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If You Love a Writer

After ten years of writing around my children’s schedules, I have a book coming out soon, and friends have been asking what they can do to support me. I’ve been touched by their offers and yet reticent to ask too much, especially of busy people in a tough economy. At the same time, the online writers groups I belong to are a buzz day and night with authors trying to figure out how to publicize their work before the entire publishing industry goes bankrupt. So, as a community service, I’ve decided to write up ten suggestions for all the people who love a book author who’s been fighting the publicity odds (Fellow writers, feel free to forward this link or add your own suggestions in the comment section.):

1.   Buy your friend’s book. If you can afford it, buy it for everyone in your extended family. If you can’t afford it, ask your local librarian to order a copy. In fact, you can suggest it to your librarian whether you buy a copy yourself or not.

2.   Don’t wait until Christmas or Hanukkah to pick up a copy. How it does in its first weeks determines whether a book will stay on the bookstore shelves or be sent back to the warehouse to be shredded (along with your friend’s ego). Try to buy it as soon as it’s published, or better yet pre-order a copy, which makes your friend look good and gets your friend’s publisher excited about the book’s prospects. An excited publisher will invest more in publicity, while a bookstore that is getting advanced orders is more likely to stock the book on its shelves.

3.   Friends often ask where they should get the book, which is a tricky question. In the long-term, it is in every writer’s best interest to support independent booksellers (reader’s too, actually). If you don’t have a favorite one yourself, you can go to IndieBound to find one near you. When a book is newly released, however, it may help your writer friend more to buy it through a big chain, so they keep it stocked where the most people can find it. Likewise, a high sales rate on Amazon can get people’s attention, and if your friend’s website links directly to Amazon, she may be part of a program where she makes extra money when someone enters Amazon through the link on her website and then makes a purchase. I personally have links to several booksellers,  on the theory that it’s good to spread the love around.

4.   If you genuinely like your friend’s book, write a review on Amazon or Goodreads, mention it on Facebook and Twitter, and recommend it to your book group.

5.   If your friend’s book is sci fi, and you’re more of a Jhumpa Lahiri fan, say something like, “I’m so proud of you for following your passion,” and skip writing the review.

6.   If your friend is a good public speaker, recommend her to your church, synagogue, mosque, ashram, kid’s school, Rotary club, etc. If you live far away, your friend might get to come visit you and write it off her taxes.

7.   If you have a website or blog, link to your friend’s website. The more people who link to her, the better she looks to the search engines, which may help people who don’t already love her to find her book. To be really helpful, don’t link on the words “my friend,” but on whatever keywords your friend might be using to find her target audience. (For example, I would especially appreciate people using the phrase “Serenity Prayer” to link to my page About the Serenity Prayer.)

8.   If your friend could legitimately be a reference on some Wikipedia page, add her as one, with a link to the most relevant page of her website. Authors can’t tout themselves on Wikipedia without getting a “conflict of interest” badge of shame, but there is nothing more fun for a writer than discovering a spike in her search engine traffic due to a link posted on Wikipedia. It’s kind of like having a secret Santa.

9.   Don’t ask your friend if she has thought about trying to get on Oprah. Trust me– she’s thought of that.

    10. If you pray, go ahead. It couldn’t hurt to pray she gets on Oprah.

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    If You Love a Writer - Blog | Quaker Writer, Speaker & Activist - Eileen Flanagan
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    If You Love a Writer - Blog | Quaker Writer, Speaker & Activist - Eileen Flanagan
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    Eileen Flanagan's blog, Imperfect Serenity, about Quakerism, environmental justice, activism, spirituality, living each day with peace and more.
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Reader Comments (42)

Eileen, thank you for writing such a thoughtful piece. I am forwarding it, posting it on Facebook and Twitter, and hoping it will make a difference! Here's to our successful September '09 launches!

July 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMichelle Cameron

This is wonderful! I just published my second book [Adopting Alesia] and I've been asking friends for help. I will link to this, though, so they can be reminded once again! Thanks.

July 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDee Thompson

Thanks, Dee and Michelle!

