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How to Support Your Favorite Author - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
How to Support Your Favorite Author
Readers love books, and most readers have favorite authors. You wish they would write more. You may also wish for them to be happy and prosperous.

Well, authors have to put beans on the table. For some, that means writing whatever sells. For others, that means squeezing in time to write around a day job doing something else. Maybe they get paid a fair rate for their work, with a decent contract; maybe not. Often the end result is that they don't put out as much writing as you or they would like.

Here's the key: YOU can do something about this. You are the audience; you are the consumer. Your choices an individual, and the behavior of you-all collectively, can make a tremendous difference in the livelihood of your favorite authors. The more profitable something is, the more time they can afford to spend doing it. Do you value that reading material they create? Does it teach you things that will save you time and trouble, or things that are just fun to know? Does it give your mind a much-needed vacation to places you love, in the company of characters you enjoy? Does it lift your spirits, rouse your sense of wonder, or at least remind you that your life could suck a whole lot more than it does? If so, consider the following list of things you can do to support your favorite authors.

1) Buy what your favorite authors have published. This is the core of this process: demand drives supply.

  • Preorder new books when they are announced. This tells bookstores and publishers that you love the author's work so much you'll buy it sight unseen. It encourages publishers to buy more manuscripts and bookstores to order more books; and those two things are a positive feedback loop unto themselves, too.

  • Buy new books in bookstores. This helps raise sellthrough, lowering returns and remainders. High sellthrough is good for authors (and publishers and bookstores too).

  • Subscribe to magazines. If you're reading a magazine because it features a lot of authors you like, support the magazine by subscribing. That way they get much more money than if you bought it through a bookstore. More money for the magazine keeps them afloat and may raise author pay rates.

  • Buy books directly from the publisher. Sometimes this can get you discounts, or books that many stores don't stock.

  • Buy books directly from the author. This may get you discounts, books that aren't available elsewhere, and extra goodies like autographs or bookmarks. Also authors typically make more money on books they sell personally, because they can get those books from the publisher at a discount. There are some organizations specializing in this, such as Basement Full of Books.

  • Buy other things that contain the author's writing. Magazines, newspapers, almanacs, webzines, and email newsletters are good to patronize. Also check out Anthology Builder, where you can compile a batch of short stories to be bound into a custom book.

  • Buy used books or back-issue magazines only as a last resort. These don't count towards the author's income or perceived popularity.

  • Buy books and other things by your favorite author to give as gifts. This is a great way to get your friends hooked on your favorites. If you're visiting someone who's sick, consider bringing a book or magazine instead of flowers -- it helps reduce boredom, and will last longer. Make a point of giving age-appropriate books and magazines to children, too; reading is a lifelong habit.

2) Route money directly to authors. There are various ways, so keep you eyes open for what your favorite authors are doing.

  • Participate in cyberfunded creativity. More and more authors are hosting projects with a high level of interactivity, where they write things supported by audience donations and sometimes inspired by audience prompts. Usually this involves putting up a PayPal button for donations or subscriptions; except for PayPal's transaction fee, every penny of that goes right into the author's pocket. For some examples, see crowdfunding

  • Attend workshops or lectures that charge a fee. Some authors enjoy teaching and/or public speaking. You can learn a lot from them in a very short time!

  • Watch for other goods and services. It's not rare for authors to have a sideline business, sometimes tied to their writing (fan art t-shirts, for example, or manuscript commentary).

  • Check the author's blog for a virtual "tip jar" (usually a PayPal button). This is a good way to give money to people in respect for things they've written or done in the past which enhanced your life.

3) Promote and participate in events. There's more to a writing career than just writing. Authors often hold book signings and launch parties, lead workshops, do readings, attend conventions, and all kinds of other activities. This can be fun and educational for everyone. It also helps boost the author's popularity and visibility.

  • If you like a local author, contact the bookstores, libraries, and coffeehouses in your area and encourage them to host an author event. This works best when there's a new book about to be released, a new column launching, or some other particular project to promote. This way if the author contacts those places seeking to arrange an event, they'll be primed with audience interest, and more likely to agree.

