Those of us who are authors know it’s great to hear “I love your book!” from readers. Fantastic, really. We politely say, “thank you.” But what we want to say in response is, “GO TELL OTHER PEOPLE TO READ IT! PLEASE!” Boy, do we ever.
We live in a culture that shows us how to love celebrities and athletes. We hashtag them, go to their performances/games, read about them, imitate them, talk about them, and in many other ways make these people an ongoing presence in our lives (rarely considering how strange it is that we’re obsessed with particular celebrities).
It’s less common to love writers, far less common to show it.
Today’s publishing houses expect authors (except the most commercially promising ones) to shoulder the work of book marketing. Authors are expected to blog, tweet, arrange book signings and readings, do interviews, and otherwise connect with potential readers as if there’s nothing awkward about begging people to buy our words.
But we know that books, articles, essays, poems, blog posts, all forms of writing live on only when they’re read. It’s even better if they’re discussed, shared, and remembered. My writer friends and I do our best to promote one another’s work. Most writers do this for each other. If you’re inspired, take a tip or two from us and promote the authors you love. Here are some tactics I use.
Review books you love on Amazon.com, Goodreads.com, LibraryThing.com, BarnesandNoble.com, and wherever you go to check reader reviews. Short on time? Make it easy on yourself by simply leaving a bunch of stars plus a one-line opinion. On Amazon, you only need to click “like” to boost a book or other people’s reviews of the book. Your viewpoint really does help potential readers find what to read next.
Share a great author interview or book review. Share a passage from a book, article, blog post, or poem. Toss it out there on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Tumblr, or whatever social media you use.
Quote. If you’re writing a report or giving a presentation, sprinkle in a relevant book quote or line of poetry (crediting the author). It’ll add another dimension to your work.
Contact local authors. Ask an author to answer questions for an interview you’ll publish online or in print. Invite an author to do a reading or lead a discussion for your organization, club, or business either in-person or by Skype. To locate local authors, check the database at Poets & Writers, listings offered by Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and your state’s art council.
Recommend. Create your own list of your favorite books on a topic via Amazon’s Listmania. (Oh, if only my recent book appeared in a list such as “Little-Known Poetry Books You Should Read…”) While you’re at it, search all the Listmania lists of interest to you.
Give books as gifts. They make wonderful presents for birthdays, holidays, and milestone celebrations. They’re great to give simply when you think a specific book and a specific person might go well together. Give books to children for special occasions, but also to share the joys of reading.
Try something different. Indulge in your favorite genres and let yourself branch out from there. A fan of historical novels set in a certain era? Try poetry from that time period, non-fiction books about the art or science of the era, and biographies of people from that time, as well as history magazines and related sites. I’ve come across writing I normally wouldn’t read only to discover a passion for science-y novels, tomes on evolutionary biology, sites offering vintage maps, work by outsider artists, and other fascinations.
Request. I couldn’t possibly afford to buy a fraction of the books I read. Instead, I’m a unrepentant library addict. If there’s a book you’d like, order it from your local library. They’ll call or email you when it’s available. If they don’t own a copy, ask them to purchase it. Some library systems put such request forms online; other systems prefer you go directly to a librarian with these requests.
Hang out with other book lovers. Our boys’ book club lasted till they all went off to college, over 9 years of lively bookish gatherings. And I’m a long-time member of an adult book club. It prompts me to read books I wouldn’t normally read and our wide-ranging discussions are a delight. You can start up a book club with friends or join an existing group. Check out nearby clubs through Reader’s Circle, your local library, or Meetup.
Give magazine subscriptions as gifts. There are a wealth of options, from boat-building magazines to literary journals to art for kids.
Link. A writer’s insight or idea sticking with you? Link to (or at least attribute) books or author sites when you write about ideas they’ve prompted in you.
Talk about writing you love. I tend to go on and on with vast enthusiasm about what I’m reading, recommending books I think friends will like. I urge them to read memoirs, from the sublime to the hilarious, like A Private History of Awe by Scott Russell Sanders, A Girl Named Zippy by Haven Kimmel, and Kick Me by Paul Feig. I beg them to read beautifully written, unforgettable novels such as All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, The History of Love by Nicole Krauss, State of Wonder by Ann Patchett, and Peace Like a River by Leif Enger. For those who enjoy the worthy indulgence of animal books, I suggest The Good Good Pig by Sy Montgomery and A Small Furry Prayer: Dog Rescue and the Meaning of Life by Steven Kotler. I urge sci-fi fans to check out The Kin of Ata Are Waiting for You by Dorothy Bryant, Agent to the Stars by John Scalzi, and Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives by David Eagleman. Really, read these books!
Promote. The Southern Independent Booksellers Association started a YouTube channel called Parapalooza! Submit a video of yourself reading a passage from a favorite book to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you live in the UK, contact Steve Wasserman of Read Me Something You Love. He’ll come out to record your reading of a passage you choose, along with some conversation. If it’s poetry you adore, read it aloud for Record-a-Poem. You can also reach out to others in your community who’d like to share a favorite poem through the Favorite Poem Project or start up a poetry-sharing group on Meetup.
Read, already. Titles piling up on your Kindle, overdue library books, a teetering stack of magazines next to the couch are all evidence that you want to read. But you’ve got more to do than you’ve got time. Admit it to yourself; you’ll never defeat your inbox. Might as well go lie on the grass or in the tub or on your couch and read!
Offer books for sale through your business. If you have a bike repair shop, offer guides to bike trails along with some bike-riding memoirs. If you run a stand at a farmer’s market, offer a few cookbooks and urban farming volumes. If you own an art gallery, sprinkle a few poetry and art books among your offerings. (I am endlessly grateful that Elements Gallery in Peninsula, Ohio, sells copies of my poetry book.)
Connect. Follow authors on Facebook or follow their tweets. Write to them care of their publishers; the mail will be forwarded. You might send a brief note about how much you enjoyed a book or how it improved your life. You might send suggestions, questions, a cheerful aside. Writing is a solitary occupation. When an author hears that his or her work made a difference, I guarantee it’ll have an impact. On a few rare occasions, readers of my first book let me know it changed the way they parent or educate and how that’s impacted their lives. These communications are the sort of wealth I’d never believed possible. Utterly priceless.
Some days, I like to imagine a world where we love our writers and artists and scientists and volunteers with the same passion we show celebrities. A girl can dream.