Help Your Friends to Help Your Book Go Viral

If you haven’t impregnated a Kardashian, toppled Wall Street, or starred in your own syndicated un-reality show, you may not have an instant platform for promoting your newly minted book. Let’s face it, for most first-time authors—and even for many of the multiply published among us—the first recipients of our new books are our closest friends and family members. With any luck, these people tell people and friends of friends enter the small circle of people who know about our books. With more luck, they tell more people.

Of course, we all hope that our books will go viral from there. While nobody knows the exact formula for creating such contagion, and much is made of platform-building and using social networks, it seems to me that the very best way to start a bug going around—much like actual viruses, rather than the metaphorical types—is to begin with those closest to you; asking those nearest you to help you and giving them some specific steps for how to do so. This much I’ve learned: The people who love us, or readers who love our books are often willing to help us. But, those not in the book biz (and even some who are) have no idea how to help your book’s success beyond buying one. They need specific instructions about what is actually helpful and they generally welcome your guidance. Key learning here: People need help to know how to help your book gain commercial success. They really don't know. So, help them to help you. 

My book Fire & Water launched with She Writes Press on March 1st, 2013. Now, I’m as hesitant as anyone to ask people for favors. I get shy and embarrassed, but I’m finding—much to my delight—that people are thrilled to help when you’ve created a book that they enjoy. When you’ve written a book and shared it, you’ve entertained, educated, inspired or amused people for a very small price on their part. What else gives you ten to fifteen hours of entertainment for under twenty bucks, I ask you? And how many times have you spread the word about a book you love just because you love the book? Happens all the time, right?

So as an author, why not ask for help? Sure, some people won’t get around to actually executing the helpful tasks you suggest despite their best intentions. That’s okay. Breathe and let it go. It’s a numbers game. And of course some are helping because they’re friends who love you; that’s how it starts. But now, for me, a couple of months in, perfect strangers and online acquaintances are now helping. Is this the beginning of a virus? I’m starting to feel a sniffle coming on.

The text below, titled How to Help Your Indie Author Friends, is the exact content that I put onto what I call my “blue sheet.”  It’s only blue because I print it on bright blue paper. (Brag alert: I chose blue to coordinate with my exquisite book cover (left) and because it stands out more than white. Check out my cover on the She Writes Press site, whydontcha?) When I’m hand-selling, I fold one of these into the cover of each book and briefly explain to my buyer what it is and how they can use this to help any author whose book they appreciate, including me. When I send a giveaway or promo copy, or even a thank-you note, I insert a blue sheet as well. I offer an e-version of this flyer to every writer or indie artist of any kind whom I meet in exchange for their email address and the okay to send them the occasional literary update about my book or events. I’ve gathered more than 100 contacts this way in just a month or two. 

Feel free to cut and past this content to create your own blue sheet (or whatever color paper looks good with your exquisite book cover) and personalize it with your contact information. Honestly, people have no idea how easy it is to help you and that “likes” and reviews are a really big deal. I tell them that they're helping me to buy free billboard space with every review. Let them know. And the tips I include below are simple, free, and don't take too much time. 

Bonus tip #1:  Many of the suggestions on my blue sheet are useful pre-publication and for supporting indie artists, musicians, etc. as well. You can solicit help from friends and social network associates to build your platform even before your book is published. A musician friend of mine adapted this and now hands it out at his gigs. Who knew?

Bonus tip #2: You can support your own indie author buddies and She Writes sisters by following these steps yourself.

And hey…if you appreciate the information I’m providing, follow a few of these instructions to support Fire & Water, wouldya? (I can't very well claim to be a platform builder without asking, can I?) I know I sound a little like Sally Field in her infamous Oscar acceptance speech here, but “like” me, “friend” me, or “follow” me. Hint: My contact information is at the bottom right where yours should go on your own flyer. 

There now--go start viruses, epidemics, even!  

How to Support your Favorite Indie Authors

A few hints from Betsy Graziani Fasbinder


Promoting a book is almost as hard as writing one. Publishers only promote their high-profile authors.  Lesser known authors shoulder the expense themselves. You can help the cause of good books and authors you love, with little or no money and very little time. If you genuinely enjoy a book and want to support the author, here’s how: 


  • Friend and befriend: Check out and “like” fan pages on Facebook, author profiles on Goodreads, and Amazon and other online booksellers, as well as LinkedIn.  The small task of “friending”, “liking”, “endorsing”, or “following” seems trivial, but it helps indie authors and their books become visible.


  • It takes a village to promote a book: A book becomes a commercial success when people tell others about it.  If you enjoy a book, tell friends.  Use your own social media outlets to mention and link to the book or the author. Ask your local bookstores and libraries if they’d consider stocking the book because you know others will enjoy it.  Invite your book club to read an indie.  (Lots of authors will visit book clubs to chat about their book either live or via Skype).  Giving indie books as gifts is another way to share the love.


  • Help make connections: Authors will often have giveaway download periods or big discount days on Amazon and other sites.  This is essentially free advertising.  If you hear about these, tell friends and they can get a free or very discounted book.  If you want to go the extra mile, download the freebie yourself (even if you have the book). If you are in the market for another book of a similar genre purchase that one at the same time.  This couples the indie book with the established book. The two books become linked and automatically promoted by the engines that do such things on that site. Magic!


  • Offer endorsements or reviews:  Write an honest, positive review on Amazon, Goodreads, or other online retailers. This is how a book grows legs. A positive review or endorsement is more valuable to the author than a single sale because it makes the book visible. Even a sentence or two is a giant help.  Tip: Don’t refer to the author by her first name in the review. Sounds like you’re her mom or dad!