  • Attend author events whenever you have the opportunity. Your physical presence shows support; in venues that favor audience discussion, your verbal contributions can help make the event fun and interesting.

  • Bring a friend. Better yet, bring everyone you can beg, bribe, or drag into coming! The more the merrier. A good-sized crowd is more effective for most group activities, and it demonstrates the author's popularity, thus making it easier to get more such bookings in the future.

  • If the event is at a bookstore, buy the book that the author is promoting. (Already got a copy? Get one to give as a gift. This is one of your favorite authors -- surely you know someone else who'd enjoy their writing!) According to bookstore staff, it only takes one or a few such sales for them to consider the event a success, because often they don't sell any; people just bring their own copies to be signed or whatever. You get a lot of bang for your buck there.

  • After an event, thank the owner and/or organizer for hosting your favorite author. Make sure you say the author's name. A handwritten thank-you note can make an even bigger impression because few people bother with them nowadays.

4) Generate buzz. Today word-of-mouth advertising is a potent force in the economy, including publishing. This is one place where audience participation shines like a blue star. It's not something that can be easily done by anyone else.

  • Talk about your favorite author and/or their books, articles, poetry, short stories -- whatever they write. This works in any venue: in person, in your blog, anywhere people will pay attention to you. The conversation may inspire other people to read that author's work.

  • Write reviews. You don't know how? Learn the skill; it's not terribly hard. Even a paragraph describing what you like will suffice. Barnes & Noble and many other online suppliers accept customer reviews for books they sell. Posting reviews to your own blog is just fine. You can also post reviews in places like bookish, paganbooks, and sf_book_reviews.

  • Use book recommendation sites and word-of-mouth networks. Good Reads shows what your friends are reading. What Should I Read Next? compiles user input to make recommendations when you key in the title and author of what you read last. The Book Explorer sorts books by categories, manages lists, and makes recommendations. Ning is a social network where you can link friends, make posts, and promote projects; there are literary networks already, such as Published Authors and Book Place. Digg It links web content, including blog posts.

  • BookCrossing is in a class of its own. Join the network, get special labels, tag a spare copy of a favorite book, and "release it into the wild" by leaving it in a public place. The label allows it to be tracked as it passes from one person to another, if people log in to say they found it. You could get hundreds of people to read your favorite author's book this way! It's a perfect use for that extra copy you bought at the signing.

  • Write letters to the editor. Make sure the people with the buying power know you like an author's work. If your favorite author writes for a magazine, newspaper, or other periodical (hardcopy or online) then contact the editor. For books, contact the publisher. You can usually find the relevant contact information in the publication's website or the masthead of a periodical.

  • Nominate your favorite author, book, magazine, short story, etc. for awards. There are award databases online for many different types of awards, such as the Locus Index to Science Fiction Awards, Book Spot Awards, and American Library Association Literary & Related Awards.

  • Make the networking connections. If your favorite author has a blog, a website, a hardcopy newsletter, etc. then link to it or provide the contact information so people can find it. Once you've piqued people's interest, make sure they can follow through on it in ways that will benefit the author.

5) Give feedback to your favorite author. Most authors love feedback. Here's why.

  • Feedback is candy. When people respond to something an author has written, it triggers the pleasure circuit. A lot. Just being noticed is gratifying. Positive feedback -- knowing that you made someone smile, or made their life easier -- is really, really gratifying. Some authors also enjoy negative feedback. If you enjoy screaming at each other, go for it. Whatever floats your boat. Just don't sit there with your mouth open, saying nothing.

  • Feedback is inspiration. Some authors use audience input directly; they may ask for writing prompts, or inquire what topics you'd like to see covered next. This is especially prevalent in blogs, cyberfunded creativity, short story drives, and certain periodical columns. However, all authors use feedback indirectly. Like giant sponges, writers absorb input from all around them. Something you say in passing may float in a writer's backbrain for a decade before attaching to something else and developing into an article or story. Writers do the same thing with the news, the vacations they take, their jobs, the trees they pass in the park ... everything is research.

