By Yi Shun Lai
A few nights ago, I taught a class on writing as a business. It included some social media best practices, and when I posited the 80-20 rule I follow in my own social media (self-promote, at a maximum, 20% of the time you’re on social), I got a few surprised looks.
There are always a few people who haven’t quite thought of social media as the engagement tool it is and consider it more of a bullhorn for their own work or interests.
That surprised look is at the heart of what we do at Tahoma Literary Review, a literary magazine I co-own and edit fiction for. We, too, consider our social media and our existence a bullhorn—but not for us. Rather, we use it to promote the people who have published in our magazine.
In the five years the publication’s been alive, we’ve always promoted our writers, but over the years we’ve honed and revised our offerings, so that we can help them along in their careers.
Many literary magazines I know do this. The lofty, loose rationale has to do with literary citizenship, or something, but there are a few more concrete reasons we do this. I’ll outline them below.
- A more robust social media feed
Just as bad as the feed that only talks about oneself is the feed that hammers on and on about one thing. At TLR, we don’t usually lack for post material, since two of us manage the feed and we have diverse interests. But once in a while, we’ll drum our fingers on our respective desks and wonder: What shall we post about today? A writer’s great news—a new book, a fresh publication in another literary magazine—trumps any re-posting, any dog pictures, any writerly meme or .GIF, any day.
- Better awareness of other publications
In our jobs as editors, we often come across stories that won’t work for our publication, but that might work for another publication. When we hear of writers whom we’ve previously published going on to publish in other literary magazines, that broadens our capability to recommend potential publishing outlets to writers.
- An additional chance to support the writer
This one is a no-brainer. We chose the writer to publish in our magazine in the first place because we loved their work. Getting another opportunity to champion their work—and introduce it to readers who may not have had a chance to read it in our publication–is a real boon. The obvious corollary to this is that it’s also another chance to put the discrete work they published in our magazine front and center again.
- An opportunity to stay connected
Knowing a writer will reach out to us again is a huge benefit. We use it to help our network stay strong and growing, but when writers consider us a part of their publishing history, they know we can be depended on to not only cheer them on, but also to support them in other endeavors, like panels they may be pitching, or publications they may go on to edit, or even work entirely unrelated to literature (we have a poet who works with animal rescue, for instance, and we’re happy to give that a shout-out whenever she wants).
- Okay, okay, the feel-good literary citizenship thing
Last night, I spoke to a former contributor about his forthcoming book. He said, “My goal is to one day help another writer the way you’re helping me.” This is such a powerful sentiment, but it sugarcoats the idea that it feels good to pass on knowledge you’ve spent years accumulating so that others can benefit from it. In the case of literary magazines and their former contributors, it’s wonderful to know that we can use our influence and our network to promote the good work of writers we know and trust, and whose work we want to see more broadly read.
Yi Shun Lai is co-owner of, and fiction editor for, the Tahoma Literary Review. She writes regularly for The Writer magazine on the craft of writing and the art of publishing, and teaches at Southern New Hampshire University and the University of La Verne. Her novel, Not a Self-Help Book: The Misadventures of Marty Wu (Shade Mountain Press, 2016), is in its fourth printing. Keep up with Yi Shun’s work at The Good Dirt.