Writers talk a lot about being supportive of fellow writers. When a writer I know – a friend, colleague, acquaintance, former student, fellow group member, former classmate, online buddy (well, just about any writer I know in any way, I suppose), has a newly published, or about-to-be-published book, here’s what I do to be “supportive.”
▪Buy the book. This seems fundamental, but money must change hands, even if I’ve already read it in galleys or drafts. (Can you imagine if your friend opened a restaurant and you didn’t pay for a meal?) If the writer is selling it from his/her own site, then I order it there.
▪If feasible, buy more than one copy. I once bought five copies of a friend’s humorous book about aging, and gave them out to several relatives turning 60 that year.
▪Before it’s published, find a way to mention the book on my blog, with an appropriate link to the author’s site or a pre-ordering page. And when I say “mention” I mean in some context which also carries value for the other writers who are my blog readers.
▪Once it’s published, invite the author to do a guest post or an author interview on the blog, and point readers to author events in various locations. If the writer (and/or her publisher) wants to, run a book give-away on the blog.
▪Attend a reading or other author event if geographically possible. And bring another warm body (or several) along.
▪Ask local bookstores if they are going to stock the book; if no, suggest that they do so.
▪When the author posts something about her book on Facebook, hit the Like button or leave a comment (or the equivalent on another networking site).
▪On Twitter, post a link to a positive book review.
▪If the author is in need of more promotional opportunities in the geographic area in which I live, provide contacts or tips if I can.
▪If asked – and sometimes even when I’m not asked – offer inexpensive ideas for DIY book publicity (the old PR person in me never dies!). I pass along what I’ve stumbled across or hear about which might lead to coverage/invitations for the writer.
▪Only if it applies, try to use excerpts from their books in my writing classes. Rather than this being a case of the instructor indiscriminately flogging for her author friends, there is actually an advantage for students because I can ask the author a question (or 10) about writing choices and craft decisions and bring that insight back into the class discussion.
It isn’t always possible to do all of the above, of course, but I try. Why? So many reasons.
Camaraderie: Writing a book and getting it published is hard, and once a writer I know has labored and “given birth,” she can use all the help she can get to move it from shelf to readers’ hands.
Economics: Writers don’t make a lot of money, and if I can help boost a writer-friend’s bottom line, great. Writers need current and future readers, so if I can help, just a little, to expand the circle of prospective readers for another writer, that’s a good thing.
Community: I love being part of the literary community. I consider it part of the dues.
Celebration: Every time I do anything to help a writer friend whose book is now in the world, I feel as if I’m raising her or his hand in the air and applauding. Everyone could use more of that, no?
Connectivity: It’s a small literary world. I like pulling the threads tighter.
Curiosity: The more I support a writer friend during the period of her book being in production and post-publication, the more I learn about the process. The learning itself is cool, and I’m filing it away.
Paying it forward: One day, when (if?) my own book is published, perhaps some of those whom I’ve supported would be willing to do the same for me. A bit selfish? Maybe. But if I never publish a book, I’ll still be doing this for all the writers I know who do.
I should add that I do what I can even if I don’t love the book (it happens). Many other readers might and mind you, my aim is not necessarily to endorse the book, but to boost the writer’s efforts to get the book into the public eye. Readers are smart and can decide, based on their own interpretation of a book’s reviews and marketing copy, if it’s for them or not. If I do love the book, I say so. But I think it’s possible to be supportive of a writer as a colleague even if I don’t happen to love her subject matter or the publisher’s choices. I’m not providing book reviews, only pointing attention. (When I do write book reviews for other venues, it's not for a book by an author I know.)
In the case of featuring writer friends on the blog, I’m careful to only feature guest posts, and to design author interviews, which will provide substantial insights, advice, tips and hard-earned writing knowledge, to blog readers. And certainly, not every book and author who appears on the blog is someone I know. Hey, I know a lot of people, but the literary world is not that small.