July 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterEileen

11. If your friend is pals with the Dolly Lama, don't imply that his blurb on the cover of her book is bogus. That hurts her feelings.

July 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterPhil Jones

Eileen-- I love the way you think! You are really in a peaceful place with balancing the art and business of writing and that is something to which I aspire!

July 25, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTamar Chansky

What a great, great post. Thank you! I will now post the link AND as soon as it possible, I will pre-order your book.

My book, a dark drama about the aftermath of domestic violence (THE MURDERER'S DAUGHTERS) will be released by St. Martin's Press in January. Your post is a blessing!!!

July 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRandy Susan Meyers


July 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRandy Susan Meyers

I'm looking forward to reading your book!

If you feel like you've got space for another bookseller in your link list, Powell's is a good one. They're a good employer, have a real commitment to green principles, offer a partner program more generous than Amazon's, and are currently accepting preorders for The Wisdom to Know the Difference.

July 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterThomas Taylor

Great tips! Especially love #5, a situation we have all been in and want to handle graciously! (Reminds me of some advice to book reviewers by PD James that I posted to my blog a few weeks ago.) I'm going to pass this on to all my family and friends who ask this question about promoting my books. Thanks, Eileen!

July 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMindy Withrow

Thanks, everyone! I've fixed the broken link and plan to check out Powell's tomorrow.

July 29, 2009 | Registered CommenterEileen Flanagan

GREAT great ideas. Thanks so much for sharing this! I'm sending everyone I know all ten of these when my book is ready to order!

August 2, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterC.J. Ellisson

I have to laugh -- when my essay collection came out, a number of people earnestly suggested I get on Oprah. I would just agree and tell them to put it in the hands of one of Oprah's people if they got the chance! Great list.

August 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJeffe Kennedy

Hi Eileen!
Of course Iw ill not only buy a copy but make a purchase suggestion at work.
Congrtas! I am so happy for you!

August 8, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRachee

Great tips. I might add that first-time authors feel particularly shaky about book signings. It's really helpful to have friends and family show up, just to be a smiling face in the crowd...or just so there's a face in the crowd! I remember when my book came out, and I went to a few bookstores in towns where I didn't know many people, and those booksignings were *hard* on the psyche. I should have done my hometown first....it would have given me the boost to carry me through those 1-person in the crowd signings in other places.

August 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJ.L. Powers

What a great article - love it - one I should keep for reference.

August 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKathy Holmes

Found my way here through Nathan Bransford's blog... and I just want to say... Terrific advice, thanks! And good luck with your book. Although I'm an atheist, I love the serenity prayer - and wish I were self-actualized enough to apply its wisdom at all times.

September 1, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLaura Martone

Haha, have you thought about trying to get on Oprah? Classic!

Great post!

September 1, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJen C

Oddly enough, one of my clients has been on Oprah multiple times. As someone who mostly writes science fiction, I'm fairly confident that I won't ever get on Oprah.

September 1, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterjz

I just wanted to let you know that I followed a link on Nathan Bransford's blog and I'm so glad I did. What a wonderful blog and what a great post! I am going to make sure I link to it on my blog too. Thanks for giving us some hope and positive words of encouragement, even in these hard times.

September 1, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterChristy Pinheiro

Thanks, everyone. The traction this blog post is getting shows me how much we all need help from our friends!

September 1, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterEileen

This is great!! As a children's book author in the process of submitting manuscripts and keeping my fingers crossed that an agent or editor will connect with my words and help bring about publication, I so appreciate these ideas. I will pass them on to my writing/critique groups and keep a copy to resend when publication day arrives! Thanks

September 1, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGail Handler

Also, if you can't afford to buy your friend's book, ask your library to order it for you. Or ask your friend for book leaflets and distribute them to libraries around you.

September 2, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDanish reader

You demystified the process of jump starting the promotion of one’s book, and you did it in such an elegant way. This is the most user friendly how-to-promote list I’ve ever come across. Thank you!
Judiith Mercado

September 2, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJudith Mercado

This is a blessing.

September 5, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMiriam Pia

Thank you.

November 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSheryl Karas

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