There’s nothing more challenging for an author than writing a book — except creating a marketing campaign, grappling with the nuances of public relations, and asking people to buy the damn thing. Do you know how many authors like to talk about themselves or ask for a favor?
As a recent author, I can report that the number one awkward question from friends and family is, “How can I help you?”
There are only five ways you can help an author. Honestly, it’s not rocket science. It’s capitalism. And if you love me, you wouldn’t need to ask.
- Buy the book. Once is okay. Multiple times is better.
- Gift the book even if it’s just your used copy.
- Recommend the book.
- Introduce the author to someone important.
- Borrow the book from a library.
So I’m stepping out front and helping other authors with their book launches by breaking down into detail what you can do to support their work.
BUY THE BOOK
The number one thing you can do to support an author is to buy the book. No, you don’t need to read it or put it on your living room shelf. No, you don’t need to attend a book club and talk about it. Just buy the damn book. Any format will do. Don’t want to keep it? That’s fine. Donate it. Throw it in the trash. Leave it on a bench at a bus stop.
Here’s why this matters: If you do it right, the act of buying a book will support your local community and boost the sales (and reputation) of a friend or loved one who dedicated years of their lives to crafting their masterpiece.
Sure, writers want readers to unpack their stories and debate the big ideas in their books. But the book can’t change the world if it sits in a warehouse or on a shelf. So, do your part and buy the book. Then buy the e-book. Then download the audiobook. And look your friend in the eye and say, “I got you. This book is terrific, and I’m doing my part so people will read it.”
GIFT THE BOOK
Sometimes you don’t need another book. Crazy, but it’s true. Not everybody is a reader. Not every book was written for you. And some people get a dopamine spike and feel smarter from buying books but don’t want a bunch of unread volumes laying around their home. Does any of that describe you? You should still buy the book but give it away as a gift or donation.
Here’s why this matters: Nobody makes money unless you buy a book. Do your part. Also, some people can’t afford to buy books but need to learn something new. That’s where you come into the equation by purchasing and gifting a copy or two.
Don’t want to read that dumb romance novel your friend wrote? Don’t. Buy the book and give it away. You’re still a hero. Then you can look your friend in the eye and say, “The book seems excellent, but it’s not for me. Thankfully, I bought a copy for a friend and sent it to him. I know he will love it.”
That’s old school manners, right there.
RECOMMEND THE BOOK
I stopped taking book advice from the internet years ago when the algorithms kept recommending sad Millennial love stories. You read Normal People once, and every subsequent suggestion is for a derivative title. No thanks.
Do you know where I get the best recommendations? From friends, colleagues, and other people who are cynical and Gen X like me. So, if you have a friend who wrote a book, recommend it online and to your colleagues. Tell your neighbors. Write a review on Amazon or Goodreads.
Here’s why it matters: We live in a recommendation-heavy society. Everything is either five stars or no stars. That’s why I want you to help the author out and sing the praises of your friend’s new book. Then get on Amazon and Goodreads and tell the world why it rocks. If you didn’t read it, lie.
Once you make your recommendations, look your friend in the eye and say, “I told my mom about your book, and I reviewed it on Amazon. I hope that helps.”
Your friend will weep tears of joy. Trust me. I’m your friend.
INTRODUCE THE AUTHOR TO SOMEONE IMPORTANT
If you know someone influential who loves to read — or if you’re friendly with a podcast host who has more than six listeners — be a champ and give them a copy of your friend’s book with your highest recommendation. Don’t expect anything in return, but hope that your famous friend takes a hint and does you a solid.
Here’s why it matters: For whatever reason, people love book recommendations from celebrities. A celebrity endorsement is worth its weight in gold. If you can make magic happen for your author friend, you will be on their holiday card list forever.
Once you make the introduction, look your friend in the eye and say, “You’re welcome.” Then turn around and sashay away — as a celebrity would!
GET THE BOOK FROM THE LIBRARY
When was the last time you were in a library? You should go. It’s fun. They have free wifi. And if you don’t have any money but want to help boost an author’s visibility and credibility, get the book from the library.
Here’s why it matters: Librarians have fantastic taste, and I’m not just saying that because Booklist gave my book a glowing review. It’s because they see a lot of shit and learn how to discern good storytelling from bad. If librarians become aware of a book because it’s always been loaned, they’ll recommend it to others. And it creates a positive snowball effect.
You don’t even need to read the book you’ve taken out at the library. In fact, most earnest people don’t. Just keep it for a few days, return it on time, look your friend in the eye, and say, “The local library has your book. Isn’t that cool? They also have free internet. I’m hooked and going back!”
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
Want to be a hero and help your author-friend with her new book? Do these five things:
- Buy the book.
- Gift the book.
- Recommend the book.
- Make a celebrity introduction.
- Get the book from the library.
Sure, you can post a photo on Instagram or Twitter. Yes, you can like the author’s page on Facebook. But social media is overrated. The most important currency in the publishing world is cash. So spend some money, or get others to spend it. That’s how this works.
While none of this is challenging to do, it’s hard to remember that people who seem successful and just published a book need help. Lean into empathy, express compassion for how hard it is to publish a book in a post-COVID landscape, and take action. Your author friends need you, and they are grateful for your support.