The holiday season is in full swing, and it’s a time for gift giving and charity. With the giving spirit in mind, perhaps you’re wondering how you can help out your favorite authors. Well, I have four simple suggestions on how to do just that this holiday season or anytime of the year!
Okay, this one may seem like a no-brainer, but the absolute best way to help out an author is to buy their book. So maybe it’s not your favorite genre or aimed at your age category (or maybe you don’t read books…please tell me you read books!), buy it anyway. Notice this suggestion doesn’t say “read the book.” You can buy it without reading it (of course us authors want people to read our books, but we totally get it that a book is not for everyone…we’ll love you just for buying it, even if your never break it open). Give it to someone as a gift. Put it in your living room and when people come over, you can point to it and say, “Look! My friend wrote this book.” Ebooks are generally the least inexpensive option, so buy a digital copy and let it gather virtual dust. The more an author’s book is bought, the more likely they will make more books, and, ya know, the more likely they’ll be able to buy food and gas and stuff.
Pick Up a Free Copy
I’m not talking about going to Joe Schmo’s book pirating website and downloading a free, illegal copy of the book (and probably a virus or two on your computer). That doesn’t help us at all! Authors, especially those who have a series or several stand-alone books, will sometimes run specials where the first in a series or a book from their backlist is free. But we run these free promos on legit websites, like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other reputable book sellers. How does this help an author? So we don’t get money from this type of transaction, but we do get exposure. Enough free downloads means our book moves up on lists and maybe earns us a spot in one of those website’s newsletters. Also, if people like the free book, they may decide to pay for the other books we’ve written that aren’t being offered for free.
Write a Review
So you’ve bought your author friend’s book or you (legally) downloaded it for free. Now what? Remember how we said we really want you to read it (but understand if you don’t), that’s because we also love it if you take the time to write a review. It doesn’t have to be anything long (just long enough to hit a site’s minimum character count) or super interesting really. Something like, “I really enjoyed this fantasy adventure. Fans of Lord of the Rings would really like it too.” And it doesn’t have to be a 5-star rating. Authors (well, many of us!) want honest reviews. Don’t get personal about the author (even if you’re that author’s mom and want to tell them you love them); keep it about the book, its setting, its plot, its characters, and how all of it made you feel. The most important websites for reviews are Amazon and Goodreads. Amazon because if you get enough reviews to satisfy one of their algorithms, you will often get free marketing from them in the form of being a featured book or perhaps placed in their newsletters. Goodreads is where a lot of readers hang out and find their next book to read. If you do have a blog or somewhere on the Internet where you share your opinions of things, go ahead and put the review there too.
There are over 1 million new books published each year in the U.S. alone…that’s a lot of competition! In today’s publishing world, marketing–meaning getting the word out about your book–largely falls into the hands of authors, even those who are published with a big house. We are a creative, wonderful bunch, but marketers by trade we are not. That’s not to say there aren’t authors out there doing a fabulous job of marketing their books, but many of us don’t have the skill set or time to give the book the real push it needs to sell lots of copies. And no matter how much marketing time and money is put into a book, word of mouth is still one of the most important (if not the most important) ways a book is sold. Mention your author friend’s book to others. Ask your author friend for bookmarks or something you can share with your friends, families, co-workers, that guy in the grocery store who bags your groceries. Go to your library and request they purchase a copy. Same with your local bookstore. Ask if they have it in stock. If not, ask them to order it. We authors even have a name for the people who help us spread the word about our books: street team. Be a part of your favorite author’s street team, even if they don’t officially have one!
Being an author is awesome, but it’s not a great way to make a living. One report out of London found that only 1 in 10 authors make a living through their writing, and a crazy 17% made no money at all in one full year! The reality for many of us is that we have full-time jobs not related to writing; we are stay-at-home parents who are the primary caregivers to our kids; we write full-time but most of our income does not come from our novels. Any help we can get spreading the word about our books, we’ll take! And I can tell you that if you’re the one doing that, we will love you for all eternity.