling Your Memoir by Paula Balzer and The Truth of Memoir by Kerry Cohen.