Wednesday, 23 October 2013

So You Have a Favorite Author (Or Five Easy Things You can Do toSupport Them)... by Lev Butts

          If you're reading this blog, it is reasonable to assume: 1) You're a reader or 2) You're a writer (and the second assumption presumes the first). If you like reading, it is also reasonable to assume you have at least one (almost certainly more than one) favorite author, and if you like reading this blog, it is not outside the realm of possibility that that favorite author is an independent author (if not, might I suggest one or more of these fine writers?). 

          Whether your favorite author is an independent writer or a traditionally published New York Times best-selling author, the relationship you have with that author is symbiotic: authors, insofar as their books are available to the public, cannot exist without someone to read their work, and the reader cannot exist without something to read. The unstated myth for many of us, though, is that this relationship flows one way:

The Writer writes the book. 
The Reader reads it.

          However, it's a little more involved than that. Authors require more from their fans than simply reading their books. They desperately need their readers' support. I'm not talking about direct support, like paying your author a living wage to do nothing but write their hearts out (though I'm willing to negotiate if any of you folks out there are filthy rich and want the next installment of Guns of the Waste Land right the hell now). I'm not even talking about buying a copy of their books.

          No, I'm talking about a different kind of support, a very easy kind of support that costs very little (and in most cases absolutely nothing). Also, while these suggestions help any author, big or small, if you like an independent author, these things are, quite literally, far more beneficial to the author than purchasing your own copy (but keep doing that, too).

          Here are five things you can do to help support your favorite author:

5. Buy their books

          On the surface this seems kind of a given. However, you might be surprised how many readers do not actually buy the books they read. Books can be expensive, believe me I know:


This image adequately represents
just how much spending money is left
after I support my addiction.

          To defray much of this cost, many people go to the library for their fix, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with this practice. At all. After all, the library had to purchase the book first in order to make it available for lending.

          However, since the rise of kindles, nooks, and a host of other electronic book readers, more and more people have started illegally downloading their books. Some have arguably ethical arguments for doing so; most don't even try.

          The fact is, though, no matter how you slice it, when you illegally download a book, just as when you illegally download music or films, the artist loses money. Admittedly, these guys:

Stephen King
Joey Ramone
Neil Gaiman
may not feel the hurt as much as these guys:

Susan Price


Reb MacRath
Die Booth













          That's because the last three are primarily independent writers.

          Buying an independent writer's book is especially important as those books are unlikely to find their way into your local library unless said author is also local and donates a copy, or you purchase one and donate it in the authors name (hint, hint). More importantly, the only way independent authors can make the jump to traditional publishing should they so desire (there are reasons not to) is to show that their work can sell. Obviously, then, not buying an independent book is going to affect the author far more than stealing a copy of A Time to Kill is going to hurt John Grisham.

          But as important as buying an author's book is, it's actually the least of the ways you can help your favorite authors. The best way to help your authors is to spread the word about them.

4. Follow them on social media and share their posts

          The rise of social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace, has brought with it new ways for artists (in our case, writers) to build and interact with their fan-base.

Admittedly, unless you're a hipster, you may not realize that MySpace is apparently still a thing.
          Fans have always used social media sites to connect with and friend their favorite celebrities. Many celebrities even happily encourage this, accepting the friend requests of anyone who sends one. Others have set up special pages for their author personas, leaving their personal pages private. Either way, now that social media marketing is an actual thing, it is more important than ever that you, as a fan, follow your writer's social media page and share or retweet any of their posts you find interesting or amusing, as opposed to simply liking or favoriting them.

          The average Facebook user likes about 130,563,492 things a day (give or take a few hundred), and this has a tendency to  clutter your news feed; thus many of us set our notification settings to ignore likes in an ultimately futile attempt to make our news feeds slightly less time consuming than visiting the DMV after lunch. Also, while liking a post does generate a story on your own page, the story is set in a sidebar and virtually unnoticeable.


          On Twitter favorited tweets are equally hidden from viewers of your page:

This is tucked away in the upper left corner of your twitter page. Don't blink or you'll miss it.

         Sharing a post, on the other hand, takes only slightly more time than liking it, and retweeting takes almost exactly the same amount of time. The difference is that your shared items will almost certainly still be allowed on other people's feeds, and they will be displayed prominently on your own profile. Additionally, retweeted posts will go out to your friends and followers just as if you had tweeted it yourself.

          This encourages your friends to check out the writer's work and hopefully builds your writer's fanbase. If you don't believe me look at George Takei. Before Facebook, he was just that Asian guy on Star Trek. Now, thanks to his social media followers, he's practically a household word synonymous with off-color memes, gay rights, pop culture, and bad puns.

And that household word is FABULOUS.
3. Recommend their work to others

          The key, here, is to help get more people interested in your favorite author. While pointing them to one of Scott Thompson's amusing pictures may funnel some of your followers to his page, actually getting them to read his book will do far more for spreading word-of-mouth about his talents as a writer.

          People have to know the writer exists and that his or her books are worth reading. This is especially true for independent writers, who are, by and large, solely responsible for publicizing their work.

          So, if you like the book, recommend it your friends. If you hate it, recommend it to your enemies.

2. Give their book as gifts

          No, this is not me wrapping my first idea up in new paper. It isn't really about buying another copy (or three) of an author's book; it's about introducing an author's work to someone you think might enjoy and who would otherwise not encounter the book.

