• Tayari Jones
  • You Can't Do It Alone: Asking for and Receiving Help
This blog was featured on 07/21/2016
You Can't Do It Alone: Asking for and Receiving Help
Written by
Tayari Jones
May 2011
Written by
Tayari Jones
May 2011


There is no way that you can successfully publish a novel without help.  Even if you publish with a traditional publisher and are assigned a publicist, she will have lots of books to work on and cannot make your book her reason for living. Further, if you self-publish or work with a very small press, you may feel like you are completely on your own. But the thing is, you’re not.  There’s help to he had all around you, but you probably have to ask for it.

Personally, I hate asking for help. Soliciting blurbs almost killed me! Unofortunately,blurbs are only the first favor that you’re going to have to ask for as you put your book out.

The first thing is to look to your friends and family for help.  I would recommend this even if you didn’t need it.  You and I know that publishing a book doesn’t make you famous, but to your loved ones, you may seem like a minor celebrity.  They don't understand that launching a book is really stressful and you may feel vulnerable and scrutinized—even if it is only by the people on goodreads and amazon. Bringing your friends and familly into the picture will provide support from an emotional standpoint, and can also help ease your workload.  And equally important is that your loved ones will be glad to be part of your team, and not just waving pom poms in your cheering squad.

Even if your family doesn’t have marketing expertise, they can help raise your profile.  My bestie just posted a 5-star review on line.  My mom sent a triumphant publication announcement to her 500 person email list. My aunt chats up the people at her job. (“It’s SILVER SPARROW.  It was in the Oprah magazine. Look for it!”) Word of mouth has to start somewhere, and my relatives have a lot of mouth.  A fifty-dollar check from buddy? Take it. My dad wanted to rent a billboard, but I convinced him to put the money toward an independent publicist.  Whether it’s your friends acting as press agents, or providing much needed funds, get them in the act.  You need help, and they want to help you.

You may also have other people who will lend a hand, but they have no idea how to help. Reach out and ask for what you need. I have maintained a blog for about five years and I have a warm relationship with my blog community.  Last year, when I had to fill out my media questionnaire, I asked the blog community to let me know of any media contacts they have.  I was knocked out by the response. (Who knew such plugged-in people read my blog? And who knew they would be so generous?)  All I had to do was ask.

Now that SILVER SPARROW is ready to fly, I am asking my blog family for help again.  My book tour is extensive—thirty cities—and I need some assistance in bringing in audiences.  I made up pretty email-able invitations for each tour stop.  If people want to help out--I call this joining a “host committee”-- they can shoot me an email ([email protected]) or leave a comment with their email and I will send them the invitation for their city, so that they can send it to their friends. And if you want to jump in, here is my list of tour cities.

My life has been much easier since I started accepting help from others.  On my first book, I tried to do everything myself.  I got almost no sleep for eighteen months.  Further, all the working was pulling me away from my friends and I was constantly feeling lonely. My friends, feeling the distance thought that success had changed me.  It was such a painful period in my life. This time, I am making the book launch a family affair. By this I mean all kinds of family, blood kin and family of spirit. 

 I feel better already.


Now, over to  you SheWriters,

  • How have your family and friends helped you with your work?
  • How do you handle it when you reach out and get turned down?
  • What’s the coolest thing anyone has ever done to help you promote your book?
  • Has your writing career created distance between you and loved ones? How did you mend the rift?

Let's be friends

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  • Best of luck on your book tour and congrats on the O Magazine mention. Looks like you are ready to soar. Enjoy the ride. 



  • KyAnn Zorain

    I think family and friends are the best first supporters anyone, regardless what you do with your life, can have. Unfortunately if you are someone like me who is alone with everything I venture out to do, I am blessed to know such web sites communities such as SheWrites is there for me to speak out and be heard without out the negative, "Oh your writing is stupid, it'll never make it." We all are truly bless with having dedicated online communities for the writer, who knows what shoes you ware, meaning they've  been there and done that with every agent, publisher and sarcastic random reader, they are the writer who knows where you're at in your stage of your project. It's hard enough to be turned down to pick up and move on to another who will appreciate your work more to give you that change you and your written work deserves, without having the people around you drag you down to quite, fail. I was never close to anyone in my family, so drifting away from them was not an issue. I had already done that when I was a teenager, but they never believed in me anyway, so why feel bad about going about living my life the best I can. No one needs that kind of negative in their lives, so I bridge it through my writing. 


