I have a lot of friends who genuinely want to help me succeed as a writer, and that’s a good feeling. They say they love what I write, and, being a self-conscious writer with low self-esteem, I choose to believe them. Whenever I see these friends, they say how much they enjoyed “that ____ blog post” or how late they stayed up reading one of my books. Writers need readers, and I’m overjoyed to have a few of you around.

But I’ve also noticed that a lot of readers don’t have much (read: any) knowledge of what a writer needs in order to succeed these days. Most of them don’t know what I mean by the word “platform.” Few know much about “unique visitors” or “number of page views” or “Amazon ranking.”

The good news for you, the reader, is this: you don’t have to know anything about that stuff. But there are still free things you can do to help us along in this writing life.

That’s right. Free. As in, no money required.

(I hope it goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: these things should only be done if you genuinely enjoy the writing. If you don’t, for all of our sakes, don’t share it, Tweet it, or dishonestly review it. Ignore us long enough and eventually we’ll take the hint, go find jobs as professional plasma-donators or carpet-fiber-counters.)

But if you do like our writing, here you go:

20 FREE Ways To Help Your Writer-Friend Survive the Writing Life

Like her posts on Facebook. We’ll start simple. A lot of writers blog these days, and when they do, most of them share their blog posts on Facebook. There’s a little “Like” button all of you Facebookers are familiar with, so if you enjoyed the post, click “Like.” It’s a tiny gesture, but the fact that you liked the post will show up on some of your friends’ Facebook feeds, which might lead new readers to your writer-friend’s blog. This is one way writers get new readers, and it costs you nothing.

Have your book club read his book. If you already own a copy of the book, this is free for you! It also introduces more people to the book, and people in book clubs tend to talk a lot about the books they’re reading, so the word-of-mouth factor is huge. 

…and then invite your writer-friend to come and talk about it. Your writer-friend doesn’t get out much. She drinks too much coffee. She spends far too many evenings staring at words, long after everyone else is watching perfectly good television shows. She probably battles loneliness with the help of Baskin Robbins. Besides that, your writer-friend loves talking about her book. She probably spent at least a year thinking about it, writing it, revising it, editing it, and producing it. She is passionate about it, and she would love to dust off a nice outfit, take a shower, and pretend to be an extravert for one night.

If he blogs, write a comment. You know how when you tell a joke and no one laughs? That’s kind of how it feels to write a blog post and then have no one comment. Laugh at jokes. Comment on blogs. Any questions?

Share her blog posts on Facebook and Google+ (whatever that is). Sharing your friend’s blog on social media is similar to Liking it on Facebook, only a million times better. If Liking is the equivalent of giving your spouse a peck on the cheek, then sharing is…well, you know. Sharing is better.

High fives. Because who doesn’t feel better after a high five?

Retweet their posts on Twitter. If everyone who followed me on Twitter retweeted one of my Tweets, something like 4,207,451, 639 people would see it. That’s a lot of people. If for some reason you’re not on Twitter, or you don’t know what Twitter is, go back to sleep.

Pin their posts and images of their books to Pinterest. I have a Pinterest account but since setting it up I’ve never been there. I hear pinning things is helpful. Be helpful.

If your writer friends have a Facebook page, become a fan of it. In case you don’t know what a Facebook Fan page looks like, you can visit mine HERE. While you’re there, practice your like-clicking skills.

Go to their book signings. For the love of God, go to their book signings. Book signings are amazing, especially when loads of people show up and there’s a line waiting for you to sign their copy of your book and everyone else in the bookstore is looking over at your table, trying to figure out what kind of famous person you are. Many of the book-signings I have done have not turned out this way. There’s nothing worse than sitting at a table, alone, beside a pile of books and one of those laminated, blown-up photos of yourself. If your writer-friend has a book signing, please show up, and if you’re one of the few people there then pretend to be a stranger who is in love with their book.

Tell your friends about your writer-friend’s book. Brag about it. Talk about it. Weave it into conversation even when it doesn’t quite make sense. Because this costs you nothing except your reputation as someone who can carry on a sensible conversation.

Offer to babysit. Someone over at my Facebook Fan page (ahem) suggested this one. There are a lot of writing moms and dads out there, some stay-at-home types and some go-to-work types, and if you would watch their kids so that they could spend an hour writing in a coffee shop, they would love you forever.

Review their book on Amazon. This is a huge one. Very important. For every good review left on Amazon, it increases the chance that your writer-friend’s book will show up as a similar read when people are viewing other titles. So write a review. Preferably not a one-star review.

Invite them to come and speak at your church, library, or business. I can’t speak for your writer-friend, but I am happy to speak just about anywhere I’m asked to speak (within driving distance). Reminder: your writer-friend doesn’t get out much. They might be willing to speak free of charge, or for something just as enticing as money, like bacon, a batch of cookies, or a ticket to tour the inside of a candy factory.

Pray. Writers spend most of their time trying to turn ideas into words. They try to make the invisible visible. They attempt to create characters and settings – entire worlds – out of nothing. They write books that will change people’s minds, resurrect dead conversations, and in some cases offend a great number of people. Praying for them, no matter your religious affiliation, seems appropriate.

Relationship-Appropriate Back Rubs. I’ll let you be the judge. Personally, there aren’t too many people besides my wife who can give me a back rub without making me feel all…fidgety. But some writers love back rubs. You might want to ask first.

Get a bunch of people together to celebrate their book release at a coffee shop, library, or a bar. The arrival of a book is very much like the arrival of a baby, minus the diapers, the late-night feedings, the crying, the colic…okay, it’s not a lot like the arrival of a baby, but it still deserves a celebration. Send out a few invites. This can all be arranged for zero dollars.

Email blog posts to friends you think would enjoy them. I recently had a friend tell me she emailed my post to all of her brothers and sisters. This made me very happy. Do you want to make your writer-friends happy? Email their blog posts to your friends and family.

Face the book out at bookstores. I stole this one from Chuck Sambuchino, who has also compiled a great list about supporting your writer friends, but my list is slightly better (in my humble opinion) because most of his ideas cost money. Mine are all free. But this is a good one. Unless you are a bookseller – then it might be kind of annoying.

Ask them how their latest project is going. Did I mention we don’t get out much? Prepare yourself – we might launch into some extended summary of our latest sci-fi romance vampire novel, or go to great lengths to convince you that our most recent antagonist is NOT modeled after our father. But it means a lot, the asking.

Be sure to point out all the errors, missed commas, and misspellings in the book they recently released. Actually, don’t do this. It’s the moral equivalent of pointing out the flaws in someone’s newborn child. “Cute kid, but why is its head so pointy?” Or, “Wow, look at all those red spots!” Not cool. At some appropriate point in the future, when the newness of the book has died down and the next edition of the now-New York Times-bestselling book is about to go to print, then you can mail them a marked-up copy, and they’ll be thankful.

In the mean time, just keep clicking “Like” on their Facebook posts.