Literary Citizenship and Why the Writing Industry Needs It

Literary citizenship is a fancy term for forming professional networking relationships. Maybe it’s fancy because it’s literary or maybe it’s a jargony-industry term but I had no idea what this was until a few months ago.

Literary Citizenship and Why Writers Need It

Literary citizenship

First of all, this isn’t a new term. I just didn’t know it. I learned about it when I read Jane Friedman’s book The Business of Being a Writer. She talks about it as a platform-building tool (a key aspect of book marketing these days) and how some in the MFA/literary community are against it. Their beef? Some writers and authors believe literary citizenship to be a scheme by traditional publishers to get authors to do all of their own marketing.

While this may be true to some extent, it’s also a hard reality of the industry. Yes, publishers used to help more with marketing than they do now. Yes, many publishers require non-fiction authors to have massive platforms or name recognition. And yes, it’s a tough slog. Deal with it.

Although I didn’t know the term “literary citizenship” I certainly learned about it early in my freelance career. I just called it different names. Things like “investing in relationships,” “finding ways to help people,” and “becoming a part of the community.” And while there is of course balance needed in doing your own work and supporting other writers and outlets, it has been the key to my freelance writing growing the way it has.

Approach your writing career with an abundance mindset

One reason I love this idea is because it approaches the writing industry with a collaborative attitude, rather than a competitive one. By practicing literary citizenship you’re, in essence, saying, “I’m not threatened by other writers finding success, in fact I’m happy to support them on their journey!”

An abundance mindset is when we look at other writers and authors with an “there is enough space for everyone” attitude. This approach believes whether it’s money, publishing deals, readers or clients, the pie is big enough to go around. Litearary citizenship gives us a chance to engage in a positve way with likeminded people and grow in our craft.

When we look at others with a scarcity mindset then we will hold back from connecting or helping. We perceive every success as something stolen from us and every interaction will be combative and negative.

No writer is an island. We need each other.

How to practice literary citizenship

There are many ways to practice literary citizenship. In general you want to find ways to support the outlets you want to see your work showcased in and the writers in that community.

For some people this means joining a professional association or writing group and volunteering their time by running programs or mentoring writers further behind in the journey.

For others it means writing book reviews and posting them on their website.

Literary citizenship for me largely means sharing writing job opportunities, writing contests and helpful articles written by freelance writers on Twitter.

The big idea behind literary citizenship is the aphorism “a rising tide lifts all boats.” It’s about contributing to and supporting your community and remembering no one is alone in the writing world. Find ways to be generous, approach the industry with an abundance mindset and treat others the way you would like to be treated.

Literary citizenship is a fancy term for forming professional networking relationships. Maybe it's a jargony-industry term but it's a great tip for writers!

One more thing. I think you’ll enjoy my free resource library. This is where I keep my files, downloads, ebooks, worksheets and whatever else I manage to create. I love sharing what I learn and want to keep adding to this library so it becomes a wealth of helpful goodness.

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How to Find Clients on LinkedIn | Prospecting Tips for Freelance Writers

If you’re a freelance writer you may have heard people recommend trying to find clients on LinkedIn. Perhaps in years past it wasn’t a big deal to let the sleeper social media network be a background app but those days are over. LinkedIn is now a viable option for securing excellent freelance writing gigs.

How to Find Clients on LinkedIn | Prospecting Tips for Freelance Writers

How to Find Clients on LinkedIn | Prospecting Tips for Freelance Writers

I see a lot of freelancers posting in networking groups about how they’re frustrated with low rates from traditional publications and don’t know where to look for those niche clients who pay well. For freelance writers searching for stable, corporate clients, LinkedIn may be their shining beacon of hope.

