Working at a small publisher means wearing many hats. When asked by others what I do for a living I usually say, “I’m a graphic designer”. If I’m asked for a job description when filling out forms I usually put “catalog manager.” The reality is that I design book and DVD covers, lay out our catalogs, help edit this blog, assist with writing promotional copy, admin our Facebook page, design ads, and assist with customer service.
Modern authors are often put into this position. (See James Casper’s post on this subject here, and Dorothy Cummings McLean here.) They can’t merely write a book, send it to the publisher, and then sit back and reap the rewards. Even high-profile authors these days are involved in multifaceted promotional efforts. Top flight authors, of course, get the backing of huge promotional campaigns. But they are the exception, not the rule.
So we know where the authors are stuck. But what about readers?
According to the Pew Research Center, the majority of readers decide what to read next based on word of mouth, not advertising:
But when it comes to books, at least, the majority of Americans turn to their friends and family to decide what they’ll read next. According to last year’s e-borrowing report, the majority (64%) of Americans ages 16 and older said they get book recommendations from family members, friends, or co-workers. Another 28% get them from online bookstores or other websites, 23% hear about books from bookstore staff, and 19% get recommendations from librarians or library websites.
I know I have a number of scribbled notes around my house from the many times I’ve jotted down information when friends of mine have mentioned authors or books that I might like. When I end up reading a book I really love, it more often than not often ends up being loaned out. There have been a few occasions where I’ve bought multiple copies of a book so I can loan it out to more friends.
This is also how I’ve discovered a number of books: being recommended them by others. On my own, I doubt I would have discovered some of my favorite authors. And then there was the occasion when a stranger approached me at a bus stop and aggressively (almost threateningly) insisted that I “needed” to read A Confederacy of Dunces. I promptly took the bus to the used book store and picked up a copy of what is now a favorite read.
And that’s how to promote literature: share your passion for a book. It’s easier to do it now than it has been before. For example, provide a review on Amazon or Goodreads (authors will thank you!), post favorite passages on Facebook (I do this a lot), write a blog post about an author or book. And there are the traditional ways: request that your local library obtains a copy of a favorite book, tell friends about it, host a book club or reading group, plug it at work or among family and friends.
So the next time you read a good book, don’t just tuck it back on the shelf when you are through. Share about it. Your friends will thank you!