Other Ships, Rising Tides, and Josephine

Almost everyone has heard the expression, “a rising tide floats all ships” – and assuming your ship isn’t full of holes, it’s true.

The expression applies with equal force to publishing, and has special meaning where authors are concerned.

Because authors have the power to raise the tide.

Not just bestselling authors, either. Every single one of us – and in the weeks to come I’m going to write on this topic more than a little. (If you’re not an author, don’t worry – a lot of my advice will apply to other life situations too.)

Many times, when an author hears someone ask a question like, “Can you recommend a novel?” or “What should I give my nephew for his birthday?” the Pavlovian-Promotion mechanism kicks in, and the author promotes …. his or her own books.

This. Is. A. Mistake.

Self-promotion isn’t wrong. It isn’t evil, either. Authors need to promote their books to have a chance of creating a successful career. 

It’s also not wrong to recommend books when someone asks for a recommendation, whether they need a book in particular or asked a generic question about a gift.

The mistake kicks in when the book you recommend is your own.

Always recommend a book. But always recommend a book that someone else has written. NOT YOUR OWN.

Some of you are nodding, but others just asked themselves, “If I do that, how will MY book ever get chosen?”

Recommending another author’s book will sell yours, too.

Here’s how.

When you recommend someone else’s book, you’re sending three important messages into the world:

1. I read, too, and this is the kind of book I like. (Because, presumably, you won’t be recommending a book you hated.)

2. I am a supportive of authors, and publishing, and I care about other people as well as myself. (If you can’t figure out why this is true, the rest of the lesson is probably beyond you.)

3. Buying books is a good thing, and people should do it, regardless of whose book they buy.

How do these messages sell your book?

When an author recommends a book, and I read that book and like it, I realize that I might also like to read books by the recommending author. Why? Because if an author likes a book, and I like it too, that means we share the same taste in books. Authors often write the kind of books they like to read … so it stands to reason that if I share an author’s taste in other books, I’m going to like that author’s books as well.

An author who supports others, instead of focusing solely on self-promotion, is showing a generous spirit. I like generous people, and want to help them. (Most of us do.) If an author is kind, and generous, I’m much more likely to buy that author’s book.

In life, people are drawn to those who exhibit generosity, kindness, and goodwill. Good deeds you do come back to you–not always one-for-one, but they always do. 

There’s a lot of talk on the Internet, at conferences, and on social media about “author marketing” and the best way to sell your books. Today, I’m offering a different riff on that theme.

The rising tide will float all ships, and more people reading is good for every author. The best way to raise that tide, however, is not a constant flow of ME ME ME. It involves pushing some of that water in the direction of another author’s ship. The ripples will flow back to you, and also outward, across the publishing ocean as a whole.

Raise the tide. Float the Ships. Do someone else a favor, expecting nothing in return.

Watch what happens. In time, that tide will raise you too.

In the interest of putting my money where my mouth is: I’m having a Facebook-based contest to give away TWO copies of my friend Heather Webb’s debut historical novel, BECOMING JOSEPHINE, about Napoleon’s wife, Empress Josephine of France. To enter, click THIS LINK and either “Like,” comment on, or share the Facebook post on or before midnight Pacific Time tonight (January 26). I’ll be drawing two winners at random and mailing them each a paperback copy of the book!

Josephine Cover 2

Also: I’d like YOU to share the love too. Leave a comment and let me know a book (by someone else) that YOU recommend!