Penny Sansevieri ([email protected]), an expert on book marketing, sent out a message to readers, advising them how they can assist authors. As the author of PRAGUE: MY LONG JOURNEY HOME, and one whose next book–a short one, titled NAME-DROPPINGS–will be coming out this summer, I’m copying Penny’s suggestions in the hope that my readers will be willing to assist me. Thanks so much — readers and Penny!
Okay readers, listen up. This one is for you. Being an author isn’t easy, in fact it’s a pretty tough job. We write our books for you and, in return, we’d love a little help now and again.
Most of my articles are around marketing, social media, and advising authors on what they can do. Often I am sure that authors read these pieces and feel like they need a nap. Yes, there’s a lot to be done, but you shouldn’t go it alone. Your readers can be your best ally to help you market and readers, listen up: it’s not easy being an author in a world where everyone can get published.
Often readers do want to help, but aren’t really sure what to do. Also, there’s a bit of a mystique around authors. Many readers think, “Well, the book has been published, they probably don’t need my help.” But this couldn’t be further from the truth. Authors (especially those who are starting out) do need our help. Here are a few things you can do to help support your favorite author and for authors, don’t hesitate to post this list somewhere on your website. If you need help (and who doesn’t) you need to ask for it.
* Review the book: I’ve been doing an experiment with a book that I published anonymously. I included an email address for readers to write to share their thoughts on the book and I was shocked at all of the emails I got. Most of them complimentary (whew) and many of them asking when I’d write another book (something every author wants to hear). I would write them, thank them and ask them if they had the time, would they consider reviewing it on Amazon. This has netted me over fifty reader reviews. Authentic opinions about the book, written by a reader. Fantastic, yes? Readers are some of the best resources for reviews. If you are an author, ask for a review. You might even include a note at the end of the book to your readers inviting them to review it and telling them why. I’m surprised that many readers don’t do this, it’s not because they’re lazy but because they wonder if their opinion matters. Guess what? It does! Like a book? Please review it. Even if you don’t like it review it, too. Most authors welcome feedback if it’s constructive. Always be positive.
* Video reviews: If you’re ready to take this a step further, why not offer a video review? Amazon lets you do this and I know, as an author, I would be thrilled if someone reviewed my book on video! If you do this, send the video clip via Dropbox or YouSendit and keep the clip to under a minute. Hold up the book and smile!
* Photo sharing: This is another thing that I would love so much. A reader holding up my book, snapping a picture and posting it on social media! This is a fun, visual way to share your love for a book. Even better, snap a picture where you’re reading it. Taking a book on vacation? Why not show yourself enjoying the book (cover out!) reclining in a hammock or sitting somewhere sipping espresso (
?). If you don’t have any travel planned, take a picture anyway. Authors love, love this so much!
* Local bookstores: Though it may seem like every author who is published gets a shot at bookstore shelf space, the truth is that most don’t. If you’ve found a book you love and had to buy it on Amazon because your local store didn’t carry it, tell them. Bookstore managers have told me if they get multiple requests for a book they will consider stocking it.
* Reading groups: This is often a tough one for authors to get into.
groups are a fantastic way to get the word out about your book but many are tough to reach and often pick their books months in advance. Unlike The Pulpwood Queens which has a website and a strong online presence, most local book clubs don’t have that kind of exposure but their regional reach can be fantastic. If you know of a local book club let them know about this book and then put them in touch with the author. It’s a quick thing to do and I speak from experience when I say that any author would be very, very grateful to have this kind of a connection.
* Buy the book for a friend: This is pretty basic. If you love the book you just read, buy a copy for a friend. I do this almost every year for Christmas. If I love a book, I gift it. When you gift it, remind the person to review it.
* Social Media: Sharing has become part of our lives. We share good and bad news but when was the last time you shared what you are reading? Here’s where that great picture you just took of you reading a book can come in handy. Or even better, hop on over to Goodreads or Library Thing and share your love for this author to the millions listening there.
* Bookmarks: Most authors will get things printed up like bookmarks, postcards, etc. Bookmarks are especially fun because despite the eBook surge, many of us are still reading printed books. Email the author and see if he or she will send you a stack of them that you can share with your local library or bookstore. Leave them at the counter or pop them inside of similar books. Sort of like Amazon’s “Other customers also bought” which pairs up similar titles. I know of a few times when this has happened, meaning readers contacting authors and the authors are blown away and grateful. Again, this takes very little effort. Ask for the bookmarks and the next time you’re at a bookstore drop them off. Easy and the authors will really appreciate the local exposure.
* Authors on tour: It’s not often that authors tour anymore but if you have someone coming to your area why not offer to help them get the word out? Maybe drop off fliers, or if you are so inclined, call your local paper and let them know this author is coming to town and as a reader, you’d love for the paper to do a story on it. Getting a heads up about an author coming to town from a reader can be ten times more effective than even a well-polished pitch. Why? Because the media is serving the local community and if a resident is sharing an idea, they’re bound to listen.
* Libraries: Authors can have a tough time getting into libraries so why not buy an extra book and donate it? Then let the author know that you did this so they can let readers know where they can check out the book at a local library. I know most authors would love to have a reader do this. It’s impossible to reach everyone and most authors don’t have the budget to do a library pitch on top of everything else. Many will submit their books to publications librarians read and hope for the best. Having a local connection is a fantastic way to get a book some local exposure.
When I’ve offered these tips in a session sometimes someone will pop up and say, “But big named authors don’t need this kind of help.” That’s possibly quite true, but if you’re only reading big names you’re missing out on a whole crop of wonderful new writers. And, candidly, most authors, no matter how big they are will appreciate the help. The publishing world isn’t just shrinking for the little guy, it’s shrinking for every author. As a reader, you have a unique opportunity to make a difference and help out an author who has poured his or her heart and soul into a book. As an author, if you need help from your readers ask. Post this article on your website or excerpt pieces of it that you feel best fit your needs. Even better, create your own list. When you ask for help, you might be very pleasantly surprised by the results.