One of the great things about being a writer is that it’s easy to know who your real friends are.
Your real friends are the people who buy your new book.
(Notice that I said buy. Not just read.)
It’s nice, of course, if they check your book out of the library. Especially if they tell you, “It’s wonderful! I couldn’t put it down!”
But real friends? They purchase a copy. Sometimes they even buy two. (And they don’t buy it online, used, for a penny. They fork over the actual cover price.)
The sweetest four words in the English language to a newly published writer? “I bought your book.”
This August, Penguin will publish “Boss Life: Surviving My Own Small Business,” a book my pal Paul Downs spun off from his popular “New York Times” blog. And even though the fact that I work at a public library means that I can read any title I want for free, I will turn up at his publication party and buy one anyway.
(See what I just did? I dropped in a plug for Paul’s book. Because? Real Friends also help you spread the word about your new book.)
Yes, there are always people in a writer’s life who should not be expected to buy a book. In my case, for instance, my wonderful cousin Ruthie, who not only gives me emotional support and excellent advice, but always welcomes me to stay with her when I visit California.
“Don’t you dare buy it!” I told Ruthie when OUR BODIES OUR SHELVES: A COLLECTION OF LIBRARY HUMOR (book plug!) came out last month. “I’m giving you a signed, inscribed copy for free.”
“Great!“ she said. “You can give me a free copy. And then I’ll go out and buy a bunch more.”
Proving, just in case I had any doubts, what a good friend Ruthie really is.
I was just interviewed about my new book on local TV. After the interview, the station manager asked where he could buy one. Naturally, being a writer, I carry copies of my book with me at all times, so I sold him one.
Although I’ll probably never see him again, I now count George Strimel among my Real Friends.
Liz Lowe is a fellow humorist. Because we two once wrote a funny essay together, I included her in my book’s Acknowledgements section. Liz not only bought five copies, but posted this on her Facebook page:
Since Roz Warren mentioned me in the Acknowledgments section of her new book AND I have never been mentioned in a book before (it’s my new calling) — I am offering a free copy to the first five people who “Like” this post. The only caveat is that you must then post on Facebook how lovely my name looks in print. For example, “My, Liz — you look so good in that font.” After you read the book, of course.
I now consider Liz a Very Very Good Friend. (And you’d better believe she’s secured her place in the Acknowledgments section of my next book.)
Liz’s post inspired me to log onto Facebook myself and ask my writer pals: “What have friends done to help promote your work?” Responses flooded in:
One friend not only posted a positive review of “Paper or Plastic” on Amazon, but went on to rave about the book on Good Reads, Facebook and to her book club. It meant the world to me.
A number of my friends forwarded the email I sent them announcing the publication of “A Mother’s Time Capsule” to their own email lists.
My husband’s cousin’s wife (got that?) invited 75 people to her home for a reading and signing of “Text Me, Love Mom.”
When “Tender is the Brisket” was published, a friend hosted a book launch party and held 50 guests at gunpoint until they bought a copy. (Just kidding about the gun. But I did sell 50 copies.)
A friend purchased six copies of “Battered Hope” to send to talk show hosts.
My husband put a big photo of my book cover, along with my website URL, in the back window of his truck.
A friend who pilots private jets always leaves copies of “A Paris Apartment” in the cabin and makes sure to tell his celebrity passengers how much he loves it.
A friend visiting New York City brought a copy of “Some Nerve” to the rope line at “The Today Show” and waved it for the camera.
One friend not only came to my book signing and bought a copy of “Do Your Laundry Or You’ll Die Alone,” but while standing in line to pay for the book, she talked the folks in front and behind her into buying copies.
A friend pulled strings to have “The Neurotic Parents Guide To College Admissions” featured at a lavish library fundraiser.
A friend who hosts a children’s radio show had me read “The Magical Mrs. Iptweet and Me” on the air.
A good friend chose “Mr. Boardwalk” when it was her turn to select a book for her Book Group to read.
My husband, who sells cars, gives all of his customers a pen or bookmark advertising “The Stranger In My Recliner.”
A filmmaker friend made me a hilarious book trailer for “Highs In The Low Fifties.”
A good friend posts photos of himself on Facebook in dozens of locations holding up a sign with my book cover on it.
My writing pals also shared what they’ve done to promote their own friends’ books:
I always buy extra copies to give as gifts.
I introduce any friend with a new book to a good pal who runs a bookstore.
I ask my local public library to add it to their collection.
I make a practice of posting about and talking up the books of my writer friends on my Facebook page.
When my best friend published her first novel, I ordered her a dozen custom-made T-shirts with her cover art on the front and her website on the back.
Last year I wrote a Christmas blog post, “The 12 Broads of Christmas” to give a dozen books by writer pals a holiday sales bump.
When “Women Who Love Men Who Fish Too Much” came out, I held a book signing for the author at his favorite bar.
“I buy multiple copies of my friends’ books the moment they come out,” popular humor writer Gina Barreca told me, “and I buy them full price from independent booksellers. THAT matters.”
When you have a relationship with somebody who isn’t a writer, you have to jump through all sorts of hoops to obtain Real Friend status. And you often don’t know exactly where you stand. But we writers make it easy!
So the next time a writer pal says “I just published a book about the influence of the Egyptian Fruit Bat on French monetary policy in the 19th century, the appropriate response isn’t “Who cares about that? Let me know when you publish a thriller.“
Instead, say “Great! Let me get out my wallet.”
You can donate it to the library. You can re-sell it on Amazon. You can put a bow on it and give it to your mother-in-law for Christmas.
Just be a pal and buy the thing. And if you want to be a really good pal? Buy two.