Your friend excitedly tells you that she's published her book. You eagerly wait for her to gift you a copy - since you are such a close friend. When that doesn't happen, you smile, wish her well and walk away, wondering if she really values your friendship at all.
There's a reason she didn't give you a free copy - and it's got nothing to do with what a good friend you are. The real reason is that she probably can't afford to.
We all grew up with Little Women and Anne of Green Gables. In these books and films, we see creative women's financial situations turned around with the publication of their books and a cheque for a healthy advance. As many authors nowadays know - that is no longer the case. Publishing a book still costs hours of our time and so much of our emotional energy, but now it also comes at a financial cost. Book deals with a monetary advance are mainly the reserve of the famous or previously published.
The plain reality of publishing in the 21st century is that often the author makes an initial outlay. This covers editing, cover design and a print run of books, etc, and can cost from several hundred to several thousand pounds. By the time we hold the book in our hands, we are already deeply in the red, and now we need to sell those books.
So how can you support your friend?
Buy the book - at full price and pay postage
Ask your friend if you can buy a copy from her. She may direct you to a webshop, but if she is starting out, she may not have one of those. She'll happily send you a copy and let you know how to pay. This is the best way for her to recoup the money she has invested into the book.
When my first book was published, many friends didn't offer to buy copies because they didn't want to put me out or inconvenience me. Let me assure you, every single sale causes your friend to do a happy dance. It is always a pleasure to sign and package up a book - it's never a burden.
Should I buy from Amazon?
Buying from Amazon has a couple of benefits. Firstly as a verified buyer, any review you put on Amazon will be seen across the world in all Amazon shops. Buying from Amazon also increases the visibility of the book and raises it through the rankings. You may also be able to get free P&P, or a discounted price.
However, your author friend will earn very little from that sale - from a few pence to a pound or two.
Why not ask your friend, 'Would you like me to buy from you, or through Amazon?'
While we are on the subject, reviews on Amazon are so important. They raise awareness of the book on the platform, meaning it is promoted to other people, and gives the author feedback and encouragement. Your review could convince someone else to read the book.
Can I buy from my local bookshop?
If you are lucky enough to have a local bookshop, asking for it there will raise awareness of the book and may open new markets for your author friend. As with Amazon, the amount your friend earns will be tiny, but being stocked in a real bookshop is a real boon. If you do order through your local bookshop, let your author friend know, so she can reach out and offer a 'thank you' email to the shop, or link the shop and your author friend in a social media post. This will encourage both of them.
I want to encourage my friend, but buying a book is outside my budget. Anything else I can do?
There's so much you can do that won't cost you a penny.
You could connect with your author friend on social media, like and comment on her posts. Could you share her posts - introducing your friend to new customers?
Could you invite the author to speak at a community group you are involved with?
Request the book at your local library. You never know, they might be able to get it.
If you are able to buy a copy and you enjoy the book, please review it. Reviews on Amazon and Goodreads are essential to a new author. If you have a blog or large social media following, all the better.
But surely it's not all about the money?
No, it isn't. One of the first steps in the writing journey sees us shed our lofty ambitions of making millions. We write because a story burns within us, keeping us awake at night, calling to us through the day. However, many of us still hold down jobs to pay the bills and the published book may have used the funds set aside for a family holiday. Having some of that money back will encourage and enable us to write more.
My friend gave me a copy - now I feel bad!
Don't feel bad - you are obviously a very special friend. Why not buy a couple more copies to give away to other people? Happy dances all round!