by Ali Shaw, Executive Editor
“Books are the material evidence that remind us we know how to think and feel.” Lidia Yuknavitch, best-selling author and founder of Corporeal Writing, said that at last weekend’s PNBA trade show in Tacoma, Washington, and I couldn’t agree more. In a time when social media keeps our interactions at surface level, books give us a chance at a deeper connection.
But sometimes authors can feel that they’re writing into a void. They hope their words resonate with readers, but they don’t know unless you speak up with your support.
Now is the perfect time for that! Many books are launched in the autumn—I’ve got six book launches on my calendar this season—so if your friends or favorite authors have a new book coming out, follow these four tips to help them welcome it into the world and make some sales too. Even if their book isn't new, tips 2 through 4 are always helpful. (Authors, feel free to forward this article to your friends!)
1. Show Up: If an author you know is throwing a launch party to celebrate their book’s arrival into the world, go! For many authors, this milestone is a life event akin to a wedding or baby shower. Be there to witness their accomplishment and to cheer them on. Or if you can’t be there, send them well wishes. Don’t let this day go by uncelebrated.
Beyond that, your author friend will likely have a some readings scheduled too. Try to attend, or at least help spread the word to ensure there’s a nice crowd for your author to connect with.
2. Buy Up: There are multiple ways to get a copy of your friend’s book, but they have varying levels of return for the author. Buying a book directly from the author gives them the highest return, whether you bring money to the book launch or order from their website.
The next best option is to buy from an independent bookseller. If you go into your indie bookstore and don’t see your author’s book, ask about it. Maybe they were on the fence about ordering it and your query will help them decide. Or maybe they didn’t realize they were out of stock and need to put a new order in. Follow up by telling your author so they can reach out to the bookstore too. (If you don’t know where your nearest indie bookstore is, look it up on IndieBound.)
You can also check the book out from your library—again, if the library isn’t carrying it yet, your request could lead to a few more sales for your author.
We all know how easy it is to buy books online. Some authors even market exclusively for online sales, so I’m not going to say buying online is necessarily bad. There are some things to consider before you click that Buy button, though. Amazon drastically discounts products, which means that your author makes almost nothing. And if the book is available in stores, every online purchase is a vote against brick-and-mortar bookstores who are struggling to stay in business. When possible, shop local.
3. Read Up: I know, most of us have to-be-read piles that could challenge the Leaning Tower of Pisa. But what better way to show support for your author friends than to read and then tell them, specifically, what parts of the book resonated with you? This is how authors know they’re not writing into a void. It’s not about the sales—it’s about the connection.
4. Talk Up: Word of mouth is by far the best marketing tool. You can help generate that by writing reviews on Goodreads, bookseller websites, and anywhere else the book is sold online. If you think your friends would like the book, tell them about it. Then listen to what books they recommend to you. As Lidia said, it all comes back to thinking and feeling, connection through books.
Check out our client events in the newsletter to see which book launches we’ll be at this month.
Ali Shaw loves Betsy Lerner’s quote, “Sitting amid a sea of folding chairs at a reading, watching my author read from her book, I often felt that she was giving her first recital, my heart in my throat as she worked her way through the sections that I alone knew had given her trouble” in The Forest for the Trees: An Editor’s Advice to Writers. Ali doesn’t think she’ll ever grow tired of celebrating authors’ new books, whether they’re her clients, her friends, or writers she doesn’t know but admires.