How to Help Your Self-Published or Small Press Author Friends

As I’ve mentioned a few (dozen?) times in the last month, my first novel—The Insistence of Memory—is now available (Kindle and paperback!). But this post isn’t specifically about promoting my book as much as it is about answering some questions I’ve been getting from friends and family about how they can be supportive.

There are a lot of authors out there who either self-publish or who are published through a small press. In either case, the task of marketing the book can be pretty overwhelming.

While the quality of a book is certainly important, the biggest problem unknown authors face is simply getting exposure.

People have to know a book exists before they know to buy and read it.

Here’s where many friends have asked how they can help. I still have a lot to learn about the book selling business, but there are a few things that are becoming clear.

Buying a copy of the book for yourself (and reading it) is an obvious way to show support, so we’ll assume you already know that and move on to some other ways you can help.

1. Write Reviews

Reviews are vital for a book to be successful. Other potential readers will look to reviews to help them decide whether to buy a book, but—more importantly—a book with more Amazon reviews will become more visible.

Books with good reviews have a higher sales rank and will start to show up in more searches when shoppers are browsing books. Amazon may also have more incentive to promote books that are doing well. (I’m still navigating how those things may work.)

Be kind, but also honest in your reviews. If you loved the book, definitely write a glowing review, but don’t feel like it has to be 5-star if that isn’t how you really felt. If you liked it enough to recommend it, but it wasn’t exactly your cup of tea, say that. It still might help another shopper decide that it sounds right for them.

I know writing a review can feel intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be long or detailed and it doesn’t have to be perfect prose. Simply say what you honestly liked about the book. Think about what factors appeal to you when book shopping. Was it easy to read? Compelling? Exciting? Did it make you think? Laugh? Cry?

Do be sure to follow the review guidelines for Amazon or on any site where you write a review. You don’t necessarily have to say that you know the author, but you are typically asked to add a disclaimer if you were given a free book in exchange for a review.

If you want to help by writing a review or rating the book, think outside of Amazon as well. If you use a site like Goodreads, that’s another great place to voice your support.                                       

2. Tell Your Friends

Reviews are vital, but word of mouth can be just as powerful! If you like the books, tell your friends and family about it. Maybe suggest it as your next book club selection or even give a copy as a gift.

However, do make an attempt to share the book with people you think may actually enjoy it. You can still tell them about it if you don’t think it’s their style, but warn them if it contains things you think they might not like (violence, terror, cursing, drugs, etc.) so they can decide if it’s right for them.

Books are subjective and not everyone is the right audience for every book.

3. Follow Your Author Friend on Social Media

Your author friend is likely putting themselves out there on at least a few social media platforms, and probably on a blog or website (like this one!) as well. If you use social media, follow your author friend. If you aren’t sure if they’re using social media, search or just ask them.

Here’s where you can find me: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. 😁

4. Offer Your Expertise 

If you have experience marketing and selling things, don’t be afraid to ask if your friend would like some tips. Your friend may be an excellent author, but entirely new to marketing and selling products.

I’ve been deeply appreciative of friends who have given me advice on how to start marketing and selling my book. And I’ve been touched by the people who have reached out to help me promote and sell through their own stores and publications (more on that in the future!).

5. Offer Supportive Encouragement

Trying to promote your own book (while still having time to write the next one!) can be pretty frustrating and discouraging at times. Some simple encouragement can be a much needed boost.

When days pass without a single new sale, it helps to run into someone who randomly tells me that they’re proud of me for publishing my book and putting myself out there. It’s lovely to be reminded that someone liked my book and to hear that they’re looking forward to the next one.

Because at the end of the day, it isn’t about making a lot of sales. It’s about sharing a story and (hopefully) connecting with readers.

Of course, it’s really nice when those readers also write a review! 😉

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