5 Ways to Support Authors (That Don’t Cost Anything)

5 Ways to Support Authors (That Don’t Cost Anything)

In our Amazon-ified world, being a book lover (or a book writer!) can be disheartening. Every few months, it seems, Amazon announces new measures that allow it to further undercut the authors and publishers of books on its website. How can we support authors and their publishers to ensure their books keep getting published? Here are some simple things you can do the next time you read a book worth celebrating–and they’re free!

1. Rate and review books on Amazon (and Goodreads)

The algorithm on Amazon is such that it favors the number of reviews over the average rating of the book. This means that a book with 100 reviews and a 4.5 average rating often shows up higher in searches than a book with 50 reviews and a 4.8 rating. Goodreads.com is also a helpful place to post a review, because readers tend to congregate there. I often cross-post reviews on Amazon to Goodreads to cover all the bases.

The reviews I’m talking about needn’t be long (three to five sentences is fine) nor does it need to summarize the entire book’s contents. What you’re aiming for is to give readers a picture of your personal experience reading the book. Here are a few thought starters you could use to generate a review:

  • My favorite quote in this book was … because … .
  • The character in this book that most surprised me was … because …
  • I read this book while [e.g. while going through a difficult season in my life, on a road trip through the Southwest, during the first year of graduate school]. This book helped me understand that experience by…
  • I am a [mother of three, recent graduate, struggling artist] and found this book useful for the following reasons…

2. Order their books through the publisher rather than Amazon

Technically, this suggestion is not absolutely free–ordering a book directly from the publisher often means spending a few extra dollars (or more) on the book than you would if you bought a cheap or used copy on Amazon. The upshot, however, is that more of your money is going to support the actual people who produced the book–the editors, the illustrators, the author, etc. Even Amazon is selling you a book from the publisher, only about 60% of what you pay goes on to the publisher (and the author)–the remaining 40% stays with Amazon.

It’s not just a matter of cutting out the middleman; as of March 2017, Amazon changed the way it sells its books by increasing the influence of third-party sellers. This means that when you purchase books on Amazon, it is now increasingly likely that very little of your money is going back to the publisher or author. In some cases, they aren’t getting anything at all for the book you’re ordering.

I don’t know about you, but I like to know where my money is going. When I buy a book, I want my money to support the folks who’ve worked to bring it into existence–not a random third party who may have procured the book illegally.

3. Request your local public library include the author’s book(s) in their holdings

Most libraries have a free form you can use to request they stock a certain book. In my library system, it’s as simple as looking up the book in their system (most books with an ISBN show up if I enter the exact title) and clicking a box next to it while logged into my account. Some libraries will order the book automatically if one person requests it, others require there to be a critical mass of people requesting an item–so if you know others in your area who like the book, ask them to do the same. This is a great way to support an author at a local level since you have to be a member of a particular library to make these types of requests. If I think a book is really important, I occasionally ask close friends in other places to request a book at their library, too. It’s free, it can’t hurt to ask, and the worst that happens is the library says no.

If your library still doesn’t end up stocking the book, consider buying an extra copy or two and donating them to be put into circulation.

4. Put a picture of yourself with the book on social media

It’s cheesy, I know. But posts like this give a face to the author’s readership and help others see themselves as potential readers. Make sure to tag the author and the publisher so they can see your post. If you’re a blogger or entrepreneur, the upside is that the post will connect you to other people, since publishers and authors will likely share or retweet it.

5. Invite the author to guest post on your blog

Unless the author has been on the NYT bestseller list, he or she may be willing to write a guest post for free. Before asking them, make sure there is a connection between the theme of your blog and the author’s work. In your query letter, be brief and personable, and clearly explain why the readers of your blog would be interested in hearing about their book.

Bonus: Organize a book club to read the book

Get a few friends together who haven’t yet read the book and do a reading club. You could structure it so that you each read a chapter per meeting, or read the whole book at once and meet to discuss it. Most books today have free discussion guides available online if there isn’t one already in the back of the book. This makes organizing a book discussion virtually effortless after the basic logistics are established place. If you’ve never organized a book club before, check out Real Simple’s checklist.

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