          Sadly, most people will not rush out and buy a stranger's book unless that stranger is also famous and has a worldwide reputation for writing good stuff. In other words, Dan Brown ain't hurting for new readers; tell someone he has a new book out, and it'll be bought before the conversation's over.


"Hey, I'm thinking about doing a secret code mystery based on my last grocery list. Think anybody'd..."

 "Ohmigod! When can I buyit??? Where you gonna sell it??? Ohmigodohmigodohmigod!!!"

          People unfamiliar with an independent writer need more encouragement, and that means passing the book along to them. You certainly could buy them a new copy (or, as mentioned earlier, donate a new copy to your library), but passing on your own dog-eared copy is equally helpful here.


1. Review their books

          Quite frankly, this may be the most important thing you can do for your favorite author. Book reviews need not be long (most are only a few paragraphs), and while (or, perhaps, because) there is really no set format for a book review, they are not at all difficult to write. More importantly, be they positive or negative, book reviews are incredibly helpful to your writer.  Not only do they help accomplish #3 (assuming it's a favorable review), but publishing book reviews are excellent ways to get people outside of your social circle aware of your author.

There are several avenues for publishing your book review:

    You may ask your local newspaper if it publishes freelance book reviews (some papers may even pay you for your book review, but don't hold your breath).
    There are several websites, such as Goodreads.com, that offer book reviews, many of which encourage you to submit your own.

    Perhaps the best place to post a book review, though, is at online bookstores (such as amazon.com, bn.com, or Apple's iBookstore). On one level, this makes sense because this is where people are going to go to buy their books (especially independent authors, who have about the same odds of getting into "bricks-and-mortar" bookstores as American independent political parties have of getting into office).


    Apparently, they've written a book about it


              
    However, book reviews on online bookstores also help your author out in another, far more serious way. Once a book has a fair amount of reviews, whether good or bad, the site begins to recommend it to other patrons shopping for similar books (the number I have heard but not been able to verify is twenty reviews on Amazon; I assume the numbers for the other sites are similar). 

              
    This is, by far, the most important thing you can do to support your favorite author. It is also one of the very few things on this list that you can be absolutely sure has a direct affect on your author's success. Every review published on an online bookstore, brings your author's work one step closer to being introduced to thousands of people worldwide.

               Who wouldn't want to do that?


    A damned hipster who wants
    to keep you from being cool, that's who.



9 comments:

madwippitt said...

And don't forget, you can GIFT AN EBOOK you like to someone else - simply click on the link at the top of the Amazon page 'Gift vouchers' and just follow the instructions. You can make it out for any amount you want (just press the 'options' button when it cues you to say how much you want to spend) so it can cover just a few pence as well as larger amounts. Obviously, tell the person you are sending the voucher to exactly what title you expect them to spend the voucher on though!

Chris Longmuir said...

Brilliant post, Lev. I'm going to pin it onto a couple of communal boards on Pinterest in the hope that others will click on and read it.

Lee said...

I wish I could grasp why some writers find these measures effective and others, like Nick Green, don't. Are there factors we're ignoring?

(Not that I intend to undertake most or even any of them ... to be frank, I can barely find the time & energy to keep up with the household dust after translating, writing, and reading. But others half my age -- or twice my IQ -- may be better equiped ... and yes, I envy them!)

Lydia Bennet said...

Great post, Lev. Can I just add, for those kind enough to leave reviews for books (I personally only review books I've liked but that's a personal choice). that they put the review on amazon.co.uk AND nip over, sign in with exactly the same password into amazon.com, and copy and paste the review there too. and for US readers, the other way round. Amazon use the .com reviews to copy to other platforms. Thanks folks, on behalf of writers!

Lee said...

I also wonder whether the Pareto principle (80-20) could apply here - certainly useful in management (and would be useful indeed, if politicians paid more attention to it). See:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pareto_principle

CallyPhillips said...

Incredible sense of deja vu, Lev... but it's nice to hear someone else say these things - maybe the more times the more of us say it the more likely it is to permeate.
If you like a writer, recommend their books every way you can. Sounds simple. Often I think people don't do it because they only feel comfortable in the sheeplike world of 'recommending' stuff they 'know' everyone else will find 'cool.' When people have the guts to actually stand up and be counted on what they like and why, that's when things start to shift!
On the down side: I've run review site, I've put positive reviews and shares and recommends of hundreds of indie books in the last 18 months - not sure how much good it's done anyone. for me, it's built up a reputation as a reviewer, sure, but people don't seem to equate the fact that if I write intelligently about other people's writing, I might (just might) be interesting enough to read as a writer myself. Some hurdles appear too hard for people to overcome.
Sigh. Back to the coalface (btw, I've downloaded, shared even bought your short story collection. Read the first story, got diverted but when I actually finish them I'll do the decent thing - reciprocity amongst writers is the FIRST thing. Okay we can try and convince readers to recommend but if as Indie writers we aren't, well...)

@Ruby_Barnes said...

A stupendous post, it has me wanting to reblog a link at Ruby Barnes. Love the hipsters.

Reviews on Goodreads are important for us as some e-bookstores refer to them for reviews. And who knows what might happen in future with the Goodreads Amazon link?

Catherine Czerkawska said...

Excellent post. And so well put. (Love your illustrations!) It is worth repeating and nice to see it put so succinctly as well. I often feel guilty about the books I want to read AND review and simply haven't got round to tackling. One of these years I'll manage a two week reading breaking, (students get them so why not writers?) - just me and my Kindle.

Reb MacRath said...

Wonderful post, Lev. And let me add: you are also the illustration king.