Writers don't make a lot of money. Debbie MacComber, Sue Grafton and John Grisham are the exceptions; the truth is that it's difficult for midlist authors to make a living from writing - and it's getting harder all the time. Who makes up the midlist? They're the thousands who write the tens of thousands of books that pack the shelves of your favourite bookstores.
Waitresses make more money than writers.
Pizza delivery guys make more money than writers.
The boy with the bucket of water and the windshield swiper standing at the traffic lights and cleaning your glass for a dollar very likely makes more money than writers.
I can't imagine a world without books. Writers enrich our lives immeasurably with their words, and they do it for little or nothing.The very best thing readers can do for their favourite authors is buy their books. They love you for that and nothing further is required. However, if readers really, really, really want to go the extra mile to show some appreciation, here's a list of the ways they can help.
- Write reviews. One reader not only wrote a brilliant review of my book, but she put it up on every book site she belongs to: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Goodreads and Shelfari. Amazon is the best, because it's where everyone goes to get feedback on everything regardless of where they actually buy the stuff. That reader I mentioned? If I ever have another baby, she's my first choice for godmother.
- Tag books on Amazon. See those little boxes halfway down the page under the heading 'Tags Customers Associate with This Product'? Click as many of those boxes as you can. (Helpful hint: You have to be signed in to your account for the boxes to appear, otherwise all you'll see is the list of tags.) If there are very few tags, create some. This pushes the book higher up in searches. The higher the search rank, the easier the book can be found by potential readers.
- Spread the word. Tell your friends and acquaintances about the book. Pass around your copy. Ask for it at your library and at your bookstore. Write about the author on your own site(s), and remember to link to the author’s website. This helps with Google, Technorati and other rankings. Use book recommendation sites. Follow your favorite authors - on Blogger, on Twitter, and wherever else online the opportunity arises. Use social networking tools like Digg, StumbleUpon, MySpace, and LibraryThing. See all those funny little icons at the bottom of blog posts all over the web? They lead to social networking sites that can seriously boost an author’s web traffic. Boosting web traffic to authors' sites increases their visibility and sales.
- Nominate your favorite author, book, magazine, short story, etc. for awards.
- Preorder new books when they are announced.
- Sign up for the author’s mailing list.
- Suggest the author’s work at your book club or reading circle.
- Attend author events. Authors often hold book signings and launch parties, lead workshops, do readings, and attend conventions. Face to face interaction with readers is like chocolate to us.
- Join the new Facebook group, How To Help a Starving Author. Writers work in the dark, and when readers take the trouble to contact them and let them know how much they like their work it makes them really, really, really happy. So often readers want to know why they haven't heard about the book before, why the next one isn't available yet, why the story isn't a movie. Most of the time, they are unaware that the reader has the power to make all these things happen.
- Drop your favourite author a note. Say what you liked about the book. I guarantee it'll make his or her day.