  • Feedback is grit. It helps polish a diamond in the rough into a real gem, whether that's a rough draft or a whole writing career. This is primarily true of negative feedback, but the overall mass can also alert an author to areas needing improvement. If nobody ever raves about the characterization, chances are it would benefit from added dimension. Constructive criticism is especially valuable if you can precisely indicate what went wrong, why it didn't work for you, and what might be done to fix it. Novice and semi-pro writers really benefit from finding readers who will help them hone their craft; if you have a knack for this, you can make a friend for life that way. Some writers welcome this sort of thing; others don't. Check first if you care about their feelings.

  • Feedback is fuel. When you pay attention to someone's work, you're sending energy in that direction. (You may have seen how a performer onstage can use an audience's excitement to fire up their creative engine in a delicious feedback loop. This works much the same way.) Many authors can use this energy to power their writing. Since authors are frequently busy, every extra bit of energy helps.

  • Detailed feedback is more useful than vague feedback. This is true for both positive and negative feedback. "Golly gee whiz I love your book!" is not as helpful as "I love your characterization in Liberty's Lady," which is not as helpful as "President Jane Doe is the most believable projection of a female president I've ever read; she's always three steps ahead of everyone else but she never forgets the human side."

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17 comments or Leave a comment
je_reviens From: je_reviens Date: April 11th, 2008 02:24 am (UTC) (Link)
so i guess that long ranting negative review i recently posted on amazon wasnt such a bad idea after all...
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: April 11th, 2008 02:35 am (UTC) (Link)
One time I wrote a huge negative review -- six pages, I think it was -- dissecting in meticulous detail everything wrong with the book's premise and plot. I enjoyed reading it; it was just full of holes and drove me nuts in places.

The author sent me an autographed copy of the limited edition hardback. O_O

You just never know what's going to prove useful for someone. I took a writing workshop at ICON one year with Mickey Zucker Reichert, and she pointed out a couple of pervasive problems that nobody else had ever spotted. I was halfway through college by then; someone had ought to of caught it by then, but none of my teachers did. Pro makes a difference.
je_reviens From: je_reviens Date: April 11th, 2008 02:39 am (UTC) (Link)


This was a non-fiction book, part memoir, part ..."instruction manual"?

I just could not beleive this author made it to 35 before realizing there was a patriarchy. I wrote, is she really blind or just extra OBTUSE? And then it was some big revelation to her. And no this wasn't 1975 either.
chadu From: chadu Date: April 11th, 2008 01:26 pm (UTC) (Link)

May I quote/link?

ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: April 11th, 2008 04:20 pm (UTC) (Link)

Yes, please!

Thanks for the networking assist. I'm hoping this piece gets spread far and wide.
From: (Anonymous) Date: April 11th, 2008 07:00 pm (UTC) (Link)

Great article.

Very interesting read.

I wrote a similar article myself, about a year ago, that I released via my monthly newsleter. However, you've got some different (and great) ideas. I was focusing a lot on popular fiction authors, and more traditional forms of patronage.

May I link back to you?

Tracy Cooper-Posey
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: April 11th, 2008 07:31 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Great article.

Yes, please! This article is intended for dispersal.

Is yours available? I'd enjoy reading it or linking to it.
From: (Anonymous) Date: April 11th, 2008 10:06 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Great article.

Sure. "What you can do for your favourite authors" is at http://www.sashaproductions.com/What%20you%20can%20do%20for%20your%20favourite%20authors.pdf.




ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: April 12th, 2008 07:25 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Great article.

Thanks! I read the article; it's very interesting. I've saved the link for the resource section of the Grey School class I'm writing.
robotech_master From: robotech_master Date: April 11th, 2008 08:41 pm (UTC) (Link)
Another method of generating buzz, which I've done, is to start a podcast and ask the author for an interview. I've done that with my own book-related podcast, The Biblio File, interviewing a number of my very favorite authors (and some I just like). It's amazing how many people are willing to be interviewed if you just ask, "Hey, can I interview you?"

