by RS Mellette
A while back, Sophie Perinot posted here about how helpful pre-orders are for a published writer. That was way back in 2012, but it's still true today, especially for books coming out from major publishers. The majors have very little patience, so a book that doesn't catch fire right away can quickly fall out of favor. Pre-orders help fight corporate anxiety and give a book better first week numbers. That's a great way to have your purchase do a tiny bit more to help promote the book.
But since 2012, the market has changed dramatically. Small presses and self-published authors play in the same electronic playground as the majors and they are all fighting for the same thing – good word of mouth that turns into sales. Thankfully, small presses have more patience when it comes to building an audience.
Since you're reading this article, you know at least one small press author with a book on the market (me), and probably more. Since you're a nice person you're probably wondering, "How can I help my friends with their book? I don't know anything about publishing."
Not to worry. In a world full of social media there is plenty you can do to help – and the best news is, you can scale up your participation depending on how much you want to do.
For example: Let's say the writer you know isn't really someone you know, you know? Maybe you have thirty-seven mutual friends on Facebook, but for the life of you, you can't remember who this person is. Still, you'd like to do your bit … as long as you can do it from your phone while you're taking a break from work in the restroom. This is easy. If they invite you to like their author's page, do. If they post something about their book, like the post. In two quick seconds, you've done your part.
But let's say you do remember how you know the author. Maybe you went to high school or college together. Sure, you haven't talked to them since then – but fifteen years ago (or thirty… five years ago), you were close friends. You'd like to do a little more to help the author out. What can you do?
Here's the first thing that people often forget to mention: READ THE BOOK. Chances are, you'll like it. If you don't, you can still politely like their pages and posts. I don't think anyone is going to hunt you down for liking a post about a book that isn't worth the cover price, and you'll still be socially safe when you run into your friend at a reunion.
If you do like the book, then your assistance can scale up again. Go from liking posts to sharing them. A small press book has to sell tens of thousands of copies to be a success on the scale of one from the majors. I don't know of anyone with ten thousand actual friends and family, much less ones that are willing to cough up money for a book. Sharing posts with your friends is the easiest way to have an impact on the number of people who are aware of the title. Hopefully, that awareness will lead to a new reader, and then a new fan.
Still want to do more? Great! Post a review on Amazon. Reviews are the biggest way to boost sales, period. Don't worry, you don't have to say much. If you love the book, give it five stars and write something as literary as, "I love this book!" If you have a Goodreads account, post a review there. While you're at it, copy a link from your Amazon review to Facebook. That way, your friends can click on the link and see your brilliance.
Still want to do more? You're fantastic! I hope you're a friend of mine.
Talk about the book with people who might be interested in it. For example: Say your author-friend has written … I don't know… a Sci-Fi adventure that's good for 6th-9th graders. You might know some 6th-9th graders. You might know their teachers or librarians. You might have a relative or two looking for good gifts for that hard-to-shop for geeky 'tween. You can be the hero with a single sentence, "I read a book they might like."
And, who knows, if the title becomes a household name, and you're at some stuffy cocktail party and that person who constantly looks down his nose at you mentions the title of the hot new indie book they've just read, you can say, "Oh, yeah, the author is a friend of mine, and I helped make that book the hit that it is."
Look for R.S. Mellette's new book, Billy Bobble Makes a Magic Wand in December from the independent publisher, Elephant's Bookshelf Press.