Last week, I reassured you that you don’t need to buy my books – I’m perfectly content if you borrow them from a library, or from a friend. I suspect most authors are the same – most of understand very well that writing books isn’t going to make us wealthy!
But let’s imagine that you’ve read a book and liked it, and you’d like to thank the author in some small way. You can do that, in ways that won’t cost you a single penny, and I can guarantee you your gesture will be gratefully received. Here are a few things I’d love you to do (whether in connection with my books or someone else’s).
- Send a tiny, tiny piece of Jeff Bezos’ fortune to an author. Royalties, as I mentioned last week, are no great shakes. Many authors (including me) make a little extra by participating in “affiliate programs” with booksellers to get a small share of sales by referring buyers. It doesn’t affect the price you pay at all. This matters most with respect to that evil corporate behemoth everyone professes to hate, which is why I mention Jeff Bezos’ fortune. And you may not realize this: the author gets that small share of whatever you buy, even if you navigate away from the book the author’s link takes you to. That means that if you’re buying anything on line, you can do an author a favour by starting with one of their links, then searching for what you really want from there. Bookmark a link posted by your favourite author, and use it every time you shop! For example: here’s a US link to Charles Darwin’s Barnacle and David Bowie’s Spider, and here’s a Canadian link to The Scientist’s Guide to Writing. But you don’t need to use mine, of course; all the better if you can find an author who relies, improbably, on writing as their main source of income.
- Help the author find more readers. It’s hard for books to find readers – well, hard for books that aren’t New York Times bestsellers, anyway. So, if you like a book: rate and review it on Amazon and Goodreads (for instance, for Charles Darwin’s Barnacle, here or here). Suggest that your local library buy a copy. Tell your friends about the book; or post about it on social media. The vast majority of books don’t get advertising campaigns, author book tours, or anything like that. What they can get is readers recruiting other readers. Ultimately, this can do more than boost a particular book – it can keep the publishing industry interested in publishing books that aren’t advance-guaranteed bestsellers.
- Tell the author you’ve read the book (and if you liked it, tell them that too). Tell them by email, via a tweet, in person – whatever works. I don’t think any author ever gets famous enough to get tired of hearing from readers; but for “small-time” authors like me, a contact like this makes my day every time.
See? None of these things will cost you a penny or take you more than a moment or two; but they’ll matter to an author. Books are wonderful. You can help them exist.
© Stephen Heard April 28, 2020
Image: Science books for sale © Brewbooks CC BY-SA 2.0 via flickr.com
I had no idea about that Amazon thing! It seems astonishing that the site allows that, but I suppose they see it as the sale not happening if the person didn’t click on the link? Or maybe the company just has more money than it knows what to do with (because apparently they don’t know how to increase pay for their employees or anything…).
Do you know if this works even if a person is buying with a gift card balance? That’s the only way I buy anything off there these days. I ask because I know I can’t leave reviews on the site if I’ve only bought stuff using gift cards.
Good question, Shannon, I’m not sure. I didn’t know that wrinkle about leaving reviews!
Yeah, I didn’t either until I tried to leave a review and found out I couldn’t! Apparently you have to have spent a certain amount of money within a certain time period (like the past year or something) to be eligible to leave reviews. Even if you bought the product through their site and they know it!