6 ways friends can help promote your book

Every week, I hear from authors who are disappointed that friends aren’t buying their books.

I get it. It feels personal when you don’t get that kind of tangible support from people who are important to you.

Even so, it’s important to remember that we all have our own taste in books. You might love to read and write science fiction while your work or college or neighbor friends prefer to read memoirs or mysteries.

Are you being fair to your friends?

So . . . if your pals don’t generally read the kinds of books you write, is it fair to expect them to buy your book, even if they’ll never open it?

Some say, “Yes.”

I say, “No.”

I’m not here to convince you that I’m right and you’re wrong, though. Instead, I’d like to propose other ways your friends can support your books. Truth is, while they probably think it’s cool that you’re an author, most probably don’t realize that they are in a position to help you get the word out about your book.

It’s your responsibility to ask for that help.

How friends can help promote your book

Here are six things you can ask friends to do. Each includes suggestions for making your request something they can act on quickly and easily.

Select a few that work for you and ask for help making things happen. Their friendship is worth it.

1. Use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social networks to share a link to a purchase page.

Ask them to write a personal message with the link, such as “Can’t wait to read my friend’s new book about project management!” or “Nobody writes better cozy mysteries than my friend Betsy Bowen – buying her latest book now!”

And make it easy for them to do this. Provide a “clean” link to the book’s Amazon sales page (here’s how to create it), images with the book that they can share, and sample text they can consider using.

The easier you make it for people to help you, the more likely they are to take action.

The easier you make it for people to help you, the more likely they are to take action.Click to tweet

2. Email information about your book to appropriate people they know.

Send your friends an e-mail that they can forward to people they know who might be interested.

The e-mail message should describe the book, explain who will find it interesting, detail how readers will benefit from reading it, and include a link to an online purchase site.

(For more on how to announce your book via email, read, “How to announce your book with an email blast.“)

3. Share a review online.

Give a copy of your book to friends you can count on to read it. Ask them to write an honest review on Amazon and other retail sites. Point out that they need to note in their review that they received a free copy in exchange for that honest review.

Make it easy for them to write that review by giving them a copy of the Build Book Buzz Reader Book Review Form. With it, they can write something meaningful in less than 10 minutes. (And be sure to thank your friends when they do!)

A word of caution: Sometimes Amazon removes reviews when it suspects the reviewer has a connection to the book’s author. Don’t let that stop you, but be prepared for it if it happens.

If it does? Eat cookies and move on.

4. Provide information about organizations that might use you as a speaker.

There are many, many different types of organizations that meet locally. More and more are starting to move back to in-person meetings after going virtual during the pandemic.

Ask friends if they belong to groups that use guest speakers and might consider you for that role.

Even better, ask if they’ll connect you to the group’s leader or meeting planner. A complimentary word or two from your friend might be all you need to secure a slot as the luncheon speaker at the monthly gathering of a group that’s perfect for your book.

5. Look for your book in stores and libraries and request that they stock it if it’s not available.

A lot of my friends are authors, so I do this for them at Barnes & Noble all the time. I also turn the cover face out on the shelf so it’s easier to see, and when there’s more than one copy, I add one to a display at the end of the shelf, too.

If you catch me doing this, I might even smile and tell you, “My friend wrote this book! It’s great!”

When the book isn’t in stock, I ask the store to order it. Your friends can do this, too.

Friends can also request your book at their local library branch. Libraries like to know there’s demand for a book before they buy it, so ask friends to help create that demand.

Libraries like to know there's demand for a book before they buy it, so ask friends to help create that demand.Click to tweet

6. Interview you on their blog or podcast when it’s a good fit.

This is a reasonable request only when the blog or podcast’s target audience matches your book’s. Otherwise, you’re putting your friend in an awkward and unfair position.


While some of your friends might not be able to do any of these things, others might be able to do one or two.

Finally, please be sure you express gratitude for any support you get. We all like to know our contributions are appreciated.

What have you asked your friends to do to support your book, and how has that worked out for you? Please comment below.

(Editor’s note: This article was first published in March 2014. It has been updated and expanded.)

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12 Comments

  1. Love this! Friends can also request that their local library purchase a copy if they won’t already have it.

    Regarding the online reviews, do you think the friend should disclose in their review, “my friend gave me a free copy and I loved this book” (which might discount their opinion in some readers’ eyes) or post as if they’re reviewing a stranger’s book?

    1. Great tip regarding libraries, Susan! Thanks! I’m saving all ideas in a file, hoping to get enough for a 2nd post on the topic.

