If You Like to Read Books . . .

How to support writers and keep good books coming.

. . . you’d like authors to be able to keep writing books, right?

You may not be aware of some ways publishing has changed over the last few years. These changes put different pressures and requirements on new and published authors. I’ll discuss some of those changes as I go.

But here are ways you can help authors keep books coming:

Buy their books. Sometimes I hear people say they never buy books. Some can’t; that’s understandable. I’ll get to some other ways we can help that don’t cost money.

But frugality doesn’t mean never paying full price for a quality item. “The laborer is worthy of his hire,” Jesus said (Luke 10:7). Writers work for months, sometimes years, to produce a book. According to this article, an author might get only $1.50 from a $20 book. Few authors can live off their book sales.

But buying a book isn’t just an investment for the author. If you were going to a concert, a professional ball game, or even a movie, you’d pay a high price for just 2-3 hours of entertainment. The price of a book can give you 10+ hours of entertainment.

For many of us, though, our book appetite is bigger than our wallet.

If you can’t pay full price, books are frequently on sale. I often get Kindle books for less than $2. Inspired Reads lists half a dozen or so and Gospel eBooks lists several, but you need discernment with these two: I wouldn’t recommend everything they list. Tim Challies lists a Kindle sales most days, usually Christian nonfiction and classics.

If you pre-order books, you often get a lower price. Audible.com frequently has “two books for one credit” and other audiobooks sales. Then there are library sales, thrift store sales, garage sales. Even though the author does not get much money from these purchases, they still help his sale numbers (which publishers look at when considering whether to publish his future books).

I have not tried these, but I’ve heard recommendations for Chirp (audiobooks), BookBub, and CelebrateLit.

Ask for books for gifts. I usually let my family know of a few books I’d like for birthday and Christmas ideas.

Write a review. Amazon reviews carry great weight with publishers, plus they are helpful to other buyers considering the book. The reviews don’t have to all be 5-stars to help. In fact, it looks a little suspicious if all the reviews are 5-star. Reviews don’t have to be long and shouldn’t “spoil” the plot.

One of the ways publishing has changed over recent years is that authors have to do as much as 80% of their own marketing, even if they’re traditionally published. With the closure of so many brick-and-mortar bookstores, publishers don’t have the opportunity to advertise there via posters, end-caps displays, author events, etc. They have always depended on word of mouth, but much more so now.

Besides Amazon, reviews on Goodreads or one’s blog help get the word out as well.

Mention a book on Instagram with the hash tag #bookstagram. You can add additional hashtags like #amreading, #historicalfiction or whatever the genre is, and the author’s name (#roseannamwhite, for example). You can add a picture of the book cover, a picture of you holding the book, a picture of the book cover on your Kindle app, etc.

Get the book for free. Even though an author doesn’t get the revenue from free books, if you review them, they get the word of mouth publicity. Some authors and publishers will give free copies of their book in exchange for an honest review. NetGalley offers digital Advanced Reader Copies of books to reviewers. Revell is a Christian book publisher with a program to offer free books for review. Audible.com includes some titles for free for its members.

Check books out of the library. Libraries don’t keep books that don’t get checked out. So keeping an author’s book active helps, and reviewing helps even more. Plus libraries are likely to buy more books by authors whose books are frequently checked out.

Request a book be added to the library. Most libraries have ways to do this online.

Suggest your favorite book or author for a book club suggestion.

Follow your favorite author. Publishers and agents want writers to have a “platform” before they risk putting time and money into them. Many a debut author has been turned down, sadly, because of a low platform. I’ve read that the primary following publishers look at is a writer’s email list numbers. That’s why you so see many authors asking you to subscribe to their newsletter. I have to confess I don’t subscribe to many myself just because I don’t have time to read them all and I don’t want lots of extraneous email. Plus I disagree with the thought that an author’s biggest fans and promoters are going to come from their email lists. But that’s how the system stands today. So if you really want to support a particular writer, following them primarily through an email list, but also on Facebook, Twitter, and/or Instagram will help their platform numbers. As a bonus, most writers will offer freebies via extra chapters or resources to email subscribers.

Be on an author’s launch team. The first few days after a book comes out are critical to the book’s success in the eyes of publishers. Authors will ask for volunteers for launch teams to help when the book comes out. Being on a launch team usually involves receiving an advanced copy of the book, reading it before publication, and having a review ready for Amazon within the first day or two after the book is released. Some authors will also ask for posts on Facebook about the book. Some will offer material for blog posts, like interview questions and answers.

You may not be able to do all of these, but helping an author in any of these ways will be much appreciated and will help keep good books coming.

Which of these most resonates with you? Do you have any other ideas for ways to support authors and help promote good books?

(I often link up with some of these bloggers.)