By Chuck Sambuchino
My Writer’s Digest coworker, Brian A. Klems, recently geared up for the release of his first book — a humorous guide for fathers called OH BOY, YOU’RE HAVING A GIRL: A DAD’S SURVIVAL GUIDE TO RAISING DAUGHTERS (Adams Media). On top of that, my coworker Robert Brewer (editor of Writer’s Market) recently got a publishing deal for a book of his poetry.
So I find myself as a cheerleader for my writing buddies — trying to do what I can to help as their 2013 release dates approach. I help in two ways: 1) I use my own experience of writing & publishing books to share advice on what they can expect and plan for; and 2) I simply do whatever little things I can that help in any way.
This last part brings up an important point: Anyone can support an author’s book release by doing different things to help the book sell and get noticed. So, in no particular order, here are 11 things — some big, some small — that you can do to support a writer friend when their book comes out:
1. Buy their book.
An obvious point, sure, but important nonetheless. Naturally, we must buy new copies of books, not used copies, for the sale to “count” and the author to get a royalty. So buy new. Heck, consider pre-ordering the book. Publishers pay attention to pre-orders to help get a sense of what titles are getting buzz and attention. Impressive pre-orders help the author.
2. Buy their book for others as a gift.
Think of which friends and relatives would enjoy the book/novel. Buy it for them as either a birthday gift or holiday gift. You get to support your author friend and give cool gifts at the same time! Get copies signed if possible to make gifts special. Even people who don’t read many novels will still take note if a gifted book is personalized and autographed.
3. Face the book out at bookstores.
Simply rearrange a bookstore shelf so that your friend’s book faces out to make it much more noticeable. (The theme begins: It’s all about getting noticed.)
4. When you actually read the book, read it where people can see it.
Read it in public. Read it on the subway. Read it in the aisle seat of a plane. Read it on the deck of a cruise ship. After all, don’t you find yourself looking at what others are reading when you pass by? I do! And if I see 3 different people in 3 different places reading the same book, will I start to investigate it out of curiosity? Yes. It’s all about building public knowledge of something to the point where people are curious and discuss it.
5. Ask a bookstore employee where the book is located.
When entering a bookstore, do not look for the book, even if you know exactly where it is. Go to the bookstore customer service clerk and ask them about the book. They will find it in their system and lead you to the book.
My hope is that if several people do this at the same bookstore, then the employee(s) will begin to take notice of the title, wondering what all the buzz is about. If you’re lucky enough that an employee finally picks it up and reads it, then they might put it in the “Employee Picks” section or refer it to people who come in and ask “What’s something good I probably don’t know about?” or “What book makes a good gift?” Let bookstore employees help sell copies!
6. Leave a review on Amazon or BN.com or Goodreads or all.
Reviews are still very important. Think about it. If you come by a new book and see it has 2.0 stars on Amazon, would you buy it? On some level, that silly rating does affect me and my decision — and my guess is that it affects you, too. So it’s crucial that, when you read a book and enjoy it, you leave a review on Amazon or BN.com or Goodreads or all. Those first 10-20 reviews really matter and can set a book on the right path. (Note: You can leave the same review on all sites to save time.)
7. “Like” the author’s Facebook Fan page.
Getting your personal friends to “Like” another friend’s page is an easy favor to ask, as it requires no money.
(Hi, everyone. Chuck here chiming in for a second. I wanted to say I am now taking clients as a freelance editor. So if your query or manuscript needs some love, please check out my editing services. Thanks!)
8. Reserve a copy at the library.
An employee here at Writer’s Digest Books once told me that if all copies of a book are reserved from our county library before the title came out, the system has a way of noticing this popularity and marking the book as one for “more orders.” (Also: Use the bookstore method above and ask librarians about the book — simply to draw attention to it and get the title on the mind of staff.)
9. Attend the book release party (if there is one) and bring a warm body or two.
This task isn’t so much to help the author as it is to help the author’s self-esteem. It’s lonely to have a book release party or local signing with low attendance. If you already bought a copy, bring that book to be signed.
10. Spread news of the book through your social media channels.
When the author mentions it on Facebook, share the news with your social circles and include a small note about what the book is and why they should buy it. In other words, spreading the word by saying “My friend got published!” is nice — but it’s better to say, “This new book by my hilarious friend is a great gift for dads who are raising daughters. Laugh-out-loud-funny stuff for all fathers to enjoy!”
See how the second one targets people in a simple-yet-specific way? Do this kind of targeting when you spread the word via Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Google+, or blogs.
11. If you have media contacts or know people of influence, arrange a connection.
This is one of the best things you can do and probably the biggest way you can truly influence the life of the book and the success of the author.
If you’re married to the cousin of a local news personality, it’s exactly that kind of connection that serves as a great introduction between author and TV host. If you know a book reviewer at a newspaper in Boston, say so. If your old college buddy now runs the biggest reading club in all of Central California, try and help your author friend’s book be a future choice in that club. Utilize your network!
My own example of Point #11: When Brian’s parenting book was being edited, he was told to seek out blurbs for the cover. The top two people on his list were humorist Dave Barry and 8 SIMPLE RULES FOR DATING MY TEENAGE DAUGHTER author Bruce Cameron. Brian got the Dave Barry blurb, but not Cameron. Then I remembered: Hey. Didn’t I teach with Bruce Cameron at a writers’ conference in 2010? Yes I did. Maybe that will be enough to help. So I wrote Cameron personally and mentioned our past meeting and how he and we shared a hobby because we both authored dog books, etc., etc. And then at the end of the e-mail, I nicely asked if he would blurb Brian’s book. I was careful to explain that Brian’s work would be worth his time, and that the title was not some kind of small book that would only sell 17 copies in its lifetime. “This book has buzz,” I told him. Cameron replied back a few weeks later with a tremendous blurb. Success!
This last, large point touches on something very important. When you do approach someone of influence and ask them for a favor or suggest a book to them, have all your ducks in a row.
Tout the book’s accolades or blurbs or interesting aspects to quickly convey that this connection/suggestion is worth their time. Don’t just say, “My friend has a new novel — check it out!” Say, “My friend has a new murder mystery novel and the Vanity Fair review comes out soon. She also just got a cover blurb from Michael Connelly.” Now you’ve got their attention…
Help writers sell books. It’s that simple. Just help them and support the publishing industry. Good karma will befall you, and the hope is that others will help you in return as your big release day comes.
This post is Part 5 of Chuck's debut series here at WITS: Take Your Writing By Storm.
Part 4 was The Difference Between Your “Current Platform” and “Future Platform.” Please come back at 12 pm ET for Part 6: How to Start Your Novel.
Chuck Sambuchino of Writer's Digest Books edits the GUIDE TO LITERARY AGENTS and the CHILDREN'S WRITER'S & ILLUSTRATOR'S MARKET. His Guide to Literary Agents Blog is one of the largest blogs in publishing.
His 2010 humor book, HOW TO SURVIVE A GARDEN GNOME ATTACK, was optioned by Sony Pictures. Chuck has also written the writing guides FORMATTING & SUBMITTING YOUR MANUSCRIPT and CREATE YOUR WRITER PLATFORM