      I don’t think it’s necessary to disclose how you got a copy of a book you’re reviewing. Look at it this way: If you borrowed a friend’s copy of a book or borrowed it from the library, would you need to disclose that you borrowed the copy and therefore didn’t pay for it?

      In my most humble opinion (others might disagree…), I think what matters the most is that you be “yourself” when you write an honest review. If you’d normally say, “The only reason I read this book was because the author gave me a copy, so I was really surprised by how much I liked it,” then that’s what you should write. If you wouldn’t get that personal with a reader comment, then don’t. You can disclose that the author is a friend, or not. What really matters is an honest assessment of the book that’s in keeping with your usual approach to these things.

      And one final thought on this … if I can’t find anything nice to say about a friend’s book, I don’t review it.

      Thanks for the library tip and for taking the time to comment!

      Sandy

  2. I love the image of the ladies in bathing hats!

    Given that my book is not sold in physical bookstores the first tip is not applicable.

    I have asked a few friends who’ve read a book of mine, and told me they enjoyed it, to write an unbiased review. A couple of them did, and I was delighted. I’m even more delighted when people who don’t know me take the time to write reviews, but I cannot influence those people.

    Sadly a few other friends just said they don’t get on with social media or they are not into writing reviews. This does leave me feeling unsupported but of course I accept that everyone is different. If they had written a grudging or uncomfortable review it might not come across well so it is probably better left alone.

    One author, Jade Lee, has sent out a dozen bookmarks featuring her books to anyone willing to distribute them to friends. I recently gave away ten at a party, to ladies only. The lovely period dress on the front model is one reason. The attractive man on the back is the other. These bookmarks have QR codes – as do mine – so anyone scanning them will go straight to her website. This is a really simple way of asking friends to help and everyone likes a bookmark.

    1. Clare, I love that bathing cap image, too! I smile every time I see it.

      The bookmarks are a great tip! Thank you! If I gather enough ideas, I’ll put up a 2nd post with them. Thanks!

      Sandy

  3. I would never expect a friend to buy a book I wrote. Mine are nonfiction, and almost none have use for the books because they don’t have that problem. When someone does need it, I either direct them to a bookstore or something. If I have the book, I usually offer to sell it for a discount because they know me. I would feel very funny asking them for the full price. Or I just lend it and ask them to give it back when they’re done.

    I like your suggestions, especially the one Amazon. That one I have used–not with friends, but with professional contacts or someone I’ve given the book to. I think as long as the person is giving an honest opinion–and I mean HONEST–they don’t need to mention how they know you. I can usually tell with a friend of the author has written a review because they’re too cutsie. When shopping, I tend to overlook the first few reviews because I know there’s a good chance they’ve been written by friends.

    1. Thanks, Randi. My nonfiction books are also on topics that wouldn’t interest my family and friends so I don’t expect them to make a purchase, either. We both might feel differently if we wrote fiction — I’m not even sure about that, though!

      Sandy

  4. These are great tips. As an author, I admit to struggling with the fact that some of my friends haven’t bought or read my books, although gratefully, most of them have.

    It is really easy for people to help us promote our books or speaking abilities if they really want to and thanks for listing some suggestions here including Susan’s suggestions re libraries (I was going to add that one and then noticed it in her comment.)

    It’s SO much working promoting our books, and when our friends and family realize that, they can help us in small ways to take the burden off of us.

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Doreen. I’ll only add that it helps to remember that your friends don’t necessarily read the types of books you write, so when they don’t buy your book, it’s not personal. It just (perhaps) represents their decision to spend their money on things they need or know they will enjoy. Just as you might decline an invitation to attend (yet another) home Tupperware (or kitchen accessories or jewelry) party where you will feel pressured to spend money on something you don’t need just to be nice or polite, they are declining your invitation to buy a book they won’t read.

      Sandy

  5. I have been fortunate in getting some friends and family members to buy the book of their own accord and post reviews. However there are a number who haven’t but I don’t press the issue even though it makes me feel unsupported.
    I have a very large contingency of cousins yet only one has purchased the book although some expressed enthusiasm when it first came out. This hits me where it hurts, but I haven’t pushed it……yet.I recently had a friend take my book down from her recommended list because she is angry with me over an incident between us.People are really strange.
    I do mention where discounts are available from time to time even though I was cautioned by a media member that this detracts from my royalties. All in all, as the author of nine books all produced by well known publishers, I feel estranged from my career simply because it is so darn hard to stay out there without putting so much time ito self promoting that I don’t do what is really important,WRITE.

    1. There’s no question that it’s a lot of work, Sylvia. And it can be frustrating work. I know you’ll keep writing though — you’re “wired” for that.

      Sandy

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