  • Subscribe to and interact with writers’ blogs and tweets: Blogs and tweets are another free (other than the labor) way for authors to gain visibility.  Good blogs don’t just hawk books. They provide information, inspiration, or entertainment for the reader with occasional information about a book launch or event. (Bad blogs are just ads.) Follow, like, friend, endorse…you’re getting the theme here.


  • Show up and bring friends: Attend book events for authors.  Bring friends.  The support means a lot. Readings and book events almost always free. They benefit the author, the bookstore or coffee house that’s hosting, and can actually be a fun way to spend an hour or so.


My debut novel, Fire & Water launched 3-1-13.  If you enjoy the book and want to support my publication efforts my social network contacts are as follows:

Website:   Twitter: @WriterBGF

Find me using my full name Betsy Graziani Fasbinder on Facebook, Goodreads, and LinkedIn.

Thank you for your support of independent writers and other artists.


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  • Joanne C. Hillhouse

    Great tips; sharing.

  • Helen O\'Reilly

    Thanks; great stuff! Good luck.

  • Julia Fierro

    Great advice, Betsy. Thank you so much for sharing. I'll definitely be revisiting these tips as I creep closer to the pub date of my novel (next spring).

    Congrats on your book. I look forward to reading it!



  • Glad you're finding the info useful, Avra and Diane!  I think we could get quite an epidemic goin (virus-wise, that is) for all of our She Writes Sisters.  Cool!

  • Avra Wing

    Betsy, I have already used some of your tips, so thanks again. I just self-published my YA novel, After Isaac, the story of a 16-year-old boy mourning the death of his younger brother, and sent the word out to friends. Now to widen that circle . . .

  • Oh, this is wonderful! As the author of two 'trad' novels and several ebooks, I will definitely be using this information.  I have discovered that, even with a traditional publisher involved, much of the promotion falls on the author. Sigh. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

    Diane Stringam Tolley

    Author Page

  • I'm happy to have any of my She Writes sisters and others who read this blog to use the contents of my blue sheet on their blogs or other posts.  If you credit me, that's just a bonus.  If you include a link to my website or Amazon page, double bonus.  But no obligations, of course.  

  • Mariana Dietl

    Love this post. Thanks so much, Betsy!! And congratulations on your book! 

  • suzi banks baum

    Dear Betsy, This post is perfectly timed for me. I had just stopped in to She Writes to post links to a review of my book which launched the same day as yours! Congratulations. I will print my own 'blue sheet', I love this idea and will just keep the ball rolling. And I will go order your book now.Here is a link to the review I was about to post. I am so excited to hear how the book is landing for readers. xoxo Suzi

  • Thanks, Betsy. This is so helpful. I'm going to use your blue sheet and of course acknowledge you as the creator. As a matter of fact I'd like to post it on my blog if that's okay. All best, Madeline

  • Mary E. Merrell

    Great post. I have a hard time getting my friends who like my books to do reviews. I'm trying to make it easier for them by sending them links. Thanks for the post. Mary E. Merrell @MaryMerrell7

  • You're completely welcome to share it, Shah.  The plug back to my website or book on Amazon would be appreciated.  

    I've heard that some Amazon reviews have been declined.  I am not fully knowledgable about the exact workings of this, but I know that there was some nasty author fraud going on, where people were opening false accounts and touting their own books and dissing others.  Jeesh, who has the time!  Perhaps you have a little baby and bathwater here where they're over-screening.  Integrity is important to me (as I'm sure it is to you) so I ask people for their honest reviews.  Of course at my readings I make a bit of a joke/education moment of this and coach people to sing their praises loudly and whisper their criticisms for indie artists.  I do think coaching people on how to write a review (i.e. using your last name, not your first, etc.) helps a bit.  Plus, if someone shares my last name, I ask him to use Facebook and Twitter rather than Amazon, just to eliminate the appearance of nepotism.  

  • Shah Wharton

    Also, four of my friends and two family members were not allowed to leave a review on Amazon and don't want to make accounts everywhere else just to do so (most people (especially where I originate) don't generally leave reviews anywhere. Plus, it would look stupid getting anon/new user reviews because they always scream, 'Fake' and who needs that)?!

  • Shah Wharton

    Can I PLEASE reblog this at my website? It will get shared a LOT and be attributed to you (of course!)  It's just so flaming-well shareable! :D 

  • So glad you all found this helpful.  Great idea about the Amazon review "how to" Celine.  After one of my writing colleagues did a review and referred to me as "betsy" through the whole thing, I added the piece about referring to me as "Fasbinder" or "the author" so as not to tip her hand about our familiarity.  Using first names in a review tends to minimize its value because it looks as though your mom wrote it. hehehe.  

  • Rebecca Elswick

    YAY! Love, love, love this! A million thank yous and best of luck to you!

  • D,G. Kaye

    Great Article Betsy!!!  Good luck with your book and congrats, happy to follow!

  • Avra Wing

    Thank you for this good advice. And all good luck with your book!!


  • Gigi Murfitt

    Thanks for the blue sheet. I am headed to the NW Christian Writer's Association Renewal Conference this weekend. I will insert it into the books I am promoting. Thanks.

  • Celine Keating

    Thanks for your Blue Sheet and congratulations on your book launch!  I did something similar when my debut novel came out. One thing I learned is that many people don't know HOW to post a review on Amazon - I ended up doing a set of instructions that I also included.


  • Reese Ryan

    This is awesome, Betsy! Thank you so much for sharing!

  • what a terrific idea- thank you so much!

  • Alonna Shaw Writing

    Betsy, thanks for another helpful post! Tweeted.