Originally published on r/fantasy. You can read the discussion here.
A couple of months ago, someone asked how they could help a debut author. This topic comes up a couple times a year, so I thought I’d write a full post about it.
Note: Some of these things don’t apply to authors wanting to hit the NYT bestsellers list, the USAT bestsellers list, etc. Also, some might not apply to those with big pub contracts who are struggling to keep those big pub contracts and are asking their readers for help differently than what I’m posting here. So take this as a general template, not an absolute for every single author out there.
The tl;dr list is here at the top to save you the trouble of scrolling:
1. Buy their book
2. Read their book
3. Review their book
4. Tell people about their book.
5. Join up for their mailing list or their whatever promo page (blog, facebook etc).
6. Share news about their sales and new releases for people.
7. Bask in the glory of being a hipster early adopter of this person
Buy their book
This is obviously obvious. The big question is which retailer and which format makes an author the most money. For authors with big publishers, /u/MarkLawrence did a huge blog post about it. He went through his contract and did a breakdown of earnings. Brian McClellan did the same here.
For indie authors, be it self-published or small press, it’s often best to buy their ebooks over print. Ebooks cost the authors a bit less to make (for more info, see my post An Indie Perspective on Book Costs). The major retailers pay 70% royalties to us on books over $2.99 (they pay 35-40% on books under $2.99).
Some authors also often books on their websites, including trad published authors. For example, if you are a fan of /u/JannyWurts *Wars of Light & Shadow* universe, you should head over to her website and pick up the three short stories. That way, you know all of the money is going directly to her.
So that’s all well and good, but what if you can’t afford to buy the books? There’s the obvious options – library, pirating (doesn’t matter one’s opinion, this is an option on the table), monthly subscriptions (Scribd, KU), and so on. In Canada, Canadian authors registered with the lending program are financially compensated for books checked out of the library. It’s not a 1-for-1 or anything, but it’s a bit of additional money to help off-set library lending.
Many authors offer review copies through their mailing lists, Netgalley (especially for Big Publishers), and LibraryThing. So those are other options for getting free books from your favourite authors.
I’ve been asked a few things about the subscriptions services. Yes, the authors are paid for those. The payment vary widely. Scribd pays out at full royalties. That means users have more limited access to books. There are more and more trad books on Scribd these days, and a lot of audiobooks being added now that they use the credit system. KU (Amazon) has a pool of money every month that is divided between everyone based on “page views” and additional bonuses for the top read authors. Right now, the general payout is about 0.0045 cents a page, but it fluctuates.
Review their book
Many of you have argued with me about what I’m going to say, so please hear me out before you yell at me in the comments. I believe strongly, especially for indie and small press authors, that Amazon.com reviews are the biggest help. Newsletter email ads are the standard way that small authors (and many big publishers) promote their sales on ebooks. However, the ad companies require a minimum number of reviews *plus* a high review score, often a 4 star average or higher. They only look at Amazon.com *not* anywhere else, including other Amazon sites.
You don’t need to buy the book on Amazon; you just need an Amazon account where you’ve bought things from before.
But what if you don’t want to review on Amazon? That’s fine. Goodreads is a good, solid place to review. It reaches a difference readership, sure, but it’s still reaches a readership. Some people don’t trust Amazon reviews and use exclusively Goodreads, so having a review there is going to help reach those readers.
If you really want to help an author, check their book on Barnes and Noble. If the reviews are being used as a chat room, please report this, especially if they mark all of their comments with 1 stars. Also, adding your *real* review there, no matter how critical, is significantly more helpful than a bunch of kids roleplaying during computer class.
Tell people about their book
This seems obvious, but so many people forget to do this. Share the book on /r/fantasy, Twitter, Facebook, and wherever else you go. Too often, the only books that are talked about are ones with massive advertising budgets behind them. They already have co-op table placement, face-out placement on the shelves, the pro reviews, and so on. A debut author with what [Scalzi calls a Contemptible Deal] isn’t getting any special treatment and could really use a boost.
Likewise, indies are still struggling ~~with being called shitty hacks and openly mocked even though she doesn’t have a fucking day job no more and pays her fucking bills with her fucking royalties so get off her back DEEP BREATH~~ for acceptance from their peers and other readers. If you like something one of them puts out, for pity’s sake, tell people about it. You might be buying them some fruit this month and helping them fight off scurvy!
Join up for their mailing list or their whatever promo
This is always a good idea because you can keep up with their sales and new releases. Many authors also have “street teams” whereby you can sign up for advance reader copies and chances to win prizes. Also, this is where you find about their lesser-known projects, such as short story collections, novellas, and side projects.
This also gives you the opportunity to share those sales and new releases with your friends and reading groups, and get to once again celebrate the genius of your favourite books.
I know that social media is tricky. Someone like John Scalzi can be polarizing. Someone like me can be annoying (I tweet endlessly about my breakfasts and my corgis; sometimes, my spaniel eating my breakfast…). That’s why I suggest mailing lists if you find their social media too much to handle.
I hope that helps a little and gives people some ideas on how to give a boost to their favourite authors, especially those who aren’t talked about very often.
edited to fix formatting and typos