Today's book market is a reader's dream. The rise of independent publishing has opened the field to millions of niche stories and ones that don't follow trend at all, stories that wouldn't have seen the light of day twenty years ago. Today's readers have a golden opportunity to find stories you'll love no matter your taste, but all of this variety has a downside.
Finding said stories takes a bit of digging. After hours of searching, you may find a story with elements you love only to find a manuscript rife with errors or that the author's voice drives you bonkers. On the other side of things, it can be tough for authors, both seasoned and new, to make their books stand out in the crowd or to make any sort of traction, especially with pirating sites being more common and brazen than ever.
So, what's a reader to do?
Here are a few simple ways to help your favorite authors keep producing new work and your fellow readers find the gems hidden in a mountain of pebbles.
1. Leave reviews.
Reviews, even simple star ratings with an, "I liked it," help authors and readers alike in a number of ways.
Think about it. If you're considering a couple if similar books online, what influences your decision on which one to purchase? For most, the key words entered by the author or publisher at the time of publication are what brings it up in a search. The cover and title draw attention. The blurb and/or description peak interest, but when two or more books are equally alluring, reader reviews make all the difference.
They can give you an idea of the author's voice and storytelling skill and help you separate good ideas with poor writing from the ones that have both.
But did you know the numbers of reviews any book has influences its ranking in searches on sites like Amazon and other large retailers? Once a book has a certain number of reviews, generally around 20-30, these large retail sites begin promoting them in search rankings. As they gain more reviews, the more the large sites promote them. So more reviews equal not only more opinions for potential readers to see before purchasing, but the easier it is for them to find the book in the first place.
Additionally, you never know when your favorite might be giving up hope. Writing is a lonely thing, and it can be very discouraging to work for years on a project only to put it out into the world and hear nothing but crickets. We can track sales numbers, but those tend to drop to nil within a week or two of publication unless you have several thousand to spend on advertising, especially if a pirating site or two nabs a copy. This is just one reason so many publish one book and throw in the towel a month later.
Hearing from readers can make all the difference, even if it isn't all complimentary. Criticism, when it is constructive, is how we learn, grow, and improve.
2. Talk about books you've enjoyed, and don't be shy about dropping the author's name.
Word-of-mouth is still one of, if not the most, valuable means of marketing around. Who do you trust more, random people on the internet or your family and friends?
If you read a book and loved it, don't be shy about telling people about it in person and online. (And no, I don't just mean as reviews. We've already talked about those.) Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or any other social media site can be used to strike up conversations about stories and books. It's amazing how easily and quickly such conversations can turn into a massive thread discussing certain stories several people have read or genres with lots of different titles and authors mentioned. Give it a try, and there's a good chance you'll end up adding to your "to read" list.
If you've found the author's account online, tag or mention them if you can. You'll make their day and might even end up striking up a conversation with them.
3. Give your favorite books as gifts to friends and family members you think would enjoy them.
Books make terrific gifts for those who love to read. Goodness knows C. L. and I either one would have been thrilled with receiving a book by an author we hadn't heard of but that looked like something we'd enjoy when we were kids, teens, or now. With the popularity of home library images being drooled over on Pinterest, we can't be alone in this, can we?
4. Request it at your local library.
Libraries, on the whole, are still wary of purchasing books by new authors, especially those who are indie. While it's true authors themselves can reach out to libraries, it's usually a rather drawn out process to get them approved and/or requires the donation of whatever copies are accepted. As you might imagine, this makes getting a book into more than a handful of libraries local to the author rather time and cost prohibitive. That's usually not the case with patron requests though. Your library card has power where the library is concerned. Use it, and who knows how many may find a book and author they never would have known about otherwise.
5. Join the fandom, or if there isn't one yet, get it started.
If you like something enough to feel the urge to draw fan art, write fan fiction, make fan theory or head canon posts, or anything else considered to be part of fandom, then go for it. The majority of creators I've talked to who are out there creating today consider this kind of thing extremely flattering and a sign they're doing something good. There are a few old fashioned authors who get up in arms about fan works, but the largest majority of us take it as the biggest compliment a fan could give.
Not only that, but seeing fandom posts and images on Pinterest, Twitter, Tumblr, etc. has earned almost any and every fandom out there countless new members. Have you ever seen interesting fan art on your Tumblr or Pinterest feeds or stumbled across fan theories or head canons anywhere online you knew nothing about but found so intriguing you decided to check out the book or series? I know I have, and I've heard I don't know how many people at conventions mention the same thing.
Still not sure, just look at Harry Potter. What's kept it going for more than twenty years? It's dedicated fandom is what has kept it alive and growing as much if not more than J. K. Rowling's writing prowess. The same can be said of almost every fandom out there.
So there you go. If you've found a new author or series out there and want to see more from them, here are a few simple, low cost ways you can help out your fellow readers and favorite authors. It's no where near comprehensive though. Have some other good tips for your fellow readers? Add them to the comments below.
A. B. England is a novelist, all around geek, avid crafter, and the home-schooling mother of two.
She is an autistic creator with a love of mythology, fantasy, and all flavors of science fiction.
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