My first novel is coming out soon, and these days my answer to the lovely, well-meant question, “Is there anything I can do to help?” is a dazed stare and perhaps a few blinks, because my brain has left the building. So! Herewith, the answer I would like to give to that question, when it comes up in conversation, in the hopes that it is helpful.
One: If you take the time to read the book, you are now that author’s very favourite person. Seriously. That’s all it takes.
Notice I didn’t say buy the book, although buying is always good! Taking it out from the library is great too. In fact, most writers have spent years dreaming of the day that someone will borrow their book from a public library. The more people borrow the book, the more copies library systems will stock, and everybody wins.
If you do buy the book, it really doesn’t matter whether you buy the ebook or the hard copy; whatever works best for you is great. Please be aware that authors tend not to have enough copies to give to everyone they know, as much as they might like to. But they’ll happily sign your book if you see them in person, and might be willing to send you a signed bookplate or bookmark if not. If the book is the first in a series, please don’t wait for the final books to come out before buying the first, as that is a good way to ensure the final books will not come out. Buying the book early—either as a pre-order or during the first week after its release—is extra wonderful, as it helps create a sense of momentum and can even affect things like bestseller lists. But really, any time is good.
Two: Request it at your local library.
Most public libraries have a system (often on their websites) where one can ask for a book to be added to the collection. You will probably need to have a library card number, and you will probably need to know the ISBN for the book. The ISBN can be found, among other places, on a book’s page at Goodreads or Amazon. Even if you don’t plan to borrow it from the library yourself, if you request it and your request is successful, it will be there for others.
Three: Request it at your local bookstore.
Don’t see the book on the shelves where you like to shop? You can order it, which accomplishes two things: You buy the book, and the store knows that there’s demand for the book.
Four: If you liked it, tell the author!
Seriously, we never get tired of hearing that our words made a difference to you or helped you pass a few hours on the bus. There’s a lot of rejection and despair in this business, so a short, polite note from a reader on social media or a fan email can make our whole week.
Five: Tell your friends!
Word of mouth is still one of the big ways people hear about books. That might be social media, or in person. Lend the book, if you are a book-lender, or buy a copy for a friend’s birthday. Choose the book for your book club.
Six: Tell the world!
Online reviews at places like Amazon and Goodreads are very important to authors. They help other readers find the book. The review should be honest, of course. But it doesn’t have to be an essay. A few words about what you liked, or didn’t, is a huge help.
Seven: Invite the author to things.
Do you run a book club? Are you a teacher? Do you volunteer at a local writers festival or convention? Authors love to be invited to speak or read or hang out, and if you can help defray some travel costs and/or offer a fee or honorarium, that makes it all the more likely the author will be able to say yes. (We all want to say yes. Sometimes money makes it impossible.) If you have a blog or podcast, ask the author for a guest post or an interview.
Eight: Go to the author’s events.
Book launches, readings, signings and other events can be nerve-wracking for authors, especially for newer authors. The author in your life will be enormously grateful to see your supportive face. This includes online events such as an “Ask Me Anything” on Reddit or other social media, if that’s your thing.
Nine: Follow the author on social media and/or sign up for their newsletter.
It really helps the author get the word out about their next book if they know how to reach people who liked their previous work. Following them on social media also helps you to share their news with your own network. That elusive word-of-mouth thing, you know?
Ten: Consider the book when it comes time to nominate for awards.
Some awards are juried, and some only take nominations from certain people (such as members of professional organizations). But there are some awards that are open for public voting, and some of those nomination processes are free and online. Nominating the stuff you love—provided you actually do, honestly love it—is a good way to send signals to the industry, and to direct readers’ attention to something they might have missed.
Bonus number eleven: A cup of tea is always nice.