Over the past two years, I've had a large number of friends and acquaintances sign book contracts and/or see their books go to print.
To name a few - Shauna Niequist and Bread & Wine [April 2013], Sarah Bessey and Jesus Feminist [Nov 2013], Tsh Oxenreider and Notes from a Blue Bike [Feb 2014], Kristen Welch and Rhinestone Jesus [May 2014], Lisa-Jo Baker and Surprised by Motherhood [April 2014], and more.
If you know a writer, there's a good chance he or she makes the whole process look pretty easy. In truth, writing is a long and laborious science - peppered intermittently with salty tears, self-doubts, and euphoria. No matter how confident or successful a writer seems, writers still value feedback and treasure encouragement. Your small show of support does matter.
If you asked a writer "How can I help you?", they'd probably respond with a few nervous suggestions and then retreat to their writing desk. Self-promotion is hard for most writers and poets...which is why we appreciate it so much when readers and friends step in to assist.
Here are ten concrete ways to help your favorite writer/blogger:
1. Comment on my blog posts. As a general rule, commenting has gone down in the blogosphere. In 2006, when I started blogging, people commented on most every post. Now, it's more common for readers to skim and move on or to share the article on social media platforms. While writers certainly want you to share their content, it's also nice to get a direct note on the post itself. Because comments are fewer these days, your kind words will stand out!
2. Like my Facebook page. While you're at it, take a peek at my Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, or Google+ channels. Publishers want to see numbers and it's a huge help if you'll click that little LIKE button. If I have an e-newsletter or "subscribe by email" option, would you mind adding your email address? It's a small gesture, but one that I sincerely appreciate.
3. Write a review on Amazon or goodreads. If I have an actual ebook or hardcover book in print, write down 2-5 sentences in Amazon or goodreads (or on your own blog!). Every review matters and you should know that I read them all - looking for ways to improve my craft and gaining inspiration for future titles.
4. Recommend my book to your local library. Stop in at the library counter or send a message to your neighborhood branch to encourage them to buy a copy of my book for distribution.
5. Take a headshot. If you are a photographer or have access to a nice camera, offer to take a few creative headshots. I'm almost always in need of fresh pictures for promotional purposes and new ones would be an absolute treat!
6. Send freelance opportunities. If you notice that a magazine or newspaper is hiring for a part-time position or looking for freelancers, tear out the ad and send it my way. Pass on my name to editors, literary agents, and PR companies. I may look "too busy" for new opportunities, but writers love open windows.
7. Mail a note. Writers, by and large, are staunch fans of the good ol' USPS. If you like a book or a particular blog, jot down a few quick thoughts and send it cross-country or round-the-world via snail mail.
8. Don't forget to attribute. If you really loved a quote or a paragraph from my blog or book, feel free to share it - but don't forget to include my name and a link. Same goes for an idea that resonated with you from my writing. When you tell friends about it, say, "I was just reading on XYZ blog..." instead of assuming it for yourself. It's a common courtesy that, unfortunately, isn't especially common.
9. Introduce yourself. No matter how much of a "celebrity" I may be, I still do laundry, chase my kids around the house, and worry about my new hairdo. If we're at the same party or conference, say "hi." Grant me grace if I seem standoffish or quiet at first. Most likely, I'm just wishing I had a wittier and more charming social persona. I want to hear you, to see you - I really do.
10. Buy the book. Of course, when it comes down to it, writers love to see book sales go up - not only for financial reasons (since most writers make mere pennies for copies sold), but as validation that their long hours of writing are making a difference to someone out there. Remember that books make excellent gifts too! Upcoming birthday, anniversary, or graduation? Think books! I'll probably even sign a copy if you ask.
If you are a writer, what are some other ways that readers can support you?