After years of writing around my children's schedules, I have a book coming out next month, and friends have been asking what they can do to support me. At the same time, the Internet is abuzz with authors trying to figure out how to publicize their work. So, as a community service, I've decided to write up 10 suggestions for those of you who love a book author:
1. Buy your friend's book. If you can afford it, buy it for everyone in your extended family. If you can't afford it, ask your local librarian to order a copy.
2. Don't wait until Christmas or Hanukkah. How a book does in its first weeks determines whether it will stay on the bookstore shelves or be sent back to the warehouse to be shredded (along with your friend's ego). Try to buy it as soon as it's published, or better yet pre-order a copy, which gets your friend's publisher excited about the book's prospects.
3. Friends often ask where they should get the book, which is a tricky question. In the long term, it is in every writer's (and reader's) best interest to support independent booksellers. When a book is newly released, however, it may help your writer friend more to buy it through a big chain, so they keep it stocked where the most people can find it. Likewise, a high sales rate on Amazon can get people's attention.
4. If you like your friend's book, write a review on Amazon or Goodreads, mention it on Facebook and Twitter, and recommend it to your book group.
5. If your friend's book is sci-fi, and you're more of a Jhumpa Lahiri fan, say something like, "I'm so proud of you for following your passion," and skip writing the review.
6. If your friend is a good public speaker, recommend her to your church, synagogue, mosque, ashram, school, etc.
7. On your website or blog, link to your friend's website. Don't link on the words "my friend," but on whatever keywords your friend might be using to find her target audience.
8. If your friend could legitimately be a reference on some Wikipedia page, add her as one. Authors can't tout themselves on Wikipedia without getting a "conflict of interest" badge of shame, but there is nothing more fun for a writer than discovering a spike in her search engine traffic due to a link posted on Wikipedia. It's kind of like having a secret Santa.
9. Don't ask your friend if she has thought about trying to get on "Oprah." Trust me -- she's thought of that.
10. If you pray, go ahead. It couldn't hurt to pray that she gets on "Oprah."
Eileen Flanagan's book "The Wisdom to Know the Difference" will be published next month by Tarcher. She lives in Philadelphia.