When asked for a list of key contacts who will support their upcoming book, many debut authors panic. “I don’t really know anyone,” they will say. But the truth is that most authors already have a large network of people at their disposal who will gladly assist in promoting their upcoming book: their friends and family. While these people probably can’t purchase a whole print run alone, a book can benefit from their support in some essential ways. Knowing the best ways to approach this group and maximize their impact is the key.
The most important thing to remember is that friends and family want to be supportive. This bears repeating as many authors, particularly introverts, can feel a little skittish about self-promotion, even–or especially–to the people with whom they are closest. The key is to approach things in a professional and organized way, so that friends and family feel empowered to take small steps that will help support your career. Here are some concrete ways that you can leverage your community to promote your book:
- Start building your contact list early. Create a list of email and snail mail addresses for your friends, family, and professional contacts–anyone who you think would be interested in the release of your book. Beginning your list early allows you to spend time making it as comprehensive and accurate as possible, so you don’t have to scramble to put it together when your book is released. It’s also helpful to let your publisher know that you have this list ready and how large it is, since it may impact whether they order promotional materials like postcards for your book launch.
- Give people an opt-out. Once your contact list is ready to go, send an email to everyone a month or more before your book is released. In the email, let people know that you are excited about the release of your upcoming book, and you will be sending periodic email updates. End by saying that if anyone does not wish to receive your updates, they can email you to be taken off the list at any time and you won’t be offended.
- Create a separate Facebook page for your Author account. Many authors worry about spamming Facebook contacts with news of their book. The best way to address this is to create a separate Facebook “Fan Page” for your author account. Once you have created the page, invite all of your Facebook friends to like it–and then invite them a few more times, for anyone who missed it. This way, you can share news of your book freely with a group that you know is interested. Even so, you should periodically share author news with your personal feed for anyone who may not have carried over.
- Send more than one email. Many authors will send an email to friends and family when a book is released, but won’t follow it up with anything else. This isn’t enough, since one single email can easily get lost or forgotten. Mark in your calendar to send a follow up email 2-3 months after your book is released. This is a great time to remind people it’s available, and to ask those who have already purchased the book to write reviews. You can also send an email if your book wins a major award, goes into paperback, or receives a big publicity hit. Don’t overemail, but remember that your friends and family want to know when great things are happening!
- Encourage contacts to leave reviews. One of the biggest things that friends and family can do to support your career, besides purchasing your book, is to leave reviews of the book on major book review and purchase sites like Amazon, Goodreads, and Barnes & Noble. Building up reviews on these sites can go a long way in improving the visibility of your book. Tell your contacts that if they loved your book, you would appreciate it if they could take a few moments to write a review on one or more of the sites above. Most people will be happy to do so, they just need to be asked.
- Mine your contacts for their contacts. Don’t be afraid to ask family and friends for help connecting with the right people, especially if you are new to publishing. Want to connect with a journalist at your local paper? See if you know anyone who might have a contact. Interested in doing local school visits to build up your experience? Let your friends with children know you are willing to visit local schools, and ask them to pass the word on. You’d be surprised at the people your friends and family may be able to connect you to, if you ask them.
Remember that knowing a published author is exciting, and your network of family and friends will want to help get the word out about your book. By asking for their help in small, organized ways, you can maximize their impact without putting them in an uncomfortable position or making them feel burdened. And that way, everyone wins.