Wednesday, January 23, 2019

10 Concrete Ways You Can Help The Authors You Like

A few weeks ago I put together a list of 10 Things You Can Do To Sell More Books. However, that list is pretty much only talking to the authors out there about all the things they can personally do to increase their sales... problem is, that's only half the equation.

The other half is your readers, and the actions they take on your behalf.

Every, single one of you beautiful people.
Authors get a lot of credit for their hustle, but the truth is that without readers doing their part, we're just screaming into the void. That's why, if you want to support an author, do the things on this list. Some of them will cost money, others will only cost you time, but all of them will help give that pen monkey more visibility so they can get you their next book in record time.

So, without further ado, if you want to help the authors you like you should...

#1: Buy Their Books

A lot of you out there already are, and bless you for that.
This is the most basic, fundamental way you can show your support for a creator. If they wrote a book, go buy a copy of that book. If you want a hard copy, buy that. If you're more of an ebook reader, get an ebook. If a holiday is coming up, ask your friends or family to buy you copies of this book that you like. Alternatively, gift a book you love to other people.

The main part of an author's income is from sales, but there's more to it than that. The more you sell, the more power you have when it comes to getting noticed. If you sell a thousand copies, no one's really impressed. But 10,000 copies? 100,000 copies? That's when big publishers start knocking on your door and offering contracts because you are doing something right.

On that note, if you've got a couple of bucks floating around, why not head over to My Amazon Author Page and grab yourself a copy of my sword and sorcery novel Crier's Knife, or my steampunk noir collection New Avalon: Love and Loss in The City of Steam?

Or, if you're more of a tabletop RPG fan, take a look at my work on Drive Thru RPG. I'm sure you'll find something that fits your tastes.

#2: Leave A Review

Seriously, the numbers add up here.
I mentioned this back in How Many Book Reviews Do You Need Before Amazon Promotes You?, but it's worth repeating here. If you want to help an author then review their book, plain and simple. It doesn't matter if you read the physical copy, a digital copy, or you downloaded it for free during a giveaway; leave a review, and it can be the pebble that starts the avalanche.

The more reviews a book gets, the more attention it receives from website algorithms (especially on Amazon). That means it shows up in the recommendation boxes, and that it will have a much stronger signal so other people can find it. Not only that, but people who are thinking about buying a book trust reviews. So the more reviews you have, the more likely people are to purchase your work.

It takes a few minutes of your time, but it is an action that sets the gears in motion; don't neglect it!

#3: Follow Them on Social Media

Again, a lot of you are already here.
One of the recurring themes for this list is going to be numbers. The more numbers an author has, the easier it is for them to get found. Social media is no different.

Whether your author has a Facebook page, a Twitter page, a Tumblr account, or something else entirely (all the links go to my pages, by the by, so feel free to follow if you haven't already), the more people they have, the more they'll get noticed. The more people an author has following them, the more likely their posts are to get seen, spread, and to reach people who aren't already reading their work. So even if all you do is click "Like", you've done something to help.

To increase your signal boost, though, interact with the posts your authors make. Leave comments (algorithms love comments), and share the posts you like with your own audience. Because whether your social media pool is big or small, that one interaction can be like ripples in a pond. Don't underestimate the impact you can have.

#4: Talk To Your Local Library

Now we're getting into the new stuff.
Chances are good you already knew about the first three points on this list. They are pretty obvious, after all. However, there are a lot of people out there who still use the public library, and these institutions can help boost an author's signal to a wider audience.

So if your local library doesn't carry the authors you like, ask if you can fill out a request form. A certain amount of money is allocated every year to getting new books (digital and physical, since lots of libraries offer the ability to check out ebooks now), and if folks request that a certain indie or small press title be included in the catalog then you have just helped an author make a sale. Not only that, but there's a chance that more people will read that book, leave reviews, buy their own copies (or get that book for friends as a gift),  etc. Sometimes more than one person has to make the request, though, so don't be afraid to get a petition going among your friends.

Little things add up over time, especially if there are a lot of fans across the country who all submit this paperwork to their local institutions.

#5: Tell Your Friends and Family

You know them, so you'll know what they like.
We talked about part of this with the social media section above, but we don't live in a cyberpunk dystopia just yet. Especially when you consider that you've likely configured your social media settings so that only certain people see the things you like, comment, and share.

But your in-person life? Your lines of direct communication between you and all the other people you know? Tossing a few comments here, and a recommendation or two there, can have a bigger impact than you think.

Before you protest that you're just one person, stop and think for a second. Who do you know that you could slip a book suggestion to? Your aunt Richanne who has always had a thing for sword swinging fantasy? Your roommate's boyfriend Geoff who goes through books the way locusts go through crops? What about that work friend whose name you can't quite recall, but you have lunch together sometimes?

