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What Does It Mean To Be A Good Literary Citizen In The Publishing World?

I came across the term “literary citizen” recently. Though I had not heard it spoken so succinctly, this term made a lot of sense to me. The world talks about being good citizens, but what does it mean to be a good literary citizen, particularly in the publishing world? One of the main ways people are thought to be good literary citizens is by supporting writers and buying their books. But is there more to being a good literary citizen than book buying?

L. L. Barkin seems to think so. In their article, 10 Ways to be an Epic Literary Citizen they highlight ten specific ways to be an “epic literary citizen” by doing things like “creating a manifesto,” “learn some lingo,” or “search for historical treasure.” Barkin hits on three ways I think are particularly relevant to the publishing world: find your tribe, keep the storytellers telling, and celebrate!

1. Find Your People. I prefer the word people to tribe because it speaks to folks who are like-minded and moving in the same direction. People who like similar books as you, who read similar things as you, and who are pursuing similar goals as you. Much like our work here at Ooligan, these are our “people”—folks keenly interested in publishing good books and doing good work and coming together to do these things. But within Ooligan, we are all here for very different reasons, and those reasons are where we can grow and expand and promote not only Ooligan’s books, but the greater world of publishing at large. We aim to demystify publishing and open it up to others. In finding our people, the goal is not to circle up and exclude others but to take our knowledge to the world at large and invite others to understand and join our world. This creates a greater depth of understanding as to what the publishing world is and brings down barriers for others to enter.

2. Keep the Storytellers Telling. Barkin goes on to say “the poets poeming and the cosplayers cosplaying,” but you get the idea. The larger idea here becomes support. Support those who are doing the work so that they can keep doing the work to make the world a better place. Isn’t that what being a good citizen is about after all, holding your space in the world and making it better? This also can mean offering help and services in the way of mentoring others as they come up behind us in the publishing world, passing on the publishing knowledge we have gained, and finding other ways to serve the literary community. This is not to say this should be done for free all the time, but this is to say that there is a certain amount of paying it forward that needs to happen. Absolutely buy books, but there are also many other ways to offer help and resources in order to keep the world of publishing moving forward.

3. Celebrate! When I think of the word “celebrate” and what that means in publishing, it becomes another form of support. Show up to book launches. Sometimes our presence can make a world of difference, and we may not even realize it. Sharing new and exciting news on social media and to our networks where we have influence might just be the one connection one of our colleagues needs. Work to collaborate, not compete, to continue to bring in new and fresh works and take chances on emerging writers. Keep in touch with and grow your network so that you can celebrate when something cool happens, like a promotion or a fantastic book launch party or any number of other incredible things that can and do happen in the publishing world.

Barkin gives us three great ways to be good literary citizens through finding our people, keeping the storytellers telling and celebrating. What could be better for the publishing world than more good literary citizens and sharing our knowledge and love of books? In my estimation, nothing.

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