Supporting Your Author Friend
Being a self-published author is hard. There is something like 7500 new books released on Amazon every day - hundreds of thousands per month. How the hell do you compete with that? Especially as a nobody - a complete unknown - how do you spread the word about your books?
As a self-published author, I always just assumed that people knew the best way to support me. However, recently I had a discussion with some friends that led me to believe that this was not the case. Sure, there is an understanding of the basic ways to support, but an understanding of the reasons as to why this is important is missing.
Given this is something I personally think about every day, I made the mistake of thinking that the things I know about the publishing business were common knowledge. This is not the case. In fact, it became really clear from this discussion that the "how" and "why" these things help is not very well understood at all.
So let's fix that!
Personally, I think there are really only three things that you can do to help support your author friend. There are plenty of other articles out there that stretch this out to the "Ten best things you can do to help your author friend" and so on, but really - these three are the core.
Buy their book
This one is a no-brainer - if you want to support your friend, buy their book. I've had a few friends make a joke that they were "waiting for their free copy" but seriously - buy the damned book, And no, you don't need to buy the paperback - the ebook is fine, and is usually priced about the same as a coffee or two. In fact, if we are looking at Amazon, buying the ebook is better, because authors are more likely to rank higher there (as physical book sales are harder).
Why does this help? It's not just because authors want to sell their book - it's more complicated than that. The reality is - Amazon will promote your book based on how well it is performing. The more books you can sell within a period of time, the higher it will rate your book. So the best time to buy your friend's new book is as soon as they release it (even better - pre-order!); the second-best time is any time.
That "Best Sellers Rank" you see above? That's the number your author friend will be driving (and that's taken from my debut, Pyramidion - I didn't realize it was under 500 in Fantasy A&V - help me get that number down!). The closer they can get that number to #1, the better - that's when they get awarded an "Amazon Best Seller" flag, and the book starts to appear in places it hadn't appeared before, which will potentially lead to more sales, more people reading the book, and more reviews...
Leave a Review
I thought this was a no-brainer as well, but it turns out this is not the case. Most people don't think about reviews in their daily lives - they buy a product, sometimes they leave a review, sometimes they don't, and the reasons WHY don't matter.
But for a self-published author, reviews are probably the most important thing they want (besides that "Amazon Best Seller" flag, of course).
And why is that? Because reviews help potential new readers make their purchase decision. The book cover might draw them in, and the blurb might help increase their interest, but if they are still on the fence (particularly because your friend is an unknown author), reading someone else's thoughts on the book is generally what helps them to decide to take a chance.
For a new author, reviews are what drive interest - so please, leave a review!
Now... let's say you generally don't like reading, but you buy a copy of the book to support your friend. Should you leave a fake review? This is a tough one - as an author, I'd like to say "Yes - give me 5 stars!" but the truth is, authenticity is what helps the most. I like getting 3- and 4-star reviews, because the truth is, not everyone will like your book, and a variety of scores shows that different kinds of people have read your book. And let's face it, glowing 5-star reviews that say little about the content of the book do little to help a person on the fence. So if you have bought a copy, but haven't read it - maybe give it to someone that will read it, and ask them for their opinion, then put their thoughts in as the review? Bottom line - authentic reviews are best.
Lastly, where should you leave a review? The most obvious place is at the source of your purchase - Amazon, for example (and keep in mind that the majority of ebooks are sold through Amazon globally, so this is always the BEST place to leave reviews). After that - Goodreads, if you are an avid reader and a user of Goodreads, of course. And from there - anywhere you want to! Local book review sites, Google Play, Kobo - wherever!
Just... leave a review. Reviews not only drive sales, but they also spread the word.
Spread the Word
This one is less specific but still important. A new author is an unknown. And if nobody has heard of their book, they won't buy their book - especially if they only have a single book on the market. And sadly, this might be discouraging for the new author, who may give up, feeling like a failure. The truth is, selling books - especially as a self-published author - is hard, and marketing costs money.
Word of mouth is extremely helpful. People trust their friends' opinions - that's why we are friends with them (most of the time)... because we like similar things. So if you have a friend that likes reading, suggest your other friend's book. If you see an article about your friend's book (even if it is an article they shared themselves, hint hint), share that on Twitter and Facebook and wherever. It only takes a second.
If you are part of a book club, suggest your friend's book as the next focus. If you know someone that works at a library, see if your friend can talk about their book there (for example).
Of course, it's not your job to do your friend's marketing for them, but if you do want to help, doing something like this will warm your author friend's heart immensely.
Being a self-published author is hard. Not only do you have to write the book, but you need to organise all of the other stuff as well - editing, cover design, layout, publishing, and, of course... marketing. Writing the book is hard enough (many people start writing a book, but very few actually complete one), but marketing and selling the damned thing is even harder. Your self-published friend will appreciate any support they can get.