All of these are viable people you could talk to, and maybe give a nudge to check out a particular author.

You don't need to pound the pavement and go door-to-door. But when you find yourself in small talk with people, feel free to talk about books. You might plant a seed, and that seed might get passed from person to person until your one, casual conversation has grown dozens of new fans this author wouldn't have otherwise had.

#6: Use Your Position

Networks are complicated things.
Most folks out there are probably thinking, "I don't have a position that would help an author." Trust me, you do. You just need to think about it for a second.

For example, do you have a friend who writes for a website dedicated to genre news? Got an aunt who has a radio show? A cousin with a YouTube channel that has a decent following? All it would take is a request from you to re-direct some of those resources to help boost that author's signal with a review, an interview, or any other kind of coverage.

Sometimes all you need to do is look at what groups you belong to, or even where you work, to find opportunities. As an example, say you're a high school teacher. Does an author you want to support write YA books? Well, recommend them to your students. Or if you have a personal connection with that author, and they happen to be local, invite them to speak to your class. Maybe introduce them to your creative writing club. This gives the students a chance to ask all those questions they might be curious about, and to get insight from an industry professional. It also means at least a few of them may become regular readers.

Do you volunteer with a local theater? Are you part of a Renaissance Faire cast? Are you a member of a book club? Chances are you do something, or know somebody, that would be a help if you used your noodle.

#7: Tip Them

Like I said, every little bit helps.
While selling books is one income stream for authors, it usually isn't enough to pay their bills with. As such, we tend to do other stuff to supplement writing books. We run YouTube channels, we write blogs, we post articles, we put together reviews, and so on, and so forth. Most of the time, those things are free to you, but we ask that you leave us a tip if you can.

This goes a lot further than you might think when it comes to keeping landlords off our backs, and tacos in our bellies. So if an author you like has a Patreon or a Ko-Fi (The Literary Mercenary's Patreon and Ko-Fi pages are at these links), consider contributing to them if you can. Even if it's just a little bit every month, we notice, and it helps a lot.

Also, if an author you like happens to write for a website like Vocal, there is often a tip icon there as well. Keep your eyes peeled, and ask if what you just read was worth the same handful of change you would leave in a barista's jar.

#8: Be Persistent

Hey, did I tell you about this great book?
Authors who make it are the ones who don't give up, like I mentioned in Successful Authors Are Persistence Hunters. However, the same is true for folks just like you who want to help boost their signal. Because while it would be great if people listened to you the first, second, or third time you made a recommendation, you sometimes need to tell people to do something five times or more before the idea finally takes root in their heads.

Now, don't spend all of your time and effort trying to boost our signals (you're fans, not interns). But if an author you like updates their blog once or twice a week, share that link. If there's a giveaway going on, mention it once or twice to make sure everyone hears about it. You don't have to be so frequent that you annoy the folks on your list, but think of your signal boosting efforts like water. A single raindrop isn't going to do much, but even a slow and steady trickle can wear a track in the hardest stone.

#9: Show Up

Seriously, just being there does help.
Whether it's a book signing, a con appearance, a reading at a local open mic night, or any other kind of event, sometimes just being a warm body can make a difference.

Picture this; you walk into a library, and there's a door leading off to a side room. Are you more likely to investigate what's going on if you see an empty room with only a table and someone sitting behind it, or if there's the buzz of conversation, laughter, and a dozen people in there?

Probably that second one, right?

People are drawn to crowds, even if that crowd isn't really all that big when it comes to the numbers. But that magnetism can make a difference, and pull other people into your orbit. It might only be for a moment, but a moment is long enough to plant that seed, and perhaps get a business card or a bookmark into their hand even if they don't choose to buy an actual copy of the book(s) at that moment.

And I can tell you from experience, there is nothing that slaps you across the ego harder than an event where no one shows up, except for the janitor wondering if it's okay to sweep since it's just the two of you.

#10: Reach Out

Trust me when I say it's like water in the desert.
The other items on this list are all about how you can help your authors reach a bigger audience, sell more books, and generally excel at the business half of their career. However, it's important to remember that sometimes what they really need is a piece of fan mail to get them through the day.

I'm serious about this, and the smaller the author is in terms of reach, the more vital I guarantee you this is. Because they can't just look at their sales figures and be satisfied that a thousand people that week thought their book was worth dropping a couple of bucks on, or that fifty new reviews went up.

So if you have a moment, and you want to do something nice for the authors in your life, shoot them an email, or just leave a post on their social media. Tell them that they're doing good work, and you can't wait to see more of it. If it's not too personal, talk about something they made that really stuck with you.

We need to hear that.

That's all for this week's Business of Writing post. Hopefully folks out there find it useful, and if you've been trying to tell your audience how they can help you stop sinking, just shoot them this list!

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