Dont spend a single naya-paisa (shiny penny) on your author friends
Yet, five no-cost ways to help yourself
Two months ago, I launched a Kickstarter for one of my newer books 'Crack the Code: Cook Any Indian Meal With Confidence'. After 8 weeks of quiet campaigning, it is going into many, many homes and kitchens across the globe, homes of strangers I've never met, did not have to ask twice. Of the 700+ readers of this book, I know only about 18 of them in person. All strangers, 48 states in the US, 25 countries represented across the globe.
And yet, there was not even a mention of it amongst my friends. It was like I did not exist.
As any indie authors' anxiety gets to them eventually, I chose to write privately to a friend who did some marketing, sharing my concern and asking for advice. I ended up with a very difficult, raw and one-sided conversation with this old friend about my work, general expectations of friendships, about ways to define mutual respect as we had become adults, and the parameters that shaped our friendship. My friend stopped one breath short of 'what is in it for me?'. At that moment I knew that twenty five years of our friendship did not matter anymore.
I realized: people understand very little about what authors need from their friends.
It is not their fault, it is not always about money, and this is not my first rodeo. As an emerging indie author and someone who has a handful of author friends, I know it is not easy to financially support every single author friend, or even purchase one or more books. Maybe it is not our reading style, maybe not our subject matter of interest; some of us have no time to read anything beyond whatever is essential or required. Maybe we hate the cover of the book and are too nice to tell them (believe me, their siblings have critiqued them already). Maybe we think the book is going to be a flop or no good. Perhaps it does not fall in this months’ budget. Lots of things prevent us from buying our friends books.
My first print book 'A Dozen Ways To Celebrate' cost $125 and the ebook cost $75. I was not expecting any friends to purchase it. Some ridiculed the price not taking a minute to understand the cost of production, comparing their $10 bargain-find with a limited print edition.
And yet, there were others, two friends who absolutely hate to cook and openly dislike Indian food who actually purchased everything – the print book, the ebook and more, just to show support! I remain eternally grateful but I also know that the book is sitting in its dust jacket on one of their bookshelves never once entering the kitchen. Perhaps someone might eventually use it, I dont know.
Authors also know that new books cost a pretty penny. Books can be expensive to purchase and even more cumbersome to store. Last year I spent nearly $400 purchasing books only because they were written by friends or people I wanted to show support. But truth be told, I might never get around to reading them for some time. Is it more useful to purchase a book I won’t read or talk about, or more useful if in addition, I shared my support of the author with others who were looking for recommendations? Authors receive about anywhere from 30%-60% of whatever you pay at the cash register depending on their deal with the publisher. The rest goes to the publisher, agent and all the middle men that go to make the book happen. If they are indie, all the money goes to them, to cover the expense of making the book, maybe they get out of the hole they dug themselves into while making the book, maybe not.
In the process of purchasing a book, even at retail prices, most often a buyer makes the publisher richer, not their author friend. This is a sad but sobering truth.
With the long hours spent in front of a computer, typing, spilling out our guts in great elaborate detail, only to be told by our editors that our work needs work, and is not fit for their eyes, authors are far more pragmatic than you would expect. They are not in it for the glory but for the love of writing and the potential joy their work brings to other people.
Remember, the phrase ‘other people’ does not always have to include you and your wallet, not unless you choose to.
Here are some ‘wont-cost-you-a-penny’ ways that help you (and perhaps might help your author friend also in the process.)
Show up: 99% of success in anything is showing up. If your author connection is hosting a book party, a launch, a talk, an appearance – show up and mingle. It would be fabulous if you were to bring a friend or two to the event. Plus these things often have free booze, nibbles and hugs. You don’t have to stay the whole while, but who knows who YOU might meet there!
Improve your Klout: Here is a sure fire way to improve your credentials. Did you know that what you share on social media impacts your social ‘klout’, a strange little algorithm that measures your professional influence potential against the rest of the world? Yes, yours. We all use one or more of these – LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Vine, Periscope, SnapChat, Whatsapp and more. Aside from Goodreads and blogs channels, very few of us have friends or followers that overlap across all the social media channels … so why not share? Tell at least one friend, on each of your social media channels. And see YOUR Klout scores improve.
Of sowing wild oats & pin-ups: Sow some wild oats - of names, of your author friends. Name dropping is an easy thing to do in a conversation. Who knows, perhaps the person you are talking to at the next gallery event, potluck, singles party, networking event or even at a wine tasting has a secret desire to try a new author or a genre of reading, and begins to think you are the 'too-cool person' and strikes up a lifelong friendship! Alternately, the next time you go to a bookstore with your kids, give those people at the Information Desk a run for their money. Ask them if they carry your friend’s book and see them sweat (!!). If your kids have not picked out their books yet, ask for the acquisitions manager and ask them how they could have overlooked someone so unique. Depending on their writing genre share their Twitter and Instagram handles on lampposts, on windows, on pin their business card or a flyer in a coffee shop you love. You don’t know what you’ll have started and you will have the best party stories to tell when your author friend becomes somewhat famous!
Stock Market Value: Who does not want to be the cool friend who knows cool people? Are you a member of a book club, a yoga club, a reading group, a ladies-who-lunch group or class? If your author friend is not already in one of them, offer to bring them in for a talk, a reading or just invite them along to your next gathering for a fun few hours. Use your unique position as the authors’ friend, to say, “You know I can get you an introduction to this author, or a signed copy of X, Y, or Z.” Lord knows authors could use the time off from typing and editing, and instead socialize with other warm bodies!
Shout! Speak your mind: Author friends love getting reviews, especially from their friends. Ask them if they have a review copy and offer up an honest review in exchange. If you hate it, they will appreciate your honesty too. Congratulate them on their efforts in public - it takes a lot of guts to put ones' name out there, and regardless wether they fail or succeed, you still end up looking like the good guy.
And, none of these will cost you a penny.
PS: When you do have some extra money, go buy their book. They wont love you any less.