Writers hate asking, but they need our help. For many of them, book deals are hard to get, advances are small, publicity budgets are meager, and a writer’s publishing future depends mostly on the love they get from their readers. I’ve come up with some ways to help authors, even if those authors already wrote a NYT bestseller. After all, they only did it because readers got behind their book.
Here are some suggestions of easy ways you can help your favorite writers and, except for buying the book, most everything on the list is free. We don’t need to make a job of it—if we readers pick a small thing to do here and there, it adds up.
1-Buy their book
This is obviously how authors make their money. And whether or not they get to write the next book often depends on whether or not people bought the last book. I check out books from the library and buy plenty from used book fairs, but I also budget as much as I can for purchasing from independent book stores. I know you all love your Amazon Prime (I too have an account), and I won’t go down the Amazon rabbit hole here, but I’ll leave it at this…buy indie if you can.
2-*Pre-order* their book
The pre-sale period is the time in which a book is available for purchase, but before it’s available to ship. These pre-sale numbers help make sure a bookseller doesn’t run out of stock on publication day, which results in an author losing sales. They also help a book rank in bestseller lists and sub-genre bestseller lists. Pre-sales allow the publisher to know there is excitement about the book and they might throw more publicity money behind it and be more inclined to give an author a better deal on their next book.
3-Attend their book events
You might not think about how much it means to authors and event organizers when you show up for readings and book launch events. Even if buying the book isn’t in your budget, a good turnout is so encouraging to authors. No one wants to read to an almost empty room, although most writers have (raises hand). The rise in virtual events has made attending even easier, so go when you’re able.
4-Sign up for their newsletter
Before you protest (I know you are on so many newsletter lists), let me say that most authors do not send out very many newsletters. Unless their newsletter is about more than their books, like they are a writing coach or something (which you writers just might want 🙂 ), you’ll most likely get occasional updates from them about their books and upcoming events. Newsletters are a huge promotional tool for authors, so if you’re open to helping them out this way, please do.
5-Send them a note
Do you get tired of hearing from people who appreciate you, who love something you did for them, who’re thankful for your work? Well neither do writers. And most authors love to interact with their readers. You’ll often hear back from them. So, shoot them a message of appreciation when the spirit moves. Also, if you pre-ordered their book, tell them.
6-Invite them to your book club
Granted, it might be hard to land Stephen King as a book club guest, but you’d be surprised at how many authors are willing to join your group for a Q&A (especially virtually). Rather than read library copies, if you can, have the members actually buy the book so that the author has extra incentive to make the time to participate. And planning your book club buying during the pre-sale period is a little bonus for the writer.
7-Leave them a review
One of the best ways to help authors is to dive into the Amazon and Goodreads reviews sections. We all look at them, not just for how many stars the book is getting, but for the overall number of reviews. The authors care about this. As do the publishers. As do the buyers. When you write a positive review of a book, you’re helping provide social proof that this author’s work is worth investing in. Additionally, leaving reviews and marking books as “to-read” helps the platform algorithms pay more attention to the books.
8-Share on social media
If you follow authors on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook (and you should follow them), re-tweet and share their posts. This is an easy way to help them spread the word about their books. Authors love for you to tag them in your posts or to see a photo you took of their book in the wild on a bookstore table. This never gets old for them.
9-Ask your library to order their book
Did you know that your library is usually receptive to buying books that their patrons ask for? My library has a simple online form you can fill out to request a book. I’ve done it a few times and they’ve always bought them. Requesto presto.
10-Spread the word
And one of the most valuable ways to help authors is to talk about their book with your friends. Word of mouth is the very best kind of marketing for authors. Even more than landing a review at a coveted publication, a friend telling a friend telling a friend is the way books catch fire.