So it’s release day! But not for you.

05Aug11

Most agents would probably back me up on this. A not-insignificant percentage of the client phone calls that happen in a given week somehow work around to the phrase “So my friend…” Friends are the often-unsung yet essential ensemble behind the publication of any book, for good and ill. So what can you do to make my day easier–uh, be the best possible friend on the eve of publication? A quick rundown.

First and foremost, for this one moment as your friend’s book wings its way into the world, repeat: this is not about me.

If the person is truly your friend and you value them, it is worth it to find some way to celebrate with them no matter what your emotions about the release. If you’re a writer at any stage of the journey, and your friend’s book is coming out, it’s natural you would have an emotional response to watching that process, but look for ways to turn those feelings into inspiration rather than competition. And if your book already came out, or has yet to come out and you’re anxious, don’t torture yourself with comparisons of buzz or Amazon rankings or whatever. Your book is yours and your friend’s book is not.

That said, offer the kind of help that seems natural to you. Faking it so hard you crack only adds a ton of pressure to what is already a weird and intense time. Maybe it’s as small as a retweet or as big as hosting a party. Spreading the word on FB, baking cupcakes, reading reviews for your friend and only reporting back about the good ones. Maybe it’s a sweet, thoughtful card. Whatever it is, do what you can honestly do with love for your friend.

It probably sounds obvious, but any heart-of-darkness shenanigans you feel a need to indulge in (reading and relishing the bad reviews, asking around to find any tidbit of weakness) should really not be passive-aggressively revealed to the author, tweeted, posted to an “anonymous” Tumblr, or even made fodder for epic gChat marathons with your other friends. One mercury-in-retrograde slip of the “forward” key and you’ve nuked your friendship over something really petty. If you can’t be even a little genuinely happy for someone, are you really friends?

Consider saving your “Why The Book Is Obsolete And Irrelevant” or “Why Only Shmucks and Sell-Outs Get Book Deals” or “Hey I Am A Huge Fan of Piracy” oration for a point other than your friend’s release party.

Don’t helpfully tell the author all about the scathing, three-page-long screed some pseudonymous person posted on Goodreads and how it has forty-seven comments and then say “But don’t worry, I read it so you don’t have to.” Cats and release-week authors have similar levels of curiosity and comparably pleasant outcomes.

Take your friend out and talk about something, anything, that has nothing to do with B&N placement, Kirkus, Twitter, or books. Watch stuff explode at the movies. Eat Indian food so scorching your friend literally cannot talk about who (other than them) got a starred review in PW. Remind your friend by your presence that s/he has value and worth beyond anything Bookscan can track.

And then, when it’s your release day? Your friend will have a shining example of how to make your pub day just as wonderful.

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7 Responses to “So it’s release day! But not for you.”

  1. Wonderful advice! Celebrate other’s success, and be humble in your own.

  2. Great advice (of course).

  3. Lovely post.

  4. “If you can’t be even a little genuinely happy for someone, are you really friends?” Well put. You remind me of the Gore Vidal quote, “Every time a friend succeeds, I die a little,” which always made me feel sorry for Vidal because surely he had a lot of successful friends!

  5. Great post! And I so agree! I have so many wonderful successful friends, and it is only natural to be jealous every once in a while. But even when the jealousy bug is biting hard, I remember how supportive these pals have been from the very day I told them, “hey, I write, too!” Writing can be such a solitary career, and there is no bridge worth burning in this industry.

  6. Haha, this almost sounds as if you’ve known one or two competitive writers! Or was that redundant, and I should just leave it as one or two writers? ;) Thanks for the post–very insightful!

  7. 7 Jennifer Perry

    Such wonderful advice, and in every aspect! I’m a book publicist and was offended for my client when, in the middle of an event more succesful than even we anticipated, his friend (?) decided she had to call him aside and involve him in a nasty marital fight. I told him it’s a small, jealous person who has to highjack the special moment that he has earned.


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