Monday, May 02, 2016

Five Ways to Support Authors

It's now time for another edition of "Jeff thinks he knows what he's talking about when it comes to writing." In this episode, I try to put into words some of what I've been thinking about regarding the fun practice of promotion since publishing my book a month ago.

The initial support has been fantastic. Many friends and loved ones helped get the word out about Coffeehouse Contemplative by sharing links to Amazon (where it's primarily available). I don't have as large of a built-in reader base as others, so any sort of support like this certainly helped. And that got me to thinking about general ways I've tried to support fellow authors and artists who aren't superstars and who don't have a large mechanism behind them getting the word out about their work.

So I compiled a short list of basic ways people can help lesser-known authors. Sure, part of this is self-serving because I'd love for my own stuff to have a larger reach. But this is also the sort of thing I've done for others, too.

1. Buy their books. File this under "duh." The most basic way to support an author is to purchase their work. And I don't just mean on Amazon, although the way some publishers do it that may be the primary or only way you can find certain books. In my case, I get a certain percentage of each sale regardless of where you buy Coffeehouse Contemplative, whether through Amazon or elsewhere. So it might personally feel good to go directly through the author or publisher website for online purchases, but it might not matter in regard to royalties. The only real difference in that sense might be if you buy the book at a reading or speaking event where the author has copies available. Regardless, simply buying the book helps. Again, duh.

2. Word of mouth. Did you like the book you read? How about telling someone else about it so maybe they can like it, too? This includes recommendations on social media platforms like blogs, Facebook, and Twitter, but it also includes that old-fashioned practice of speaking words to another human being based on their tastes and/or circumstances. Whether you think someone simply would like it or you think it'd be helpful for them as they go through a particular season of life, telling someone about a book is an easy way to be supportive.

3. Sharing on social media. I mentioned this above, but I figured it could also use a standalone bullet point. You might tell particular people about a book based on their situation, but telling all your online friends or followers that you liked a book is yet another easy way to share news that a certain work exists for their (hopeful) enjoyment. I see this as different from "word of mouth" because you won't personally know the ins and outs of what all your social media connections like, but you're putting it out there for their consideration.

4. Write reviews. I don't pretend to know how this works, but leaving reviews on places like Amazon and Goodreads helps boost the signal on a book. These sites have super secret algorithms that keep track not only of what readers buy, but what they take the time to rate and write about. The more reviews, the more indication to their computers that the book should be promoted in Recommendations and other places. Even a middling or unfavorable review accomplishes this, because you took the time to say something. How about that?

5. Invite them to speak. Are you part of a book club or some other setting where an author's book somehow applies, e.g., religious organization, job, social club, support group, non-profit? Maybe during your next meeting, fund-raising event, leadership retreat, or continuing education workshop you need a speaker, and the author would be perfect! Of course, clear it with whomever you need to first, but reach out to the author, offer an honorarium, set out a table for their book, and bring them in.  Then others might hear for themselves what hooked you to begin with, buy a copy of their work, tell a friend, leave a review, and the cycle continues.

Again, these are five of the most basic ways to support authors you like, especially the 98% who don't have huge built-in platforms. If you like something, buy it, promote it, share it. Every little bit helps.