There are loads of those memes flying around social media that are some variation of “How to help an author” or “Support Authors” or “Fuck you, reader, dance for me, you monkey!” The truth is, you owe an author nothing. At all. Just because I wrote a book, and that book got published, doesn’t mean anyone is under any obligation to buy it, let alone do anything else. And even if you, dear reader, did buy a book I wrote, and you loved it so much you went around with it stuffed down your pants for a week, you still owe me nothing. Although, you might need to consider getting out more if you really did spend a week with a book down your pants. But I digress.
Put simply, there is no obligation of any kind on readers. They choose to either buy a book or not. Then they get around to reading it or they don’t. That’s it. Finished.
But, of course, there is a lot more they can do, should they so choose, and lots of those things really honestly genuinely help authors. So as my Alex Caine trilogy hits Australian and NZ bookstore shelves today, all three books in print at last, it seems a pertinent time to talk about this. And the ideas, while they can be listed in a trite meme, are maybe better explained in a little more detail. This stuff applies to big trad books and indie books, well-known authors and newbies. So here we go. You owe me nothing, but if you want to help, here’s what you can do and why it helps.
Buy The Book
Well, d’uh! Right? Not entirely. More options later. But obviously, at the bottom line, book sales are what keeps authors and their publishers alive. But it’s especially good with a new release if you buy the books during week 1 or 2 after release. Why? Because publishing is a machine and it doesn’t stop. It swallows authors, chews them up, and spits out their gnarled remains. The way an author survives the machine is if they sell well enough to not be spat out. And the best way for an author to sell well is to start by selling well. Sure, many books are successful on a slow burn, but to sell they have to be on shelves. Bookstore real estate is highly contested space, so if a book sits on a shelf for a while and doesn’t sell, it will be sent back to make space for a new book. But if it shifts several copies in the first week or two, the shop gains confidence in it and gets more copies in. The sales data is good and buyers order more. It might hit bestsellers charts, even just in-store ones, and stores order yet more. The profile of the book is raised and it gets more traction. That’s momentum happening right there, and that’s what we need. So please, if you think you want the books, buy them sooner rather than later. And if your local store doesn’t have them, order them in.
Order them in at your library.
But you’re skint? No problem, man, I know those feels. Books can be a real luxury. But you know who has free books for you to read? Your local library. So go there and ask them to order the books. When libraries buy a copy, that’s another sale. And authors get a small amount of money for each library borrow their books have, so that’s another income stream for them in the long term. And more visibility of their books out in the world.
And you know what? As we’re talking about helping authors, even if you do buy the books, order them at your local library too. Help the authors and other readers will find them over time. Readers are what it’s all about, and more on that in a minute.
If you’re travelling, buy them at Newslink.
This is a weird one (and a bit Aussie-centric) but it really helps. Newslink is the bookstore chain at airports and train stations around Australia. Lots of people impulse buy books right before a long journey, so they go to Newslink looking for a travel read. The Alex Caine Series (for example!) is a great thriller read for travelling, so if Newslink have plenty in stock, it’s likely they’ll sell well there. But remember about how stores only keep stock of books that sell? It’s a bastard of a catch-22, right? So if you’re into buying these books and you’re travelling soon, grab them at Newslink so Newslink order more!
Buy for yourself and as gifts.
So as this is all about helping authors, how about buying the books more than once? Buy for yourself, of course, but if there are any birthdays or other celebrations coming up, buy another copy to give as a gift. That’s more sales and more readers, who may not have bought the books otherwise. I love buying books for people and introducing them to new authors, and I love it when people do that for me.
Tell friends, family and colleagues all about them.
So that’s all the actual purchase stuff covered. But there’s much more to a book’s success than that, and here’s where we talk about readers. We need lots of sales but individuals can only do so much. We need lots of individuals doing a little bit. Garth Nix calls it the transfer of enthusiasm. So when you love a book, don’t keep that to yourself. Talk about it! Tell your friends and family, talk about books at work, show off the copy you love so people recognise the cover when they see it again. Be enthusiastic and transfer that enthusiasm all around. Nothing works better than genuine, honest word of mouth. That’s what really sells books and that’s where books find success. So recommend them wherever you can.
Lend your copy to a friend.
Lend? Isn’t this all about sales!? Well sure, but not entirely. If you’ve loved a book, lending it is a great way to transfer your enthusiasm. That’s another reader, hopefully another fan. That’s another person talking it up and transferring their enthusiasm. Momentum!
Talk them up (and share the cover images) on social media.
If you only have 14 followers on Twitter and 38 friends on Facebook, don’t think for one second that you lack influence. People will pay attention to your social media commentary if they are your friend or follower. That’s why they’re your friend or follower. Every single eyeball counts. So just like you talk up the books in person, do it online, wherever you hang out online. And again, share the cover image so people can spot it easily in store. It really helps.
Leave a review and rating on Amazon, Goodreads, iTunes, etc.
And when it comes to talking about them online, if you can be bothered, reviews make a huge difference. You don’t need to be a great reviewer. You can write:
“this book was really grate, I loved the action. people will definately enjoy it to.”
Seriously, that’s awful spelling and grammar, but it counts. Because it’s the transfer of enthusiasm that matters, not your writing skills. And the more reviews something has, the more visibility it gains on that site, and the more likely other people are to take a chance on it, because it seems like it’s already popular. And that’s the thing about getting more readers – the more popular something appears, the more other people will want to check it out. The more other people check it out, the more likely they are to talk about it too. Hopefully they’ve enjoyed it and they’re talking it up, so the more transfer of enthusiasm we have. That means even more readers, that means even more sales. It’s a self-perpetuating engine of literary love. The book gains success, the author stays in the machine and gets to write more, and readers get to read more. And you helped. Only you can help. Readers and their enthusiasm are an author’s pulse and lifeblood. We love you people.
So you owe me nothing, but if you do want to help, buy, order, talk, and review. Be part of that great word of mouth process. And if you do any of that, I genuinely can’t thank you enough. You totally rock!
Transfer your enthusiasm!