Author Support: 7 Ways to Help a Friend Who’s Just Written a Book

My new book, THE BUSINESS OF BABY, on the shelf at a library in Ohio. Thank you to my colleague and friend Michelle O'Neil for asking  her library to order it.

My new book, THE BUSINESS OF BABY, on the shelf at a library in Ohio. Thank you to my colleague and friend Michelle O’Neil for asking her library to order it.

Whether you are one, you know one, or you want to be one, every author needs support.

You’ve always wanted to write a book but were afraid to try? Forget about the anxiety that you might suffer from writer’s block! The writing is the easy part. (Caveat: when I was racing to finish my book, which took me ten years to research and nearly three years to write, I did not feel like the writing was easy.)

I read an article recently advising authors to begin a marketing campaign THREE YEARS before their book is published.

How is that even possible?!

Most book contracts stipulate a year to 18 months from a signed contract to a finished product. If we follow this proactive advice, before you even start to think about the topic of your book you would need to get marketing. How do you market a product that does not yet exist? Oy vay. Welcome to the world of authorpreneurs.

Some writers (like me) would rather have a head cold than have to market a book. Even thinking about books as products to be marketed or sold is off-putting, isn’t it? Sure, that’s how publishers think, that’s why you spend hours–or even years–on a book proposal, that’s why you work tireless to, as Seth Godin calls it, build your tribe. Since I’m a professional writer, it is true that I make a living selling my words. Still, the bulk of my income comes from magazine articles and on-line writing, with a smaller percent coming in from consulting, teaching, and public speaking events. The haters who have been accusing me of profiting off the very system I am criticizing in my new book (big business) have no idea how expensive it is to write a book or what small budgets imprints have. I look forward to the day when that criticism of The Business of Baby is a legitimate one. But with the sorry state of publishing today, unless you’re Stephen King or J.K. Rowling, chances are your book writing is mostly, if not entirely, a labor of love.

So you’ve just written a book. Or your friend has. What can we do to support each other?

1. Friends buy each other’s books: Max Page taught me this maxim. A professor at UMass, he actually purchased a copy of my classroom edition of an 18th century play about white slavery in Africa. Bless him.

2. Ask your local library to order a copy (or two): Libraries welcome suggestions from their patrons. It takes less than five minutes to fill out the form to ask the library to purchase a copy of a book. Then you get to read it for free, and your community benefits from having the book in its library.

3. Go to book events: So much of being a friend is just showing up. Just show up. And if you can’t make it, RSVP. Not sure what is up with the new American tendency to not say whether you’re coming to an event or not (Dad, are you reading this?)…

4. Suggest the book for your book club: Okay, don’t do this if you hate your friend’s book. But our local bookstore gives a 25 percent discount on books read in book club.

5. Talk about it: Word of mouth is key. It’s fun to brag about your friends. Tell everyone you know that your friend has just written a book. My friend and colleague, Christine Gross-Loh, has a book out this week called PARENTING WITHOUT BORDERS. She went to Finland, Germany, China, South Korea, and Japan to research this book. It’s phenomenal. I’ve already read it and I can’t wait to read it again! (See? It’s fun to brag about the amazing people you know.)

6. Blog about it. Apparently two of the best ways to get people to buy your book is by being on NPR (Terry Gross, I’m available when you are) and being mentioned in the blogosphere. If your friend has a new book, write a post (or two) about it.

7. Write a thoughtful review on Amazon. It doesn’t have to be five stars. It doesn’t have to be grammatically correct. It doesn’t have to be long. Amazon reviews aren’t writerly, they are readerly. If you read a book, take the time to share your thoughts about it on Amazon. It gives your author friend support (unless you poop on their book on-line) and gets your opinion out there as well.

What have I forgotten? What ways do you support your friends who are authors? If you’re an author, what other ways have you been helped by your friends?

Jennifer Margulis, Ph.D., is a senior fellow at the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University and the author of The Business of Baby: What Doctors Don’t Tell You, What Corporations Try to Sell You, and How to Put Your Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Baby BEFORE Their Bottom Line.

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Categories: books and publishing.

Comments

  1. My books are primarily for kids and the adults who love them, so it’s hugely helpful when someone introduces the books to teachers, school groups, or at homeschool co-ops.

  2. I’ve written over 40 books (yes, really – it’s crazy, I agree) and I agree that writing the book is (somewhat!) easy. Marketing it is hard. I always, always buy the books written by my friends and professional acquaintances. If you want to help a writer, leave an Amazon review no matter how short, write a quick review on Goodreads, tell your friends about the book, or write a quick blog post about it. Mention what you’re reading on Facebook or Twitter. Give books as gifts. If you know the author, ask for a signed bookplate (even if you don’t know the author, there’s not a single author in the world who would ignore an email request for one – ok, maybe J.K. Rowling would). Nobody is getting rich writing books (except JK Rowling again). Most authors are just regular folks hoping the bank account has enough to pay the mortgage this month. The thing is, most authors put their heart and soul into their books. If there is any way for you to help them, know how much it is appreciated!
    Brette recently posted…Bison and Blackberry SauceMy Profile

  3. This is a terrific post and I love that is it from the author’s point of view. As a book publicist, I love seeing this proactive thinking and community outreach! As a blogger, I always practice “paying it forward” and supporting my writer friends. I think every author and author-to-be should read your piece!

  4. Another suggestion would be to join a writer’s organization, where members understand the need to promote the books of friends. Here is how that works: I met a woman in a writing course. She told me about her forthcoming book. I bought the book. I loved the book. I tell everyone I know about it.

  5. My mom is a self-published author, and I know how hard it is for her to get her books out there. I agree–marketing is such a huge part of writing a book. It’s probably the hardest part. Also, I’d suggest Goodreads–a great place to put your books up and gain more attention!
    Holly U recently posted…Sweet Summertime πŸ™‚My Profile

  6. I have never written a book but I’m proud to know two authors (you and Christine) who approached their book writing with solid research, soul searching and passion. I’m looking forward to reading both of your books and shouting their value to the rooftops – okay, spreading the word on Facebook, Twitter and Google+.

  7. Wonderful tips on how to support your author friends. I didn’t know you could suggest books to your local library. I’m going to do that.

  8. What a helpful post! Thanks! I’ll be sharing with all my friends. πŸ˜‰

    I never underestimate the power of pinning. Many of our new readers and community members (on Facebook) come from friends or fans pinning our book to a “Must Read” list.

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