Do you have a friend who just wrote a book?
Have you written a book yourself? Are you looking for author support?
What are the best ways to support a new author?
Whether you’re an author, you know one, or you want to be one, every author needs author support.
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, Your Baby, Your Way, 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 the 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. But if we follow the proactive advice to begin a publicity and marketing campaign three years in advance, before you even finish your book, maybe before you even know what it’s about, you would need to start marketing and looking for author support. But how do you market a product that does not yet exist? Oy vey. 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 seems a little off-putting to many of us. Sure, that’s how publishers think and 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 (you can join mine here and here, as well as here, and my co-author’s here). 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 from consulting, teaching, and public speaking events. Some unhappy readers who hate natural birth have accused me of profiting off the very system I am criticizing in my new book (big business). They have no idea how much time and money it actually takes to write a book, or what small budgets many publishing imprints have. I look forward to the day when that criticism is legitimate! But 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 author friend has. What can we do to provide author support?
1. Friends buy each other’s books: Max Page taught me this maxim. A professor at UMass and an author himself (of course), he insisted on purchasing a copy of Slaves in Algiers, my co-edited classroom edition of an 18th century play about white slavery in Africa, at the book signing party, even as I tried to gift him a copy. Bless him. Not sure if he ever read it. But Max said to me, “Jennifer, friends buy each other’s books.” Which is true. And for those of us who are still aspiring authors, we should provide author support by buying our friends’ books!
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. This is an easy–and completely free–way to show author support.
3. Go to book events: So much of being a friend is just showing up. Just show up. Give author support by being there, even if you aren’t going to buy the book. And if you can’t make it, please RSVP. Not sure what is up with the new American tendency to not say whether you’re coming to an event or not?! (Um, Dad, are you reading this?)…
4. Suggest the book for your book club: A book club is an excellent opportunity to share a book and if the author you’re supporting is a friend or colleague, you can invite them to Skype in or attend your book club in person. My book club invited Candace Walsh to attend via Skype. She generously agreed, and the meeting where we discussed her memoir was amazing. She was grateful for the author support and the other book club member were delighted (plus they thought it was cool that I knew her so I got extra points for that). Our local bookstore gives a 25 percent discount on books read for 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 it. The book is phenomenal. Full disclosure: I helped edit it. I’ve already read it, of course, 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 out, write a post (or two) about it.
7. Add an honest review to 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’re readerly. If you read a book, take the time to share your thoughts about it! It gives your author friend support (unless you poop on their book on-line), and gets your opinion, and your name, 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?
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.
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!
This is very eye-opening. I always knew writing books takes time – but had no idea of exactly how MUCH time is devoted to so many aspects of it.
Laura Rossi says
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!
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.
Holly U says
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!
alisa bowman says
I do think talking about it matters and it matters a lot. Many of my friends tell me they read books simply because I’ve told them about them. And one sale leads to another and so on and so forth.
Michelle O'Neil says
I was so excited to see Business of Baby on the shelf!
Michelle O'Neil says
Of course I pulled it out and gave it a more prominent display. And told the librarian, and she was thrilled, and said I could come help her do her job any time. lol
Donna Hull says
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+.
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.
Megan Massaro says
What a helpful post! Thanks! I’ll be sharing with all my friends. 😉
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.
Jennifer Margulis says
Megan, what is the link to your FB page and your book page on Amazon? Yours is a book many of my readers would be interested in. Great idea to start a Pinterest Board of “Must Reads.” I think I will do that of baby books, investigative journalism, and fiction (Ut oh, that’s THREE boards in my future…)…
Natalie B. says
Your book has 4 holds on 2 copies in my library system, and they have 2 of your other books.
Jane Boursaw says
Excellent suggestions. Yeah, I’m not great about the marketing and sales aspect of my work as a writer. We all need a tribe.
Kyla Carlacci says
Good advices, my friend just written a book and I guess now it’s only about advertising 🙂