A Reader’s Guide to Supporting Authors

Storm Without End by RJ BlainReaders make or break an author's career. While many authors will claim they write for themselves, my truth is far more complicated than that. I write for myself, and I write for you, my readers. I am also a reader.

It's confession time, I suppose. Writing ‘my readers' took a lot of courage on my part. I'm not the only author who addresses readers as ‘the readers' or ‘the fans'–it's hard writing my readers or my fans. It feels like I've grown some sort of ego, but the simple truth is this: without my readers or my fans, I don't have a career.

So, to those of you who have supported me by buying my books, thank you. Every day you prove time and time again that you're the reason I write, and that you're the reason I haven't quit writing in favor of going back to a standard office job.

Without you, I don't think I would have had the courage or motivation to keep struggling with a very, very difficult career choice. Each time one of you approaches me and tells me that you loved my stories, you remind me why I write.

Thank you, my fans and readers. I'll never be able to fully express how important you are to me.

You, my readers, my fans, and general lover of books, are the real power behind the publishing industry. It doesn't matter if your favorite authors are backed by a big publishing house or if they're self-published. How your books get into your hands isn't the important thing here. What is important is knowing how you can help authors thrive–authors just like me.

This guide will go into the many ways readers and book lovers can support their favorite authors. Yes, even if you aren't my fan or reader–this applies to all authors, in my opinion. I might have written something like this in the past, but it's worth revisiting.

I'll begin with the obvious one.

Buy Books

It's very difficult for an author to survive, especially when they write full time. The writing career (At least mine) is not friendly. Most readers aren't interested in an author's financial stability. You want to read a good book. I get that. So do I. That's why I started writing in the first place–I want to read and write good books.

But financials are a very important part of an author's life. Every book you buy helps them achieve, well, their basic livelihood.

Sure, we write for you, readers, but writing isn't free. If you're interested in reading more about my financial situation, to give you an idea what's involved in producing a novel, you can read this article regarding my income and plans to become a full-time author.

So what can you do if you can't afford another book? ‘Buying' a book when it is free helps the author get a little bit more visibility. It does count! Sure, the author doesn't get paid for those free sales, but you can leave a review, which I'll talk about a bit later.

If you own Amazon Prime, you can also check out books on a kindle through their Kindle Unlimited Lending Library doodad. Authors get credit if you read 10% or more of a novel. The credits aren't as high as if you buy the book, but if you already have prime, it's a great way to help your favorite authors who happen to be in the KDP Select system. (All of my titles, at time of writing, are in the KDP Select system, so you can check them out on your kindle if you're a prime member! Amazon Prime also includes a lot of nice things, including better shipping and access to tv shows and movies.)

If you already own a copy of the author's books, buy a gift for a reading friend. Just make sure they accept it, if you're using Amazon's digital system, as the author isn't paid until the gift is accepted, even if you've already paid for it. (That part of things sucks.)

Review Books

A lot of people think that reviewing a novel is scary. It doesn't have to be. If you really love a book, or want to support the author, go to amazon, find the book, and leave a review. It only needs to be a few sentences long. Pick something you truly love about the book and talk about it. Choosing a star rating is daunting, but authors really appreciate it–I really appreciate it.

From my perspective, four and five star reviews are the best, but little beats a really well thought out three star review. This is the type of book that lists what you really liked about the book and what just didn't work out for you. Three star reviews, when written to help readers and the author, are extremely helpful.

But, keep this in mind: most readers don't care about the author's feelings when they read reviews. They want to know how other readers thought about the title.

I know leaving something other than a five star review is also daunting, but it's okay. While I love five star reviews, I expect a reader to have really adored my book to leave a five star review.

So, as a plea on behalf of all of us authors–go forth and leave a shining review, precious reader!

You make us, and you break us.

P.S.: Some of you noticed I specified Amazon as a place to leave reviews. The major retailers are often where people check out and buy books. Goodreads can be nice, but it isn't the true powerhouse. Amazon, Barnes & Nobles, and the other major retailers are.

Tell Your Friends

Word of mouth is the best form of advertising for an author. If you truly love an author, take the one on one approach. Talk to your friends about the books you love. Encourage them to buy. If they can't afford it, but seem interested, and you can–buy them a copy of the book.