There are good reasons for freelancers to consider prospecting on LinkedIn. For example,

  • Popular freelance marketplace go-tos like job boards and content mills are competitive and there are more disappointing rates then there are decent ones
  • Writers are discovering more magazine contracts filled with rights grabs (extending to television and movies) and imndemnity clauses, which don’t favour the freelancer
  • Journalists are finding fewer job opportunities as newsrooms get smaller and dailies are shut down. As a result they’re moving into content marketing or busines to business writing

Here is what your LinkedIn profile needs

  • A professional and/or decent headshot
  • Accurate keywords describing what you do (nothing fancy or clever, what would your ideal client type into the search bar? Use those words)
  • A descriptive summary using keywords that will resonate with your ideal client (What problems do you solve? How can you help?)
  • Plain language—people are here to do business
  • Bonus: the more niche, the better

How to use LinkedIn to find clients

Before you do anything, figure out how the platform works and learn the conventions. I’ve already mentioned people come here to do business but it goes deeper than that. Look at what type of articles and other content people publish. Pay attention to the style of comments people leave. And notice the conversations happening. They’re unique to this platform so make sure you’re aware of platform expectations.

Once you have a handle on the decorum, consider publishing a few articles on LinkedIn Publisher related to your area of expertise. These should be targeted at your ideal client and solve a problem they’re having.

Now you’re ready to start connecting

Connection type 1: search the platform for your ideal clients.

Oh, and make sure you have a good idea of who you’re looking for.

For example, if you’re prospecting for mid-level IT businesses, who do you need to connect with in the company? A marketing manager? If you’re interested in publishing in a niche trade magazine perhaps you’ll look for an editor. Narrowing your search will help you focus on the best possible matches and will streamline your efforts.

Basically, think of common titles your market would use to describe themselves (CEO, accountant, sales manager, etc.) and use those when searching.

When you’re clear on your prospect then you can look for these people either using the LinkedIn Advanced Search or LinkedIn Groups.

Once you find people who fit your current client focus, reach out and request a connection. Make sure to add a personalized message to your request but don’t pitch anything yet. You’re just networking at this point.

These people may or may not accept your requests but for the ones who do, send a thank-you message and ask a question. But still, no pitching. All you’re doing here is getting to know them a bit. Small talk. You could see if they work with freelance writers but I’d even be careful jumping into that question right away.

If the conversation progresses and the manager/editor/prospect wants to see more this is the time to send your Letter of Introduction (LOI).

Want to learn more about LOIs? I recommend reading Jennifer Goforth Gregory’s blog.

Connection type 2: Connect with people who have viewed your profile.

LinkedIn lets you know who has viewed you profile. Pay attention to this! If the person who viewed your profile seems like a good fit, then send them a connection request with a personalized note.

This more or less follows the same process as above but I might be a little more casual at first, asking questions like what they’re working on these days and what they’re up to in general.

But if it seems like they could use a freelance writer then jump back into business mode and get your LOI ready and send it over.

Regular prospecting on LinkedIn can take as little as 15 minutes per day using the free version where you send a few connection request, comment on threads or post articles. But if it becomes an important client source you may want to consider upgrading your account to increase your search and messaging credits, as well as other perks.

If you're a freelance writer you may have heard people recommend trying to find clients on LinkedIn. And there are good reasons, it's time to get on board.

One more thing. You may be interested in my free resource library. This is where I keep my files, downloads, ebooks, worksheets and whatever else I manage to create. I love sharing what I learn and want to keep adding to this library so it becomes a wealth of helpful goodness.

This is a free resource but I do require a password to access the library itself. You can get access by popping your email address into the form below.

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Writing Contests and Why You Should Consider Entering

Entering writing contests is good practice for writers. And the cash prizes and publication are nice too.

Writing Contests

Writing contests and why you should consider entering

While you may not feel like you have time to be dallying around entering writing contests there are some good reasons to do so, aside from money and publication. First, if it’s the right contest, it can give you exposure to your future agent, editor or publisher. Second, writing to deadline and according to a set of guidelines keeps you sharp. Third, if you win you can say “award-winning writer” on stuff. I mean, isn’t that worth the entry fee alone?

Of course there are scams out there so you do need to vet each contest and check things like the rules and who’s judging. You also want to make sure the entry fee is reasonable and you’re not signing away all your rights by entering the contest. But once you feel like it’s on the up-and-up then enter with abandon!

Where to find writing contests

Here are a few of my favourite stops when looking for new writing contests to enter.

