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What to Do When Your Friend Writes a Book

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Writing a book is hard, and often thankless. It takes years of effort. You have to fight throughout against pessimism - not just the doubts of other people, but your own as well. You probably won't make any money. And when your book actually reaches the marketplace, you can bet that some people will say mean things.

I know these things because I have written books, two of them, The Creative Lawyer and a co-authored novel called, The Student Body. I have been extremely fortunate in that both of them have been published. That result was a combination of skill, luck and effort.

While publishing two books makes me kind of glamorous, at least in my own mind, I can tell you that book writers are very sensitive people. We want the world to welcome our creations. We want our friends to value how hard we've worked. We know that fame is unlikely and if it comes, will be fleeting. We write books because we want to say something. Maybe we have a special idea, or maybe we just want to leave some mark.

Do you think your birthdays are important? Well, to a writer, writing a book is like ten birthdays, maybe twenty.

Have you lost weight recently? What would you like your friends and family to say? Maybe something on the order of, "Wow, you look amazing! I'm so happy for you. How did you do it?" Same with writing a book.

Do you love your baby? What do you want your friends and relatives to say when you show them pictures of your kid? I believe you might like them to say something like, "wow, you have the most amazingly gorgeous baby ever." Am I right? Same with authorship.

When things touch our soul, they are beyond logic and practicality. If you have a friend, relative, or distant acquaintance who writes a book, I can guarantee what they want: for you to share their joy. That's it. End of story. Share. The. Joy.

Here are some things that you might say when your friend writes a book (all true-life examples):

"Congratulations! That is so awesome!"

"Wow, I am proud even to know someone who has written a book."

"I just ordered my copy and can't wait to read it."

"I really liked what you said about [insert anything here]. It really struck home for me."

"You know, my uncle/cousin/neighbor needs to read this, and I am going to buy a copy right now."

And here are some things you should not say (all are true-life examples):

"I remember you were talking about that" (said with vague, expressionless tone)

"Why did you write a book about _______? Why not something for a broader audience?"

"Do I get a free, autographed copy?"

"Are you on the New York Times bestsellers list yet?"

"You should try to be an Oprah pick!"

"Oh, right. I meant to get that. Do you have a copy on you that I can buy from you?"

When I published my book, The Creative Lawyer, I got both kinds of responses. Same for The Student Body, a novel (about a prostitution ring at Harvard) that I co-authored with three people about ten years before.

A good number of my closest friends did not really do the supportive thing. I will mention no names. But other people went beyond the call of duty, and I remember them all. My younger sister, Jocelyn, immediately ordered two copies from the ABA, which was a considerably more expensive way to get it than Amazon, all the more compelling because she was borderline unemployed at the time and supporting a family of five. My friend Melinda bought five copies. My friend Karl bought a copy, did all the exercises in the book, then bought more. In fact, his B&N review said, "Back to buy more!" which is about the best title for an online review you could ever hope to have.

The Creative Lawyer may not be everyone's cup of tea, but for me it is as significant as twenty birthdays. It has been my spiritual child. Publishing it meant more to me than being on the cover of Men's Health's "Ripped in Their 40's" special issue. I want people important to me to share in that. I created my blog basically so that my book would not be out there alone in the world. I needed a way to welcome people in - which is basically like building a cool treehouse so that neighborhood kids will come over to play with your child.

If you happen to read any other of my blog posts, you will know that I am friends with, and a fan of, Gretchen Rubin, whose long-awaited book, The Happiness Project, just came out on December 29.

I pre-ordered my copy months ago. I wrote a review on Amazon. And then I bought some other copies: for my sister, Jocelyn; for my cousin Lola in Phoenix; and for my cousin Ermila in Yuma. I would have bought more, except that Amazon set some kind of limit, maybe to prevent rank-inflation shenanigans. Gretchen never asked me to do any of these things and, until now, I haven't told her.

The Happiness Project is a great book (and the blog is equally great), so I probably would have done these things even if I didn't know Gretchen. I like to read good books, and I often recommend my favorite books to my friends, and sometimes buy them copies.

But you know what? Gretchen is also my friend. Friends support each other, especially at critical moments. And this is one of those moments.