How can readers help authors succeed?

I’ve got three suggestions for you, and only one of them costs any money.

Buy the book if you can afford it. Borrow it if you can’t.

Did you to know that where and when you buy books is really important? Authors usually are paid a percentage of net sales, so the more the publisher gets, the more goes to the author. In general, publishers make the most from sales through their own website. Also, most publishers offer a discount or other incentives to pre-order the book, so you can save money. Clearly, that’s often the best way to buy the book. But there are other factors to consider. For example, heavy sales in a short time will push a book up on lists at Amazon, and then Amazon’s marketing system kicks in to further publicize it. So, it can be a big advantage to the author if you pre-order the book through Amazon. No matter what the source, pre-orders are very important to publishers because they determine the print run. A larger print run means a lower cost per book, giving the publisher more income with which to market the book (or to publish another book). But do remember, better late than never!

If you can’t afford to buy the book, order it through your local library. You can mention the book in person or use the online services most libraries offer.

Read and review the book.

Well, of course, if you bought it or borrowed it, you’re going to read it! But this suggestion is about where you read it. If you read the book in public, other people may notice and remember the cover or the title. Someone might even ask you about it—and word of mouth is the best advertising. So read it on the subway and at the beach, in the coffee shop and on the bus.

Once you’ve read the book, if you think it will suit, recommend it to your book club. Some publishers have questions available to kick off book club discussions and some offer discounts for group sales.

Post reviews on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads, and so on. Reviews don’t have to be long and they don’t have to be completely favorable, either. They should be honest, or people won’t pay attention to your next review. Maybe the book is written in present tense, and you prefer books written in past tense. Go ahead and say so. Plenty of readers prefer present tense and others don’t care, but you’ve been honest. On Amazon, reviews within the first couple of days a book is out count for a lot in terms of how often Amazon will bring the book to readers’ attention.

Recommend the book.

Use your social media presence, no matter which platforms, to recommend the book to your followers. You share at least some common interests, or they wouldn’t be following you. So, you’re helping them out by recommending a good read. Post a review on your blog, if you have one. And don’t forget the old-fashioned social media. If you know of friends or family members who would like the book, let them know about it.

Don’t forget the author’s social media. You can “like” their Facebook page as well as recommending the book on your own. You can pass on the author’s posts on Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr and you can re-blog their blogs.

Talk to your local librarian about the book. Libraries all have acquisition plans and budgets, so it might not be possible for your local library to purchase the book. In that case, if you’re feeling generous, ask whether the librarian would shelve the book should you donate it. Once again, timing can be important. If books are reserved even before they’re in print, the library will often order more of them.

At your local bookstore, ask if they have the book, even if you aren’t going to buy it today. To succeed in bookstores, authors need salespeople to “handsell” their book. That is, they need enthusiastic salespeople to recommend the book when people ask “What’s new and good?” Maybe the staff will even display the book more prominently. Of course, if you’re a regular patron of the bookstore, that will be a plus. But, if you’re not, take a good look at what’s available and be sure the book you want to recommend will fit with the store’s other offerings. Once the bookstore has the book in stock, you can help draw attention to it by “facing” it—that is, turning it so the front cover faces out.

These are just suggestions. Please don’t feel that you ought to do any of them. But if you really want to…

Nicki D. Harper, PhD
Senior Editor


2 thoughts on “How can readers help authors succeed?”

  1. Great tips! I really try to encourage libraries to order titles by authors I love. There is usually a recommendation button or a suggestion box available. If you get to know your local librarian, you can often show him or her the book you want to donate so its condition can be evaluated. Unfortunately, budgets are very tight and there’s the cataloging costs as well to be considered, so sometimes it is hard to get a library to add a book to its collection but it never hurts to ask.


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