  • Poets & Writers has a searchable database of writing contests, which includes any creative writing contests they’ve published in their magazine during the past year. These contests are vetted before being entered into the database so it’s a trustworthy resource
  • The Writer is a wealth of resources for writers and keeps an up-to-date contest listing on their website. You can even join their mailing lists where they’ll send the contest details to you so you don’t miss a thing
  • Submittable has a great weekly roundup of publishing and journalism news (Called Submishmash Weekly) and, of course, up-to-date contest listings. I find a lot of great opportunities here. And you can sign up for their weekly round up too, which saves you having to remember to check for updates
  • Writer’s Digest has an updated contest listing for any Writer’s Digest Contest. They’re listed from soonest submission deadline to latest and cover a wide range of writing contests
  • If you’re looking for Canadian writing contests Heather McLeod has a nice roundup of listings organized by date. These are recurring contests so check the links for updated details
  • Speaking of Canadian writing contests, CBC Books also put together a guide to writing prizes for Canadians. Organized into fiction, non-fiction and poetry, there are tons of recurring contests listed and this is a post worth bookmarking
  • Writers Write has a small list of upcoming contests for fiction and poetry writers. Listings go till the end of the year so it’s worth checking out
  • Reedsy has a robust contest search, which is updated each week. Search by genre, location and sort by entry fee or prize money

Conclusion

I hope you can find awesome writing contests to enter this year! But if checking out websites is still too much to ask I have one more place you can go to find great contests—I’ve created a Writing Jobs and Contests Twitter List. All you have to do is follow the list and check it every now and then. I mean, you’re on Twitter, right?

While you may not feel like you have time to be dallying around entering writing contests there are some good reasons to do so, like money and publication.

One more thing. I think you’ll enjoy my free resource library. This is where I keep my files, downloads, ebooks, worksheets and whatever else I manage to create. I love sharing what I learn and want to keep adding to this library so it becomes a wealth of helpful goodness.

This is a free resource but I do require a password to access the library itself. You can get access by popping your email address into the form below.

Get Access to My Free Resource Library

* indicates required
While you may not feel like you have time to be dallying around entering writing contests there are some good reasons to do so, aside from money and publication. First, if it's the right contest, it can give you exposure to your future agent, editor or publisher. Second, writing to deadline and according to a set of guidelines keeps you sharp. Third, if you win you can say "award-winning writer" on stuff. I mean, isn't that worth the entry fee alone?

Health Tips for Writers

This quick list of health tips for writers is the result of an instrumental change I made, which has made a huge difference in my life and career. I reached a point in my writing life where I realized being good at writing wasn’t going to be enough to have a substantial career if I wasn’t healthy enough to sit at the computer to, you know, write all day.

Health Tips for Writers

Health tips for writers

If you’re anything like me you spend a lot of time sitting in front of your computer. And, if you’re anything like me, living this sedentary writer lifestyle can lead to some unwanted health issues like weight gain, headaches, eye pain, joint/back pain and more.

For a long time I thought I had a pretty active lifestyle—until I got a Fitbit and learned the harsh truth. I learned I didn’t move much at all and after a few months of denial (the activity tracker must not be tracking all my movement) I decided to do something about it. Because…well, the writing was on the wall. I had gained weight, I was tired all the time, my back and neck had chronic pain and I was overall miserable. I had a feeling I was on the fast track for something much worse health-wise.

So I decided to make some changes. This was about a year ago and I’ve seen nothing but positive results after implementing a healthier routine. And yes, by getting up at 4:30 a.m. for 21 days did in fact inspire this. I learned if I can do that, I can do anything.

Here are my top tips

Take a screen break every 60 minutes.

The Fitbit makes it easy because it buzzes every hour and reminds me to get moving.

And, I’ve learned, if I get up and move every hour—walk around, have a stretch, whatever—I am pretty productive. It makes it easy for me to push hard on my work because I know I get to take a quick break soon. It has been a great habit to pick up! Plus I hear not looking at a screen all day is good for you or something.

Get outside.

