How can I help? That's the (excellent) question I've been receiving a lot lately, since I just published my first book, Reinventing You: Define Your Brand, Imagine Your Future. Many kind friends and colleagues want to help spread the word, but aren't sure how best to do it (I certainly wasn't, either, until I was in the thick of the publishing process). Here's what I've learned in the past few months about concrete ways you can support your favorite writer, whether they're a close friend or someone you admire from afar (even celebrity authors would welcome your help on most of these).
1. Buy the book. Amazingly, I'll sometimes get nice emails or notes on Twitter from people raving about my book...who tell me they've checked it out of the library. I'm a huge library supporter, but if you want to keep your favorite author writing, buy the book. I'll often check out books from the library first to test-drive them, and if they're good, I'll buy a copy afterward as a sort of "hat tip."
2. Write a review. In an increasingly crowd-sourced world, online reviews matter - a lot. Even the very fact of having a lot of reviews (whatever they say) is powerful "social proof" that your book is being read and talked about. Take 30 seconds to write a review on Amazon, GoodReads, Barnes & Noble, Audible, or other key book-buying sites - and then tweet or email the author to let them know.
3. Promote it on social media. A number of my friends have taken pictures of my book when it arrives in the mail, and then posted them on Facebook. This is a great way to spread the word to your social networks and emblazon the cover image in everyone's mind. If you're on Twitter (or LinkedIn, if you're reading a business book), you can also write a short recommendation with a link so others can purchase it.
4. Buy books as gifts. We have to buy gifts all year long - birthdays, holidays, thank you presents. Skip the restaurant gift certificates and unwanted sweaters and give books, instead! In an increasingly digital world, an autographed copy of a book - from your friend, the author, whom you can tell entertaining stories about - is a powerful and memorable gift. No matter the type of book, you probably know at least one or two friends who would find it of interest. (For my health-conscious friends, for instance, I'll give them a copy of my pal Alex Lewin's book Real Food Fermentation.)
5. Host a book party. If you have access to a great space - a swanky apartment, an art gallery, or an office with skyline views - offer to host a book party. These typically last for about two hours and include mingling, light refreshments, and a reading or talk by the author, followed by a book signing. They're a great way to celebrate in any city where the author has a reasonable following, and can be a win-win. (My New York City book launch party took place at an art foundation whose mission is to introduce new people to the arts, which was accomplished by bringing an audience of business book readers into their gallery space; in Boston, my party was hosted by a realtor friend who got exposure to a new crowd of potential buyers and sellers.)
6. Have them speak to your club or professional association. Authors need two things - book sales and exposure to new audiences. You can help them accomplish both by inviting them to speak to clubs or associations you're involved with. Next week, for instance, I'll be speaking at the Boston College Club, a large alumni association in downtown Boston, as well as a popular women's networking group; friends invited me to both. It's best if the event includes a free copy of the book for attendees (easy to manage if there's already an admission charge), but if the crowd is large enough, it may also work to have on-site sales handled by a local bookseller.
7. Read it for your book club. You may not be able to buy 12 copies of the book - but if you're in a book club and can persuade your fellow members of its virtues, you've essentially accomplished the same thing. As Malcolm Gladwell famously recounted in The Tipping Point, the dramatic success of The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood was propelled by its popularity among book groups. You can help your favorite author do the same. Many authors (though probably not Stephen King-like celebs) may agree to visit your book club or do a brief Skype chat during the meeting.
8. Have them speak at your company. Many companies - most famously Google - have created an author speaking series. (I'll be speaking at Google's London office in July.) If you have an established program at your company, see if your favorite author can be invited. (These talks often include bulk purchases of books for attendees, or the company will subsidize employee book purchases.) And if there's not a regular series, ask about starting one; perhaps your author friend can inaugurate it.
9. Buy books for your clients. Many of us in the business world want (and need) to give client recognition gifts. Eschew the generic and give them a book that addresses their personal interests or a business problem they're grappling with. It's even better (and, to be honest, increases your stature with them) if your friend is the author and the book is personalized to them.
10. Feature them in your blog, podcast, or newsletter. Nowadays, everyone's a publisher. If you (or a company you run) has a blog, podcast, newsletter, YouTube channel, or other content stream, make a point of interviewing your author friend for it, or writing a review of his/her book (and include a link so others can buy it if they're interested). The author will appreciate the shout-out and exposure to a new audience.
Thanks to the Internet, there are more opportunities than ever to share your love of a great book and help out authors you admire. I hope some of these strategies will enable you to spread the word even further.
What techniques do you use to promote your favorite writers?
Dorie Clark is a marketing strategist who teaches at Duke University's Fuqua School of Business. She is the author of Reinventing You and Stand Out, and you can receive her free Stand Out Self-Assessment Workbook.