Spread your love of an author's books to others. This is one of the best things you could ever do for your favorite author.

Talk to the Author

Most authors are shy. It took me a long time for me to be able to put myself out in front of people… and doing so is still quite scary. But, I truly do love talking with people about reading and writing. I don't like to respond directly to reviews unless there is a pressing need to, but if you want to talk books, I love talking about books. I'm also happy to talk about my books, especially if it isn't directly connected to a review. (The irony here is staggering. I know, reviews are my lifeblood, but I still can't get comfortable talking directly about specific reviews.)

If you approach me, I'll say thank you–but I'll often try to avoid discussing specific points.

But, readers, authors are people too! Talk to them about anything. If you're polite and courteous, who knows what might happen? You might make a new friend.

Advertise Your Authors

I've been asked, in private, if there were ways that they could support my books directly. Yes, it sounds just like you think it sounds–they wanted to offer financial support for my books.

Advertising and promotion is extremely difficult for authors. It's expensive or it's time consuming. So, here's a bullet point list of some sneaky ways you can help an author promote their books–without them knowing you've done it. I've also included some more visible ways you can help, too.

You can promote and advertise an author's books like a NINJA. I've had this happen to me, and it's been one of the greatest things to happen to me as an author. I'll note that this is usually something self-published authors need far more than traditionally published ones. But still–you can use some of these tricks for traditionally published authors as well–especially the resharing, retweeting, blogging, and general word-of-mouth options. The good traditional publishers are already using the paid venues to support their authors, so they need more word-of-mouth help than financial assistance.

  • If you know of an upcoming free day promotion, register the book with lists and websites promoting free days. (You can do this mid promotion, too, if you know how long it'll be free for.) (This is huge! Someone did this for Inquisitor, unbeknownst to me, and the results were amazing.)
  • Purchase an ad spot on a website. There are many sites that use amazon's affiliate system to share books. Pick one, give them the link to the book, and buy a spot. (There are sites that will do this for as low as $5 or $10.)
  • Post a review or promotional post on your blog or website.
  • Invite the author to do an interview or guest post on your website.
  • Reshare, Retweet, Reblog, Like. All of these things help.
  • Write and post your own tweets, facebook, google+, pinterest, etc about the book.
  • Talk to the author and offer to sponsor a blog tour or other promotional campaign. (Some authors want full control over how they advertise, and you can buy them a blast promotion for as little as $45 or so. These promotions help an author spread word about their books to bloggers outside of their usual sphere of influence.)
  • Volunteer to help with a book release. Host a spot for the book on your blog, your website, or post it to your social media outlets.

In short, spread the word about your favorite author–there are a lot of ways you can help an author. Many of these ways are free, but take time. Authors want to be writing, editing, and producing books–the marketing elements are difficult and time consuming, which often means even the serious, professional authors are balking at the work involved.

I saved the best for last. The top way you can help authors?

Keep Reading.

Thank you, lovers of books.


An Author.

P.S.: I like virtual hugs.

Leave a Comment:

Constance Burris says February 14, 2015

All of this! Great post.

As a writer, I was really surprised how my first fan letter felt. I did not expect for it to feel so good and it has really motivated me to write more. So yes readers, please tell show your authors love.

As a reader, I am now off to get your books because I have Kindle Unlimited. Squee!

    RJBlain says February 14, 2015

    Thank you so much, Constance!! 🙂

Paul Zecher says February 15, 2015

I like virtual cuddling, but that’s good enough. A hug’s sort of like a cuddle? no…? I will have to go ninja. I think it’s very tough time for writers. It is and it’s not. But the written word is so hard to focus on. — As of know I just reread books I’ve enjoyed before. “Notes from the Underground” and “Anna Karenina” and “War and Peace”. And a few others. I like memorizing the written word. And I was even going about it with a odd-ball book from the 30s: Lost Horizon. I was looking for a book that had a narrative like that. It was quite good and then it took a rather weird detour. Why? I don’t know…but apparently SOME people did like it. It was whole unexpected since I just “picked it up” and started reading.
I’ve got to run…sort of…

Paul Zecher says February 15, 2015

Oh, it is very hard to make establish yourself as a writer. Contrary to what I said above. I’ve got a little something I’ll work on now. I feel the fool these past hours so I’m turning off G+ for a little bit.

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