LinkedIn for Professional Writers
As a recruiter, I know how valuable it is for a candidate to research a potential job, industry and organization before entertaining thoughts of becoming a candidate. To that end, when I decided I wanted to become a writer, I started doing my research *before* ever entertained thoughts of getting published. This was concurrent with writing my first manuscript draft. For me, that meant attending writer's conferences, local workshops, and generally learning about the publishing industry. They key to this is that I treated being a writer as a *job*, a professional endeavor.
I now have some clout as a former career advice columnist with the Seattle Times, and I am on the Board of Directors for a local non-profit that offers annual writing workshops. In the last seven years, I have become somewhat familiar with the business of being a writer. As a recruiter, I have to say that it appalls me how many hopeful writers don't treat their careers with the same thoughtfulness that they would any other job. I'm seeing more and more of this on LinkedIn, where I belong to several writer-centric groups. I have written a guest blog for a friend that is a freelance writer on how to use/not use LinkedIn for writers, and I'm going to expand upon it here.
LinkedIn Errors For Writers:
*Never post anything that isn't properly capitalized, spell-checked, or punctuated. Ever.
*Join groups/discussions and do absolutely nothing but promote yourself (your book/article, blog, appearances, etc.).
*Contact the wrong person; don't email the CEO of an agency when there are four agents that are accepting submissions in your genre at the agency.
*Get into inflammatory discussions on public forums. Remember that 1) LinkedIn is an international, multi-cultural venue 2) it is just as valid to pursue self publishing, Print on Demand, and ePublishing as it is a traditional publishing house; different writers have different needs 3) this is about building COMMUNITY; differing opinions and tastes add to the experience, not diminish it.
*Constantly name drop; it's annoying.
*Not be clear when asking for something/information. Make sure you use enough details when you are starting a discussion or asking a question. "Concise" should not be "cryptic". Conversely, don't ramble on and on.
*Use LinkedIn as a substitute for proper submissions.
*Badmouth industry professionals. This includes writers/authors, agents, editors, publishing houses, publications, etc. This is the fastest way to get a bad reputation.
*Send generic "I want to add you to my professional network" invitations. Freelance writers and authors should put EXTRA effort into contacting industry professionals.
*Post responses to questions or discussions that have already been said.
*Ask for recommendations or endorsements from people that barely (or don't) know your work.
*Post questions to the writing community that you could have answered yourself with one Google search.
*Get into dissenting discussions on religion, politics, or other "controversial" topics. Writers of any sort need to keep as much objectivity as possible.
*Over-post profile updates. LinkedIn is not Twitter or Facebook. Your "update" field should be used sparingly and for important things (like your upcoming release, or the contest on your website for readers, really interesting industry articles or announcements.)
*Have a profile that tries to show you as an expert in fifteen different things. If you are using LinkedIn as a writer, make sure your profile brands you as a writer (or agent, or editor.)
*Neglect an online portfolio. There are several apps you can use for free.
I would have to say that the two related errors that irritate me the most: "Not be clear when asking for something/information. Make sure you use enough details when you are starting a discussion or asking a question. "Concise" should not be "cryptic". Conversely, don't ramble on and on" and "Posting a question that you could have answered yourself with one Google search."
A recent example is:
"Anyone had any problems getting their work published? Does anyone know of any agencies who take on new writers? "
That's it. My response: "What do you mean by "problems"? Of course there are agencies that take on new writers; what kind of research have *you* done? What is your genre and how far along in the process are you? (i.e. do you have a completed manuscript for submission?)
The first thing I think when I see something like this is that the person that posted the question cannot write, and has never done any research; the second is that they are lazy. The truth of the matter is that "writing" is one of the most well-documented professions out there. More self-help books, blogs, and articles exist on "how to be a writer" than just about any other profession known to modern man. Being lazy like this sets the tone for your *professional brand as a writer*. To be honest, when someone posts something like this, asking if anyone else has ever had "problems" getting their work published, I also think that they probably aren't a very good writer, and that could be anything from not getting appropriate critiques, to not editing their work, to using poor grammar and spelling, to not following publishing submission guidelines posted.
Remember that LinkedIn is a professional forum, and especially as a writer you must be thoughtful about how/what you post. If you are a beginning writer, treat writing as a profession and follow the same guidelines you would for any other job.