Monday, August 23, 2010

How to help a starving author


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.
On September 7th I'll be taking a look at the things you DON'T do if you want to help your favourite authors, starving or otherwise.

26 comments:

JJ Beattie said...

Liane, this is a rather marvellous article. We will all do as well to remember and ACT on it. Thanks lovely.

Phyllis Bourne said...

Awesome article, Liane!

Sue Guiney said...

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! And on that note -- my new novel is now available for pre-order. Easiest way is to click on "A Clash of Innocents" on my website: www.sueguiney.com :-))

Alice Turing said...

Haha Sue, what a good example you set! My new book Dance Your Way to Psychic Sex is also available, at DanceYourWay.co.uk.

This is indeed a brilliant article Liane, although I confess it partly just made me want to bury my hand in the sand rather than think of all those avenues I could or should be opening up in order to publicise my book.

Being a modern writer can be intensely exhausting - there is literally no end to the things one could be doing to publicise one's work, and it's very hard to know when or where to stop, or what real difference it will all make. My stubborn side says, "Oh sod it. Only a handful of people will ever know my book exists, but maybe it's worth it for the peace."

Alice Turing said...

You've inspired me to write about this some more: http://beleagueredsquirrel.blogspot.com/2010/08/publicity-fatigue.html

GABixler said...

Liane, I'm looking forward to your next article... I thought you would be interested to know that I had also thought of something similar...for one of my reviewer clients...it is indeed hard to write when there is barely food to eat...

Feel free to advertise your new group in any way at Reviewers Roundup! You go girl!

Debs said...

Great post and advise for us all. Thanks.

Lane said...

Excellent! Thank you.

Jewel Amethyst said...

Excellent Post! And yes, when readers contact me on facebook, I am ecstatic.

Farrah Rochon said...

Awesome tips, Liane! Off to joint How To Help a Starving Author!

Charles Gramlich said...

Great stuff. I'm referring all of my fans here. That's 2 or 3 extra hits. :)

Kaz Augustin said...

This needed to be said, Liane. Great post!

Maria Zannini said...

The sheer simplicity and logic of your tips is pure brilliance, Liane.

Liane Spicer said...

JJ, you're welcome! I got the idea for the post after receiving a very sweet letter from a reader last week.

Phyllis, thank you! Now if only we can get our readers to get on board... :)

Sue, huge congrats on your release! Believe it or not, I never gave a thought to preordering books until I started doing research for this article. Enlightening!

Alice, if your novel is half as delicious and zany as the title, it's a winner! The reviews have been great too! By the way, I get the bury-your-head impulse on a daily basis.

GABixler, thank you for visiting Novel Spaces! And thank you again for the invitation - I'll be taking you up on it!

Debs, Lane, thank you! Now, to take my own advice... I never knew what Digg and StumbleUpon were about before this week. O_O

Jewel, when that happens it pulls me straight out of the doldrums - a place I'm a little too familiar with at times.

Liane Spicer said...

Farrah, much appreciated!

Charles, lol! When I throw in my 2 or 3 we might even get into double digits.

Kaz, yes indeed. The misconceptions about what we earn are just too far off the mark. I suspect many readers would be happy to do what they can, but they don't know the realities of this business, or that they can make a real difference.

Maria, thank you for the kind words. Now, if only this ripple would grow into a wave we would all have good reason to smile.

Derek Haines said...

I just posted this article on Twitter Liane and was immediately accused of shamelessly self-plugging! Looks like we all starve together!

Liane Spicer said...

Derek. I'm so very sorry. :(

I don't tweet, and when a friend read this article she advised me that I should get on Twitter and put it out there. She also said that she would tweet the link. I don't know yet what sort of reception she got.

I'm hoping your experience is an exception. We're not asking people to do anything for us specifically, but trying to make readers aware of what they can do for midlist authors in general whose books they've enjoyed. If they like our books and want to help, then so much the better. It's the only way authors will be able to continue doing what they do. (Do you suppose that when celebrities tweet their hordes of followers accuse them of self-promotion? O_O )

Anyway, I'm preaching to the choir. If the worst comes to the worst we can always share a crust of stale bread. :)

Shauna Roberts said...

Thanks, Liane, for a great article.

Shelley Munro said...

Thanks for the excellent post. With pirates cutting into writing income even more this stuff really helps. I'd hate to imagine a world without midlist books!

Liane Spicer said...

Shauna, you're welcome!

Shelley, so very true. The piracy is a scourge. I'll touch on that in my next post on what readers should NOT do if they want to support authors.

KeVin K. said...

From the title I'd hoped you were announcing a relief effort. Maybe a lot of big-name bands holding fund-raising concerts around the globe.
Bit of a let down.

BUT, overlooking the fact there's no actual cash involved, great article.

Liane Spicer said...

KeVin, the "Feed the Authors" concert is on stream, actually. Bono, Sting, Andrea Bocelli, Alicia Keys and the Marsalis brothers committed already, but Whitney is playing hard to get. :D

Debi said...

Oh you are good - really, really good. But then we knew that already ...

Liane Spicer said...

Debi, thank you! :D Many happy returns, chica!

Brian Weir said...

I'm a newly minted author and I have NO idea how to market my book. I am LITERALLY a starving author right now.

Liane Spicer said...

Brian, I've been there. If I had to depend on my writing to eat I'd have been dead long ago.