You just went out and had a really nice meal at your favorite place to eat. It might be a local joint you’ve gone to for years. Maybe it’s an Italian or French bistro. It might be a chain or one of those local diners that’s been a legendary destination in your community for generations. Often you spread the word. Tell your friends about the great meal you enjoyed and recommend your friends go there to have the same fantastic experience. Maybe at the holidays you even buy a gift cards or certificates from your favorite restaurant and give them to friends or acquaintances. You go on facebook and Yelp! and other review sites and post a glowing review. Whatever you do, spreading the word and actually sending business to the place you love really helps their bottom line.
Do you do the same with the books you read?
Do you tell your friends about your favorite authors? Did you just happen to read a really terrific book and tell everyone you know? Are you as evangelical about your favorite authors as you are about your favorite restaurants and clothing stores or auto mechanics?
Some people who are avid readers do this automatically. They post reviews on online sites like goodreads and they talk about what they’re reading on facebook or twitter. These little mentions help those books and authors find new readers. But a lot of times, I’ve asked this question to people and the thought of ‘promoting’ a book the way they ‘promote’ their favorite restaurant never occurs to them. I think part of this is because the world of writing and publishing is somewhat of a mystery to people. Most think that once a writer is published they’ve ‘made it.’ And in a sense, they have. Getting published is a long and arduous process and ‘getting published’ is no small accomplishment. But once a book is published, to a very large degree whether that book succeeds or not, whether the author keeps ‘getting published’ is really out their hands.
It’s in the hands of you, the readers.
What you have to understand is that an author is a lot like your favorite restaurant. If it doesn’t get visited, if no one eats there, if its customers don’t tell others about their own positive experiences, it’s probably not going to succeed.
Most people don’t think of the books they read as the output of a business, but an author is essentially a small businessperson. Most struggle with overhead, expenses and, given the amount of time between books, cash flow.They need ‘traffic’ in the form of readers to succeed.
So if you visit bookstores this holiday season, think of all those books on the shelves and tables as tiny restaurants waiting for you to open their doors and taste the great ‘meal’ inside. And then do the things you do with any of your favorite businesses. In fact, here are five things you can do to help your favorite authors.
1. Create Readers
Start right in your own house. If you read a book you love, get your significant other to read it. Or your children, if it’s age appropriate. Have a family reading night. (You can watch your favorite TV shows later). The sad fact is, people are reading less. Kids are reading less. Kids do what they see their parents do. If you don’t treat reading as an important worthwhile activity, why should they? I’m not talking about reading for homework or school. I mean cutting time out of the day to read for the sheer joy of it. It’s exercise for your brain.
2. Buy Books As Gifts
Socks and gadgets are great gifts. But books are better. Give away books by your favorite authors to friends and family members. Maybe they won’t like it, maybe they will and they’ll give copies to more people. Either way you’ve helped your ‘small business’ author.
Over the years I have given away literally dozens of some of my favorite books. The Last Days of Summer by Steve Kluger is a personal favorite. As is The Greatest Thing Since Sliced Bread by Don Robertson. And I’ve turned dozens of my friends onto the thrillers by James Rollins and T. Jefferson Parker by giving copies to friends and family.
3. Spread The Word
Tell people about your favorite books and authors. Review their books at online review sites. Post on their facebook pages. Follow your favorite authors on Twitter. Sign up to receive their newsletters. In today’s world, publishers want to know if an author has an ‘audience’ (I like to refer to my readers as customers) and becoming a follower, liking a page and suggesting their pages to your friends helps them grow their customer base.
4. Buy Your Books At Bookstores
Bookstores, physical bricks and mortar bookstores, are vital to our book culture. Look, I get that we’re all busy. I understand the convenience of an ereader. But you can buy ebooks through the website of your local independent bookstore. The online browsing experience will never compare to the pouring over the tables and shelves of a bookshop. How many books and authors have you discovered this way? No matter how the technology improves the online browsing experience is still cumbersome and not as engaging to the senses.
Trust me. As a thirty year publishing industry veteran, if we don’t preserve actual physical bookstores all that will be left to read is a lot of self-published work, ‘celebrity’ memoirs and only the biggest bestsellers. Publishers need bookstores for new authors to find an audience and develop a following.
And take your kids with you when you go. Every bookstore has something for every kid.
5. Take Your Family To The Library
Like bookstores our libraries are facing an uncertain future. Budgets are being cut, funding is drying up, Visit your library and participate in their programs. Have a library ‘family night’. Make your local library a vital part of your community and encourage your friends and neighbors to do the same. And when you visit the library…take your kids.
Michael P. Spradlin