I fell in love with J.H. Moncrieff this week. No, I actually don’t know much about J.H., except that she appears to write scary good stories and that she wrote a cri de coeur for friends to pay some danged attention to those stories she’s writing.
In part, her terrific post reads:
If you write eight or more books per year, or you’re a writer with dozens of close writer friends, or you’ve achieved Stephen King levels, then it might not be possible for your friends to support everything you do–or for you to buy the books of every writer you know. But the ones who you consider good friends, who you regularly chat with online or who you’ve actually spent time with in person? Of course you should buy their books if it’s at all in your power to do so. And if not, ask if you can get a mobi or PDF in exchange for a review.
And it surfaced a mild resentment I confess I’d been carrying, in part because it provided such a simple solution.
We all have causes and hobbies that are near and dear to our hearts. Some of us even fantasize that those causes and hobbies might even become remunerative, because they are also living alongside our dreams. In the case of writers, we’re definitely hoping that the thing we most want to do in our lives turns into something we can do every day of our lives, sans at least some of the other stuff we have to do to pay the bills.
And we hope our friends will carry us a little on this journey.
If a friend makes jewelry, it’s easy to click through to their Etsy page and buy some. If someone wants to raise money for a marathon, it’s easy to toss them ten bucks for the cause. And those creators and doers have little or no problem with saying to everybody they know on social media or in person, “Look at my thing! Help me with my thing!”
Think of writing like that. Novels and stories that took hours and years to write and make as perfect as possible can go for mere dollars, and are sometimes even free, on Amazon. Reviews cost someone nothing other than a bit of time — to read (or scan) and then post something nice. Reviews are so lovely to have. I want to hug everybody who ever bought my work and I want to make cookies for everybody who ever reviews it. It is a wonderful validation.
And it is something friends should maybe think about doing a little more. Yes, you out there may be my friends and relatives, and yes, I am being a little judgy on your ass. You don’t have to love my work. You don’t have to nominate me for the National Book Award. But … come on, those of you who show no interest. Who don’t ask about plot, or character, or inspiration. Who don’t ask to see or be included.
But maybe you’re like me: Maybe this didn’t occur to you now. (In which case, please review my books!)
So anyway: I finally realized a day or two after re-posting that blog on my Facebook page that I should put my money where my mouth is. So can all of us, really. Find five friends — or ten, or pick a number — and ask them where to get their work. Buy it (unless they’re truly successful authors, it’s gonna be inexpensive). If you can’t fork over money, ask for a PDF. And then … review that thing. Put together 100 words about it that will inform a future buyer and post that review. You can put it on Amazon, Goodreads … wherever. Possibilities abound. What a lovely holiday gift: You get a book or story, they get a review.
I put out the call on Facebook and quickly got more than I could handle. This is not about me breaking my arm to pat myself on my back: This is about money and time and mouths. I’m taking on 10 works my friends slaved over and I’m going to read (or scan) them and I’m going to post some goddamned reviews. Because it feels good to give, and it feels good to receive.
One friend did note, “While I don’t like the idea of a pity buy, it doesn’t feel good when even those close to you aren’t interested in what you write.”
Except I don’t see this as a pity buy. It’s a help. It’s like buying me a hot tea if I’m cold from the storm. And truly, we’re all a little chilly out here — at least until the doors open wide and let us in.
Isn’t that the kind of thing we do for our friends, anyway? Make them feel good? Valued? Helped?
Find your friends and ask today. They deserve it. Meanwhile, I’ve got some reading to do.