Lea Wait, here, broaching a subject that a lot of authors don’t feel comfortable talking about, except to each other.
Simply: if you’re a reader, we need your help. If our books don’t sell enough copies, no publisher will buy our next one. If we’re writing a series, it will end. And, even more bluntly, we might not make our next mortgage payment.
So, of course, we want people to buy our books. But if you really love an author’s work, there’s more you can do to help. (Although no writer would object if you bought ten copies of their book and gave them to everyone you knew!)
What a lot of people don’t know is that there’s a “best time” to buy a book. That time is before it’s published. If you know you’ll buy Suzy Smith’s book as soon as it comes out … pre-order it now, on-line or in your favorite bookstore. If you pre-order it from a chain, it lets that chain know people are interested in it, and they may decide to stock it. (Not all books are stocked by all chains.) If you pre-order from an independent bookstore, it alerts the staff that there’s interest in the book. They’ll consider ordering additional copies. The more pre-orders, the more copies a publisher prints, the more marketing the book gets. And all those pre-orders count for sales in one week (publication week,) so you might even be helping your favorite author’s book climb the best-seller list.
You missed the “pre-order” window? You can still help. Go to your local bookstore and ask for Suzy’s book. That’s right. Even if you know it’s on the table by the door, ASK for it. That brings it to the owner’s or salesperson’s attention. They may check it out themselves. They may suggest it to other people. Bingo! Your one purchase could turn into five. Or ten. Or more.
OK. So, you’ve bought the book. And loved it, I hope. Can hardly wait for the next one from Suzy. Hurrah!
But there’s more you can do to help make sure Suzy’s next book will be published, and her next. They don’t cost money. And they’re very important.
Most important, tell people who read that you loved the book. Tell them in person, rave about it on your Facebook page or on Twitter or in your blog; in the supermarket line, at your kids’ soccer game, to the guy sitting next to you at the airport. Oh — and don’t loan ten people your precious copy of her book. Encourage them to buy their own. (You know why.)Think of yourself as a personal marketing person for Suzy.
If you’re in a book group, suggest they read the book. Contact the author to see if they will join the book club’s discussion via Skype, or, if they live close enough, in person. Not all authors will agree .. but many will. Write reviews of the book at on-line sites like Amazon.com and BN.com and Goodreads. (And give it 5 stars. You love, it, right?) Ask your library to order a copy, if they haven’t already. Many libraries order books their borrowers are looking for.
If the book is for children, make sure every teacher you know hears about it, and about how it would be a great book for his or her classroom, and suggest the author could make a school visit, in person or via Skype.
If the book is for adults, ask your library or Kiwanis Club or country club or any other group you’re a member of that has speakers to invite Suzy to speak. (Unless your group can pay Suzy’s expenses, this is best done with authors who live within a couple of driving hours.) And suggest that your local bookstore supply books to be sold after Suzy’s talk, so Suzy can sign them. If there’s no nearby bookstore (sorry about that!) maybe Suzy will bring copies of her books herself. Even better … if you admire several authors in one genre — suggest a panel on publishing, or writing, or living the life of an author.
If you attend conferences or are a member of an organization that gives out book awards, you might be in a position to nominate or vote for Suzy’s book. Fantastic.
If you do even a few of these things, Suzy will love you. And you’ll be helping to ensure that she can keep writing. Which is what you both want.
Any other ideas for how readers can help writers? Please, share!
And thank you to every reader who does any of the things I’ve suggested.