Also, used books, while they do not provide income directly to the publisher, do serve an important function of attracting new readers who are on a budget. Even if they don't buy them, they're a way to pick it up, look at it, and get interested. And if you're looking to hook friends into reading the author, they're great cheap giveaway fodder.

Another idea: use your local library's "request this book" form to get them to buy books by the author, if they don't have them already. They buy the book, put it on their "new books" shelf, someone browses the shelf, thinks, "Hey, this looks interesting," and a new addict may be born…
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: April 12th, 2008 07:33 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

These are all great ideas. I've saved them for mention in the Grey School class I'm writing. May I quote you on the podcast paragraph, and if so, what name would you like for the citation? Podcasting is outside my area of expertise so it's a useful quote.
ideealisme From: ideealisme Date: April 11th, 2008 10:45 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm probably more of a traditionalist in this regard, believing that the book (or in my case, story) should be powerful enough to be able to fight its own battles. But of course one can't be naive - the reasons publishers choose to market certain books above others are not always related to the quality of the prose.

In my opinion it goes up to a higher level: the state. My opinion of the Irish Government is consistently low, but they did one marvellous thing; they introduced a tax exemption for creators of an original work, be it fiction, sculpture etc. That means if I write the Great Irish Novel of the 21st Century, I get 100 per cent of my earnings - up till 250000 euro. Some carping Labour woman politician started bitching and complaining about Bono etc. so they capped it there - it used to be limitless. Of course Bono moved all his stuff abroad then so it made no difference.

Funny how the first thing to go when money comes is generosity and culture. Bad cess to that humourless cow and her pettifogging minions.

But given that the chances of my earning 250,000 from my writing are quite low at present, my objections to Ms Burton's mean little nature are entirely theoretical :)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: April 12th, 2008 01:44 am (UTC) (Link)


Leaving creative works to sink or swim on their own merits only works in a level field. With so many people hyping junk, promotion has become more and more crucial to a work's success -- more than quality, alas. People can't read it if they don't know it exists, no matter how good it is. This is where social networking really comes in handy: word-of-mouth marketing is cheap.

I love the Irish idea of tax breaks for original work! That's brilliant. It's exactly the kind of thing needed for large-scale organization of people: incentives for doing desirable things.
poeticknowledge From: poeticknowledge Date: April 12th, 2008 12:55 am (UTC) (Link)
Wow! I found this blog to be extremely helpful and informative! I would like to post this to my page to get the word out, if you don't mind. ^_^ I had no idea there were so many ways to promote authors and to support them! This was a real eye-opening read for me. Thanks for posting! My favorite author is Alice Hoffman (The River King, Practical Magic, etc.). ^_^ I love her stuff and now I know more ways to support her. ^_^

I have written Meg Cabot an encouraging email before and I hope she found inspiration and comfort in it. (She's the author of the Princess Diaries series.) I told her that she had inspired me to become an author and how I could really relate to her character's life. It inspired me not only to write, but to find help for my depression. I bet that made her day! ^_^
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: April 12th, 2008 01:25 am (UTC) (Link)

Go ahead!

You're welcome to post this on your blog. I'm glad you enjoyed it so much.

Another of my writer-friends linked back to this, and quoted excerpts from the "Feedback is..." section, having drawn on that a lot for writing. That was cool.
netmouse From: netmouse Date: June 30th, 2008 04:58 am (UTC) (Link)
I have a domain name (supportyourlocalauthor.org) which is hopefully going to be active by the end of this year as a clearinghouse path to giving money to authors -- among other things to support directing support to authors after experiences like buying a used book or a reading a book that's been loaned or given to you. Anyone who is interested in helping me get that up and running, please let me know.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 1st, 2008 02:27 am (UTC) (Link)
That sounds like a great project. Please keep me posted on developments.
17 comments or Leave a comment