    The coolest thing I can remember anyone doing was an interview and blog post to help promote my book. It got me a few readers but not many, yet I was satisfied with it.  



  • RYCJ Revising

    Yes, I certainly agree with not expecting others to make my work their sole reason for living, and appreciate the support I've received. In fact, my family has been so great it's the main reason I don't ask for help. With all they've done, I wouldn't dare...

  • Cody Young

    Great post. Very helpful. I'm teaming up with another writer to share the cost of promotional freebies for a writer's conference. Hopefully it will help.


    American Smile weaves together a D-Day love story and a contemporary tale.

    When Emma Rowland discovers that her family tree is a work of fiction, she is determined to uncover the truth, though it has been hidden for sixty-five years and few people are willing to talk.

              The irresistible Tyler Robinson, an American aircraft mechanic, promises to help solve the wartime puzzle. It soon becomes clear that Tyler knows more about the mystery than he is willing to say, and that he has secrets of his own.

    they follow the trail blazed by a reckless GI and his ‘blonde bombshell’ girl -
    a couple who fell in love in the months before the Normandy landings of 1944. A
    DNA test holds some surprises and the search takes Tyler and Emma to Paris,
    where their questions are finally answered, but what does the future hold for
    them both?

  • Dear Tayari,

    I'd have to say I agree with Tania of the wonderful last name about the waiting creating addictive behaviors. I haven't had a book release, but I have waited for responses from contests I so wanted to win, or when an agent was reading my manuscript. All the things you had control over are gone and now all you can do is try to Be Here Now, with people you care about, even though your pulse is still drumming out the seconds until maybe today, maybe tomorrow, oh, it has to happen because you want it so much, and when will you hear?


    I am fortunate to have small children who by their very nature require you to Be Here Now. Squirmy warm bodies snuggling up to you, pee that has to be changed and poop that has to be wiped. Exercise can help to put us back in touch with the natural world around us, which also has a way of being here now, whether it's sunshine or tornadoes. Here. Now.


    When it comes time for my own novel to be released (and oh, I hope I finish this thing soon) I will also be fortunate, I think, in having found this online community. After all, even if we lived in New York, there are only so many other authors we can get to know, but on line here. . .What riches. I'm glad to be on board.

    Sara Selznick http://threekindsofpie.blogspot.com

  • Melissa Chadburn

    This is great! I hate what's happening to the publishing industry but when one door closes another window opens. It appears that the window that is opening here is community.  Goodreads has been hosting "ask the author" sessions.  Stephen Elliott did a book tour at people's homes. I mean with skype and stuff bookclubs can host discussion all across the globe. I noticed you will not be coming to my city.. (Los Angeles) but if you were into it maybe there could be an e-bookclub that can host you.

  • Sarcasm Goddess

    You are so right, I hate asking for help...but I can't do it alone.  I haven't yet gotten to the publishing stage - I feel like I've been working on my book forever - but I need help just attracting people to my blog!  I started it a little over a year ago to establish a platform, a community, thousands of people who will love my writing and follow me, so when the time came I could go to a publisher and say, "look at all these people who love me, it will be so easy to sell thousands upon thousands of my book."  Okay, so maybe I'm a little delusional!


    I have 31 "followers" but I know there are a lot more people actually reading...I know so because they tell me in person or leave comments on facebook.  I feel like directly asking them to be a follower is like say, "i'm so amazing, join my fan club!"  My husband is amazing though.  He tells everyone. I think he's been responsible for getting more readers than I have!

  • Carol Clouse

    Thank you Tayari!   I just launched my memoir book project on kickstarter and my friends and relatives have risen high and mighty to the occasion!  They have not only backed me, but sent incredible lauding forwards to all of their friends.  Reading your above blog helped ease the hovering guilt; that uneasiness of accepting help!  Their enthusiasm for my success is - - - HUGE.

