Writing has always been a questionable way to make a living.
Yeah, occasionally one of us gets lucky and makes millions, but you may as well plan around winning the lottery. It’s not even a matter of talent…while the bestseller lists are often ruled by writers whose output is an insult to paper and ink, ungodly talents struggle to pay the rent and have to work other jobs to support their families.
But you, as a reader, have the power to help writers you like. Your most basic use of this power, of course, is simply spending money on their work, which is a sacred act. You can take that further by buying additional copies as gifts for others. You can even make a point of actually buying books new, rather than nabbing used copies or reading them at the library.
(Neither of which, I have to tell you, I really have much issue with. As a writer, I write to be read, so the more people reading my work, wherever they get it, the happier I am, on a certain overarching level. And it’s true that someone who reads one of your books for free or cheap may like it so much that they’ll buy your next one fresh off the shelf, where the sale does you the most good. All the same, it’s indisputable that succeeding as a writer is tough, and as a reader your decision to buy new is a powerful act and can make all the difference. I want most of all to be read…but the more sales I get, the better able I am to stay in print and publish even more stuff and make a living at all.)
So yeah, buying is very important. But it’s not all you can do to help struggling scribes, and there are easy things you can do that don’t even cost you anything.
Back in April, author G.P. Ching (who apparently kicks patootie at Guitar Hero) blogged about this very topic, and did such a good job, I don’t think I can improve on it. Her full post is here. In it she offers five ways readers can help writers “that cost absolutely nothing but go a long way toward helping to foster their potential.”
As a struggling mid-lister, I assure you that if you do these things not only will they help, they will be enormously appreciated.
Here are G.P.’s suggestions on free ways to help writers:
5. Forward their pressWhether it is a tweet, post, or status message, someone who follows you might be interested. Retweeting or sharing a post only takes a second but could mean connecting a potential reader with an author they’ll love.4. Tell a friendIf you like someone’s work, there’s no better way than word of mouth to promote their cause. Even if you haven’t read the specific book yet, your comment can inform someone of the book’s availability. And, of course, if you have read the book, let others know you liked it. Indie authors don’t have large publicity budgets and rely on personal connections more than anything else for promotion.3. Tag and “like” their book on the bookseller’s siteAt the bottom of a book’s page on Amazon, there are check boxes to tag a book. When you check one, it strengthens the association between the book and that category. So, when someone else searches on the category, books with more tags appear higher in the search results. This increases exposure for the work.When you “like” a book on Amazon or Barnes and Noble, it adds a message on your Facebook newsfeed and is good promotion for the title.2. Add the author’s book to your To-Be-Read pile on GoodreadsAll of your Goodreads followers get a glimpse of the cover and can see that you added it. Plus, it increases the number of people associated with the book which can garner interest in the title.1. Write a reviewOften if your intention is to write a review, an author will provide you with a free copy of the book. Whether on a blog or on a bookseller’s site, reviews help authors sell more books and are greatly appreciated.