Halfway through my workday I take a walk. I used to think this was such a waste of work time but I’ve learned the exercise combined with the fresh air (and lack of screen time) acts as a reset. It renews my energy and I return to my desk full of ideas. My walks last for about 15 minutes and I find it’s an excellent length.

P-O-S-T-U-R-E.

Yes, sitting with proper posture has been something I’ve worked on as is making a big difference to my back and neck. As in, I don’t have such issues with pain. Which allows me to focus and concentrate on my work. Of course I have moments where I slip back into slouching and hunching but as soon as I realize it I adjust. And it’s working.

Snacks should be vegetables.

Ugh I know! But if you’re wondering where that sneaky 10 pounds came from take a good look at your snack cupboard. I’m making a deliberate effort to have more vegetables in my life and it’s making a difference.

Hydrate. All day, e’ry day.

I’ve loved coffee for a long time but as I changed up my nutrition habits I realized my relationship with coffee had to change. We could still see each other but I needed water to be the primary liquid in my life. Staying hydrated helps me stay focused and clear-headed. And I don’t seem to have many headaches anymore.

Have a strong morning routine.

I think this is the most important of my health tips for writers because this is where everything started for me. I get out of bed and tackle the things most important to me first, before I do anything else. This helps me set up my day for success and I’m so glad I found something that works. It helps me arrive at work with a clear head, ready to dive into the day.

Exercise first thing in the morning.

Speaking of morning routines, allow me to suggest adding exercise to it. Working out first thing isn’t easy but it makes a remarkable difference to the rest of your day. I used to try and hit the gym after work but there were so many times where other plans or meetings came up or I found convenient excuses to skip out. Adding exercise into my morning routine means it’s something I do—not something I think about doing or debate about doing.

So those are my health tips for writers. Walk around, drink lots of water, get outside, build an awesome morning routine. You know, do healthy things!

Author Joanna Penn published a book on this topic as well, so if you’re looking for a deep dive on building a healthy writing lifestyle check out The Healthy Writer: Reduce Your Pain, Improve Your Health, And Build A Writing Career For The Long Term.

If you're anything like me you spend a lot of time sitting in front of your computer. Here are some health tips for writers I hope you will find helpful.

One more thing. I think you’ll like my free resource library. This is where I keep my files, downloads, ebooks, worksheets and whatever else I manage to create. I love sharing what I learn and want to keep adding to this library so it becomes a wealth of helpful goodness.

This is a free resource but I do require a password to access the library itself. You can get access by popping your email address into the form below.

Get Access to My Free Resource Library

* indicates required
If you're anything like me you spend a lot of time sitting in front of your computer. And, if you're anything like me, living this sedentary writer lifestyle can lead to some unwanted health issues like weight gain, headaches, eye pain, joint/back pain and more. Here are some health tips for writers I hope you'll find helpful.

How to Choose a Writers Group

Before you can choose a writers group you have to have some idea of what you’re looking for and what you need. Once you know those things, here are a few ways to tell if the group is a good writers group.

How to Choose a Writers Group

How to Choose a Writers Group

When I first started considering being a freelance writer I remember thinking…now what?

I didn’t know where to start, who to talk to or how it all worked.

Of course I Googled things but without a mentor to point me in the right direction I felt overwhelmed and paralyzed.

After stumbling around for a while I met a freelance writer in person and she introduced me to a local writers group. I remember thinking…THIS is what I need! And you know what? It was.

Now that I’ve been around this world for a while I know there’s a lot of people on the Internet who advocate against writers groups.

And their reasons are fair.

  • If you get a bad group it can be a terrible waste of time and energy
  • This risk of a not-good-fit group is feeling unwelcome and competitive
  • And if you’re in a group of people who aren’t there to be helpful, it can be a disheartening and negative experience

But what if you get the right group?

Well! Now we’re talking. If you’re in a good writers group you’ll benefit from SO MANY THINGS!

Reasons to join a good writers group

  • You get out of your own head
  • There’s (instant) helpful and constructive feedback
  • You have others who believe in you and your work even when you don’t
  • You meet other writers
  • There’s a chance you’ll hone your craft
  • Motivation
  • Accountability
  • And, if you’re lucky, you may even find a mentor

OK so I’ve convinced you to join a writers group. Great. Now for the next important question: HOW. How do you choose a writers group?

