When your friends start to leave the nest and send out queries, sign contracts, and talk to publishers – or commission their cover, finish up formatting, and prep to self-publish – it gets pretty gosh darn exciting. Everyone’s on alert, waiting for the next tidbit of publishing news. Their dreams are all becoming real!
Highs and lows come hand in hand with the publishing journey. Sometimes a high can be just as stressful as a low – like when a friend of mine was caught between two amazing publishers in a bidding war. Though it’s an awesome problem to have, it was also very intense.
So how can you help a friend through their publishing journey, regardless of what that looks like? Here are a few ideas.
Express interest in your friends’ work and their journey. You don’t necessarily have to volunteer to read the whole manuscript or know everything about it (though you can!). I’m always encouraged when a casual friend just asks how it’s going, and then actually listens when I explain my latest ups and downs.
If you want to really be involved, establish some pacts. Annie and I have a bloodpact that the instant either of us hears from our agents, we debrief the other. When we’re waiting for important information (like receiving feedback from an editor or publishing company), we occasionally remind each other of the pact, just to show how much we care. Because I will murder her if she does not tell me. That’s just the rules.
I also like to use a little thing called a “brag table” (coined by Jon Acuff). Basically, a brag table is a safe place where your friend doesn’t have to feel modest about sharing her successes. It’s a judgement-free celebration zone. I love it!
Offer to Help
If your friend needs another pair of eyes and you’d like to get in on what she’s writing, you can always offer to read. But there are plenty of other ways you can help without committing to a 80,000 word challenge.
You can help by proofreading emails before she sends them, if she’s the sort who’s terrified of emailing the first few times, or if she wants another opinion on a more complicated communication.
You can help by recommending books for her, if you come across something that reminds you of her project (whether it’s fiction or non-fiction). If a relevant book goes on sale for $1.99 Kindle copy, you can let her know about that.
You can help by going on research trips, museum visits, etc., and being patient while your friend takes copious notes. You can let her know if you see an exhibit she’d like.
You also can help by doing the other things on this list – like listening (perhaps with some tea?), getting excited, and assisting during the launch.
Everyone gets sick of the book they’re writing at some point. When they’re in the final stretch of work, it can become easy to only see the story as a jumble of words (most of which probably feel wrong). The magic that first caught their inspiration is dried up, and they keep running on momentum alone.
An unexpected message or email from a friend can do wonders in this phase. Maybe you found an image on Pinterest that reminded you of a character. Maybe you came across a song that made you think of the book. Or maybe it’s an article, blog entry, or item in an Etsy shop.
These messages are encouraging not only because it shows that you are thinking of the story, but because it’s something the writer can then use for their own inspiration. (Plus it’s a delight to find and share these things – think of it like a scavenger hunt!)
Send Care Packages
A big deadline is coming up. Whether it’s edits for a publisher, the final round of proofing before the manuscript goes live on Amazon, or perhaps even the big launch itself–your writer friend is on the edge of her chair (and sanity).
Pull a card from moms during finals week and put together a little care package. Collect items to get her through the hard patch (cookies, tea, a gift card for food) and help her keep going (sticky notes or colorful pens). Make it fun!
If you’re busy or feeling less creative, consider sending a subscription box instead (it only needs to be for one month). Owl Crate will send your friend a YA book and a plethora of fun YA knickknacks. Book Riot will send you two or three books with your goodies. Then there’s Cravory for cookies, Tea Sparrow for tea, and Flicker Box for candles. Escape Monthly deals in travel-themed foods, books, and drinks. BroBox comes with fitness and hygiene stuff for guys.
Basically, there are a lot of boxes out there, so you have plenty of options! (But not a lot that are writer themed…? Am I missing something, or is there a huge gap in this market?)
Party After Publication
At long last, here it comes! The book is out!
But the publishing journey doesn’t end with publication. Now it’s time to spread the word.
Help host a reading at your library, church, home, or school. Suggest the book to your book club. Follow your writer-friend on social media and share their big news. Go to conferences or bookfairs with your friend as moral support. If your friend has bookmarks or business cards printed for the book, take a handful and pin them around town.
Talking a book up is my favorite. My entire office is already a fan of Sarah Driver’s Huntress: Sea, even though it won’t hit shelves until 2017. Word of mouth is incredibly important – and effective!
For more ideas, check out: How to Support an Author’s New Book: 11 Ideas For You and 99 Ways to Spread the Word About a Book You Love. In sum: Buy the book, talk about the book, read the book, review the book, get people involved with the book.
What are ways that you try to support your friends during their journey?