  • Faith M. Boughan

    My husband has been so supportive... he recognizes the work and time that goes into getting a book ready and is very patient with me, even though I'm not pulling in a full-time wage because I'm focusing on fiction writing. The man is made of patience, it's quite remarkable. I hope to have a cool promotion story sometime in the future. ;)

  • I was just interviewed and asked my friends and family to post the interview on FB and retwitter it. Two nieces did, but many people I asked don't do twitter or FB. This is actually a pre-sale interview. The book is now in my agent's hands and there's no time that too soon to begin to try to start a buzz. (apparently.) I wondered if my SheWrites colleagues could retweet this interview. And if you want to be interviewed by Tim O'Shea, tell him I recommended you. http://talkingwithtim.com/wordpress/2011/05/18/rochelle-jewel-shapiro-on-her-writing/ or to retweet http://http://twitter.com/#!/talkingwithtim/status/71077378268479488

  • Ananda Leeke

    Wonderful post. We all needed to be reminder of the power of asking for help. Best wishes on the book tour. Keep shining Tayari!

  • Great post. As a working mum, I'm not much good at asking for help or delegating. Good luck with the tour.

  • Lorena Bathey

    Great article and so vastly true. Word of mouth advertising is the best advertising you can get. Who knows you better than those you care about.  And yes, writing books includes marketing said books. Unless you're Stephen King and can live in Maine and shoot out best sellers every year or so...you have to sell you're book.

    And selling doesn't have to be hard sell "buy my book or else", you're not a used car salesman. I find just saying I'm an published author opens up the door to sell by telling them about my book. Even better, put a couple copies in your bag or in your car so you always have copies handy.

    My first book I sold everywhere because all I did was say I was an author and tell them about the book, they would say 'I'd love to read it', and I'd pull a copy out of my purse. Got a lot of sales and met some amazing people that still support me today.

    If you love what you do, then talk about it. People are magnets for those being happy!





  • Valerie Hegwood

    Great advice, and great timing and serendipity tonite for me. I was stuck in an issue on an ebook that is about to be launched and my neice's husband burned the midnite oil until 1 am to help me out.  I was so humbled and impressed by his willingness to help me. So glad you posted this: this post combined with what happened this evening has brought everything around full circle for me. I'm going to be asking more and stop trying to be such a one woman wonder show.

  • Tayari, in response to your question about distance, a friend and I were just talking the other day about how chronically waiting for an acceptance can create addictive behavior (future tripping, etc.)...so lately, in my own sphere of waiting (while writing, etc.) I am trying to remember to be present with my loved ones wether I've gotten a rejection that day or an acceptance. So far, though, the family has been fabulous about coming out in support (and this was for an anthology several years ago, Labor Pains and Birth Stories, for which I'd drawn the cover art, and had just one essay inside its covers beside those of other contributors). So I imagine the stakes are much higher when the entire book holds one's work. For now I'm enjoying eavesdropping here on your process.

    I'm glad to hear there's a very practical application for the blogging network--I started blogging several years ago and can see that it is indeed a way to find kindred writers; how heartening to hear you got help when you needed it. I'll be back for more of your countdown posts.


  • Ryder Islington

    I was floored when I told my brother that my book, Ultimate Justice, A Trey Fontaine Mystery, had been picked up by an editor. He immediately asked what he could do to help, and being a businessman, wanted to know what I was doing. He reminded me that first books can be best sellers, like the Harry Potter phenomenon. I told him I wasn't writing a book like Harry Potter, and he responded, "Well, any good book can have that kind of success. Just find the people who want YOUR kind of book."

    I rarely get turned down, but when I do, I just ask the next person. There are millions of people on the planet. Someone is bound to say yes.

    A writer friend who had read and critiqued my book a couple of years before it sold volunteered to do a review and a blurb. I thought that was so cool. I mean, she's a busy lady. She's pubbed and has deadlines. She has family. But she took time to do that for me. It was awesome.

    My loved ones give me great support. Sometimes I'm writing on my laptop, in bed, but all my honey cares about is that I'm there. He can reach out and touch me if he feels lonely, and I can take a moment to give him a kiss and let him know I appreciate his patience. Life's too short to be separated from the ones I love.

  • henya drescher

    ...And I feel better for you too...:) Good info, when I get to that stage (the published stage). Good luck. Will be looking for you.