How to choose a (good) writers group

Before you can choose a writers group you have to have some idea of what you’re looking for and what you need.

You should know what type of writing you do, how much commitment you can make, what type of writers group you’re looking for (there are many kinds of writers groups: critique groups, mentorship groups, professional groups, genre-defined groups, non-fiction groups, freelance groups…etc.), and how formal you want the group to be.

Once you know those things, here are a few ways to tell if the group is a good writers group.

Questions to ask

  • Does the group have a clear and defined goal?

This doesn’t have to be engraved on a plaque but it does need to exist. If a group doesn’t know why they’re meeting it’s like a book club without a book…what’s the point?

  • Does the group have the same writing interests as you?

You want to make sure your writing interests are aligned. While it’s great to know writers from all sorts of genres, a writers group should have a bit more in common. If you’re a poet, find a poets group. If you’re a freelance writer, find a freelance writers group (here’s an example from my life, proof that good writing groups exist).

  • Do the members in the writers group write more than they talk about writing?

Writers write. Keep that in mind. Yes it’s good and important to socialize with other writers but a writers group should be filled with people who are writing and it should motivate you to do the same.

  • Is the group committed to kind and constructive feedback?

This has to be a safe space. You have to feel comfortable sharing your work with likeminded people and if you encounter writers who are harsh or cruel then this isn’t the kind of group you want to be in.

There’s a difference between ripping someone to shreds and offering helpful critique. New writers are more sensitive and don’t take criticism well, even if it’s well-intended. Make sure the group remembers what it was like to be new and not used to receiving criticism.

And the most important question.

  • Do the members get along?

If the writers group has behaviour guidelines—even better! If you check out a writers group meeting and there’s bickering or snide remarks or shaming then this isn’t a good sign.

Maybe there’s a bad egg and he or she needs to be removed from the group—ask the leaders what their behaviour policy is and don’t join a group where people don’t get along.

Of course no group is perfect and there are always moments where someone steps out of line or someone’s feelings get hurt. This is a part of being human. But if overall a writers group aims to meet these points then it is probably a good group.

And I will also mention these groups aren’t always in person—there are virtual writers groups and critique groups that work better for some than in-person meetings do.

Where to find writers groups

Here are a few ideas for places to look when you’re ready to join a writers group.

Online. You can Google or search for “local writers groups” on Meetup and see what comes up.

I’ve found groups this way and met a lot of interesting people through attending random local events I found online. You can do the same type of search on social media. I’ve joined lots of writers groups on Facebook and have found a couple I’m getting a lot out of

Writing associations. I’m part of a professional writing association (PWAC) and they have chapters all over Canada. I joined my local chapter and find a lot of value from my relationships with the other professional writers in the group

People you know. I mentioned how I met a local writer and she connected me with a writers group. I was so starved for connection and direction I couldn’t wait to go. Meeting other writers was so important to my development as a writer. I don’t know where I would be if I hadn’t met such wonderful mentors

Writers conferences. Yes! Going to a writers conference is huge in itself but if you can maintain relationships with a few of the writers you meet there, even better! Join an existing group or start your own. It’s a great option.

Are you ready to join a writers group?

Sometimes it feels like a lot of effort to connect with other writers and when you’re an introverted writer (as so many of us are) it can be that much tougher. I attend writers groups to stay connected and socialized as well as offer encouragement and support to the writers who I receive encouragement and support from. If you can find a good writers group I know you’ll understand why I recommend it! Why not give it a try?

Before you can choose a writers group you have to have some idea of what you need. Here are a few ways to tell if it's a good group.

One more thing. You may be interested in my free resource library. This is where I keep my files, downloads, ebooks, worksheets and whatever else I manage to create. I love sharing what I learn and want to keep adding to this library so it becomes a wealth of helpful goodness.

This is a free resource but I do require a password to access the library itself. You can get access by popping your email address into the form below.

Get Access to My Free Resource Library

* indicates required