Friends of writers

I have put one more book event behind me–it went moderately well, though not as well as I’d hoped, and there were several people in the crowd whom I’ve known all my life, which was a big kick. Once again, I made several very educational mistakes you may be able to learn from. Most seriously, I didn’t check to see if I needed additional inventory until it was too late to order more books and I accidentally damaged those I had. Pro tip: don’t do that.

But a while back, I read a post on how to be a friend to a writer–I can’t find the article now, but here and here are two more that are similar. In fact, these two articles are better-the one I remember was thought-provoking but included some things I don’t need or want and left out some that I do. Performing in front of mostly friends and relatives made me start thinking about this stuff again, so here is my own list of tips.

(Note to my friends and relatives: you’re doing fine. Thank you!)

Please remember that another author might have a different list and that I might have a different list a year from now. But I suspect all our lists would have some common items. These are in no particular order.

  • If my book interests you (and I think it will), then buy it. Don’t wait for an opportunity to read it for free.
  • You do NOT have to buy my book if it does not interest you. I don’t need charity. On the other hand, if you are feeling charitable, buy me lunch.
  • Buy extra copies and give them to people who might not otherwise have heard of me.
  • Walk into book stores and libraries and ask for my book.
  • Write reviews of my book on Amazon, Goodreads, and any other platform you can think of–and write a real review, people ignore complimentary fluff. You don’t have to have bought my book on Amazon to post a review there (though you do have to have bought something at some point).
  • Tell your friends about me and my book. Online, “like,” re-tweet, a re-post my stuff to your networks, link to my blog-posts, etc. If I’m trying to get the word out about something, signal-boost.
  • If I ask you if you liked my book, be honest. Sweet little lies do me more harm than good.
  • Do not volunteer criticism without asking if I want to hear it. There are days when I don’t. But there are days when I do as well. Again, be honest.
  • Stand by for psychological emergencies. I am…kind of moody. And publishing a book is a really vulnerable thin, emotionally. There are days when something or other goes wrong and all of a sudden I feel COMPLETELY WORTHLESS and UTTERLY HOPELESS. It passes, but it passes much faster and more productively if I can talk it over with someone.
  • Brain-storm or offer logistical support. I’m kind of making most of this up as I go along. An idea, a question, an offer of a couch to crash on or a ride somewhere can be EXTREMELY useful. If you think of something that sounds totally obvious and you’re sure I’ve thought of it, tell me anyway. I’m as vulnerable to stupid lapses as anyone else.
  • Volunteer to beta-read or edit. Obviously, this part is for before the book gets published, but I work on lots of books, so I’ll probably need these things again, soon. If I’ve never asked you to beta-read before it’s probably because I didn’t know you were interested.
  • Get me out of the house. Seriously, I stare at a computer screen all day. Take me for a walk or something. Let’s have an adventure I can write about later.

If you are my friend you’re probably already doing all these things. If you’re not my friend (yet?) then maybe you have another writer in your life who might appreciate some fresh air or some positive word-of-mouth. Ask them.

Writing all this makes published writers sound like a singularly needy lot and I don’t mean that. If you read books, you’re already doing all this for writers you don’t know, so make a point of doing it for the writer you do know, too.

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About Caroline Ailanthus

I am a creative science writer. That is, most of my writing is creative rather than technical, but my topic is usually science. I enjoy explaining things and exploring ideas. I have one published novel and another on the way. I have a master's degree in Conservation Biology and I work full-time as a writer.
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