Part 1 in the series, “The Pitfalls of Literary Citizenship”
The hot catchphrase in the world of publishing these days is “literary citizenship.” In a nutshell, it is the premise that writers should be united in a self-sacrificing network of friends and helpers, all dedicated to advancing the careers (and lives) of fellow wordsmiths. On the surface this sounds like a noble goal and honorable cause, but as a person who has been in the writing profession for half a century, I see a lot of potential pitfalls for freelancers.
It’s important that you don’t confuse professional networking with social networking. I am totally in favor of having a series of solid contacts with editors, accomplished authors, radio and TV talk show hosts, publishers, and literary agents. These people are the movers and shakers of our profession. They’re goal-oriented, experienced, connected, and productive. By working with them in a quid pro quo situation, they can help advance our careers as we, likewise, advance theirs.
For example, if you refer a hot new writing talent to an agent or publisher and that leads to a contract, those folks will be very open to looking at your material, too. If you are willing to read the galleys of a pending book and provide an endorsement quotation for it, that author in turn will be open to reading the galleys of your next book and potentially offering an endorsement quotation for you. These are professional relationships.
Social networking, on the other hand, has the potential to drain writers. Sure, we’re supposed to gain friends and followers who supposedly will plunk down money for our books and help with word-of-mouth advertising. But we must maintain a balance.
It saps time when writers go on Facebook to read about a friend’s baby who has cut her first tooth or about a party that was held for a neighbor down the street for his retirement. I, personally, have stayed away from Facebook and all the other “connections.” When people write to me and say they want to “friend me,” I decline. I’m not prejudiced. I literally have no time for needless chit-chat. I have looming deadlines, most self-imposed. I have open lines on e-mail for people who are my close friends (most are in the publishing world in one way or the other) or business associates. The rest is clutter. That may seem cold, but it’s just reality in the world of professional writing.
Next week: “Watch Out for Leeches”
Dennis E. Hensley, PhD, is director of the professional writing department at Taylor University in Upland, Indiana, and a Christian Writers Guild board member. His 54 books include:
- Jesus in the 9 to 5: Facing the Challenges of Today’s
- Business World How to Write What You Love and Make a Living at It
- Man to Man: Becoming the Believer God Called You to Be
- More Than Meets the Eye: Finding an Extraordinary God in Ordinary Life
- Alpha Teach Yourself Grammar and Style in 24 Hours
- Surprises and Miracles of the Season: Devotions for Christmas and New Year’s
- The Power of Positive Productivity
© 2014 by Dennis E. Hensley. All rights reserved.