Tuesday, September 7, 2010

How To Help a Starving Author Part 2: The Don'ts

In my last post I discussed the ways in which readers can help their favourite starving authors. Today we're looking at the other side of the coin, the don'ts. Whether your authors are of the starving variety or bestselling, celebrity, household names, they wish all their readers knew the following:
  • Don't send foodstuff in the mail. Yes, authors love tokens of appreciation, but seriously? Don't. Send. Food. (It happens. I am not making this up.)
  • Don't send authors your manuscript and ask what they think. The only exception is if they personally ask you to. Between writing, editing and promoting, not to mention the day jobs most of them have to toil at to try and keep body and soul together, writers simply do not have the time to critique your manuscript. In addition to that, many of them are prohibited from doing so in their contracts with agents and publishers in order to avoid "You stole my story!" lawsuits down the line.
  • Don't send anything that's invaluable, irreplaceable, or perishable.
  • Don't mess up the display in the bookstore to put your pet author's books in a more favourable position. Do not move them to the new release tables. The bookstore managers will be mad at you, and will probably assume you're acting on the instructions of the author. They'll be mad at the author. Authors don't need to be at odds with bookstore managers.
  • Don't hesitate to borrow the author's books from the library. How do libraries get copies of the books? They buy them! If an author's books are in demand they are more likely to keep on ordering them in the future.
  • Don't sabotage the author's competition. This includes writing nasty Amazon, Barnes & Noble or Goodreads reviews about their books.
  • Don't worry if you didn't buy the book directly from the Amazon button on the author's website. While direct sales from the author's site means a commission in her pocket, the amount is so minuscule it really isn't worth sweating over. A sale is a sale, and the big secret is that the actual percentage of books sold by Amazon is shockingly small.
  • Don't special order copies of the author's books and then not purchase them. If you don't pick them up the bookstore sends them right back to the publisher who then deducts those sales from the author's royalty statement. He will not thank you for that.
  • Don't bug people to buy the author's books. By all means spread the word, but don't be so persistent and insistent that you begin to annoy people if they're not interested. Everyone's taste is different, and pressure to buy or read will very likely turn your quarry away from the author's work. On the other hand, I've bought books that acquaintances recommended casually years after the pertinent conversations.
The Facebook group How To Help A Starving Author that I impulsively set up two weeks ago while writing the first post on this subject has now reached 74 members. If you're on Facebook please visit us. Begin a discussion, or join in an existing one. Kevin Machin has started a list of review sites on one thread. We'd love to have your input, so come join in the fun as we explore the ways in which readers can assist their favourite starving authors.

On September 23rd I'll be discussing what authors can and should do for their readers.


Phyllis Bourne said...

Uh, oh. I move my books - and all of my friends books - to better positions all the time.

Charles Gramlich said...

Good advice. I do turn my friends books covers out at times, but don't move them to "better" locations.

Debs said...

Great advise. I'm just going to go and unpack the chocolate I was going to send you :)

Liane Spicer said...

Phyllis, I know friends have done that with mine. I probably couldn't do it even if I wanted to - I'd too busy expecting to feel the heavy hand on the (bookstore) law on my shoulder.

Charles, I wouldn't dream of moving the books around but I know some people do it.

Debs, did you say chocolate? Um, I'd so like to swallow my words right about now... :D

Lynn Emery said...

Keep spreading the word! Love the post.

Chris Stovell said...

Look away now... some of my friends and family may have given my book a little assistance in the shops too. Oops! So far have had some nice things in the post, mainly lovely letters.
Great post!

Jewel Amethyst said...

I know it's bad to say this since I'm an author, but it's very rare that I enter a bookstore. I buy almost all of my books online.

Jewel Amethyst said...

I know it's bad to say this since I'm an author, but it's very rare that I enter a bookstore. I buy almost all of my books online.

Liane Spicer said...

Thank you, Lynn and Chris!

Jewel, the traditional big books stores here have either gone out of business or shrunk to ghosts of their former selves. Since I can get any book I want with a few clicks and keystrokes I have no incentive to go to the stores. Unless I'm in the US. I love Barnes & Noble! :)