by Erin Mitchell
I’ve been using the term “Book Advocate” for a few years now. It started because there were cases where “book blogger” or “reader” or even “loudmouth” didn’t quite describe the group I was referring to, even though Book Advocates can be some, all, or none of these.
I’m pleased to see the term popping up more frequently, because I think it respects and acknowledges the value that Book Advocates bring to the proverbial party. (And yes, I’m taking full credit for it!) This morning, I saw that NetGalley is using it prominently on their site, and I realized that they’re defining it (much) differently than I do, so I thought it might be helpful to explain the term as I use it, why Book Advocates are important, and how you can find them.
Before I start, I should mention: There are, of course, exceptions to each of these "rules," which aren't really rules at all.
Some Book Advocates write reviews, online or elsewhere. But not all do. Their influence might come in the form of direct recommendations to friends, family, colleagues, frenemies, strangers, or book club members. They are people who talk about your book, but not (just) through reviews.
A lot of Book Advocates get ARCs and/or galleys for free. Sometimes they request them. But they also buy books, for themselves and others, and check them out from the library.
Your Number One Fan
Book Advocates are different from your Annies (see: Misery). They’re not the folks who send you five emails every week, comment on every single Facebook post, reply to each of your Tweets, and know your home address. (These people can be valuable too, of course…or scary, but that’s a subject for a different post.) Book Advocates are the ones who know—and talk about—your stories because they love them, and want other readers to experience them. They appreciate your storytelling. That simple.
Book Advocates are the people who clear their calendars to read your new release, and also make a point of reading your backlist.
Book Advocates participate in their reading community, online and in person. They chime in on discussions. They go to events. They have friends who read and ones who don’t. They are the people who, when you meet them, will gush and go all fangirlorboy, and then will have a substantive conversation with you.
Some Book Advocates work in the publishing industry, but many do not. And here’s a real shocker: Not everyone who works in or near publishing is a Book Advocate. Not every author. Not every publicist. Not every editor. Ok, you get the idea. Some people work in publishing because it seemed like a good idea when they started. To some, it’s just a job, and often one they’re good at, but they’re not Book Advocates.
Most authors and books only have a handful of Book Advocates, like maybe five. You’re really lucky if you have ten of these folks. They’re not a quantity proposition.
So, why do Book Advocates matter? Simple. Few books get the marketing oomph from publishers to be breakout hits. Book Advocates won’t make or break your book, but they are the people who support your storytelling career. And sometimes they are the architects of a book’s success.
Ultimately, Book Advocates are people who love your books, and share their adoration in meaningful ways with other people.
How do you find your Book Advocates? Short answer is, “pay attention.” And whatever you do, pleasepleaseplease don’t pay attention to these folks only to ignore them as soon as you find a modicum of success. (Yes, I’m bitter because yes, this has happened to me.)
To find your Book Advocates, look for people who…
- Request a galley
- Converse about your book on Facebook and Twitter (and their blog, if they have one)
- Ask you questions about your characters that you find interesting
- Are mentioned when you ask readers where they heard about your book
- Thank you
You’ll know them when you find them. And when you do, treasure them.