Tuesday, August 28, 2012

How to Help Your Favorite Authors... by Lindsay Buroker

This post is a reprint (with permission, of course) of a blog post by Lindsay Buroker. I've considered trying to put something like this together but frankly, after this post there isn't much left to be said. The information  below won't just help me, it will work for any author you like. I promise, he or she will be grateful:
As authors, we spend a lot of time trying to promote our books. Our biggest obstacle is obscurity because there are a lot of books out there. No, really. A lot.

We like to think that good stories are all it takes to make it (in author terms “make it” usually means “become well known enough and sell enough books that I can quit my day job and write for a living”), but you can doubtlessly think of mediocre books that are selling bazillions of copies and authors you love who never make it out of the “mid-list” category.

Sometimes it’s just the author (or publishing house) with the biggest marketing budget who wins, but you, as a reader, have amazing power. Don’t believe for a second that you don’t have anything to do with whether an author makes it, because you do. A lot. No, really. A lot.

Why does this matter to you? Well, authors who get to quit their day jobs can write faster and put more books out for you!

The following are some little things you can do that can make a big difference. Some of them only take a few seconds. Your favorite authors will appreciate the effort. Trust me. :) 

Helping out on Amazon
Amazon is the big kahuna of book sellers, especially when it comes to ebooks, so helping an author “get found” on there can give them a big boost. You can certainly do these things on other bookstore sites as well (nothing against copying and pasting a review, for example), but Amazon tends to have more cool features to help an author get found.
Here’s the list (any one of these things can help):
  • If you do nothing else, consider writing a review on Amazon, even if the book already has quite a few and/or you’ve reviewed it elsewhere. There’s evidence that ratings and reviews factor into the Amazon algorithms that decide which books are promoted on the site (i.e. certain books are recommended to customers who bought books in similar genres). If reviewing isn’t your bag, don’t worry about writing paragraphs-long in-depth studies of the book; maybe you could just pen a few sentences with a couple of specifics about why you liked the book.
  • “Tag” the book with genre-appropriate labels (i.e. thriller, steampunk, paranormal romance). You don’t have to leave a review to do this; you just need an account at Amazon. A combination of the right tags and a good sales ranking can make a book come up when customers search for that type of story on Amazon.
  • Give the book a thumb’s up. This takes less than a second and probably doesn’t do much, but it may play into Amazon’s algorithms to a lesser extent than reviews/ratings.
  • Make a “Listmania” List and add your favorite authors’ books to it. This creates another avenue for new readers to find books. It’s better to create lists around similar types of books (i.e. genres or sub-genres) than to do a smorgasbord, and consider titling it something description so folks will be more inclined to check it out, ie. “Fun heroic fantasy ebooks for $5 or less”
  • If you have a Kindle, highlight some wise or fun quotations from the book and share them publicly (if enough people share their highlights, they’ll show up at the bottom of a book’s page):
Popular Highlights on a Book's Sales Page

Helping out with Social Media
If you’re involved with Twitter, Facebook, Digg, StumbleUpon, etc., you can give your favorite authors a shout-out when they release new books. If they blog, you can follow their site (through Google Reader or other RSS readers) and share the link when they post something that may be interesting to your friends. If they’re on Twitter, you can follow them and retweet their links now and then.
Authors don’t expect you to follow them 24/7 and repeat everything they say (that might actually alarm some folks…), but a little promotional help now and then is greatly appreciated.
If you like to be social about books, you can join sites such as Goodreads, Shelfari, or LibraryThing. You can help your favorite authors by posting reviews and talking about their books on those sites, or you can just use those places to find online reading buddies with common interests.

Helping out with Your Blog
Do you ever talk about books or what you’re reading on your blog? You might consider reviewing your favorite authors on your site (you could even make a few dollars if you signed up as an Amazon affiliate).
Also, if most of your favorites maintain websites, you could add an “author blogroll” list in your menu with links to those sites.

And Lastly…
These days, most authors have websites and contact forms so you can get in touch. If you enjoyed their work, consider sending them a short note to let them know. While it won’t help them sell more books, it’ll make their day.

Thanks for reading (this post and books in general!).

**Authors, you’re welcome to reprint this article and post it on your blog. All I ask is that you give me credit with a link back to my site, i.e. “Originally by <a href=”http://www.lindsayburoker.com”>Lindsay Buroker</a>” or something like that. Thanks!
-End Post-

So that's about it. I don't have much to add, except to say that most Indie authors have their books published on multiple sites (I don't right now, but may in the future) and could use your reviews in those places also. Amazon.com is the big white whale of Indie publishing right now but reviews will also be appreciated at other sites like Goodreads.com, Smashwords.com and Shelfari.com, among many others.

It's also worth mentioning that every review counts, even if it's just a sentence or two. Believe it or not -I hate to say this but it's true- there are certain peoples out there who think it's fun to troll with reviews. Some of these people especially target Indie authors because they so often get a response. They look for an author who doesn't have many reviews; whose reputation and rating they can seriously damage with a nasty one-star review.

The good news is that ultimately, those people are few and far between. The bad news is that authors you love may never get a chance at this career because of a lack of reviews. A few bad reviews can make a book almost disappear from Amazon's lists. People won't read what they can't find, and even if they do find it why would they buy a book with a two star rating, even though that book might have gotten one five star review from an honest reader followed up by a one star review by a troll? Believe me, it can happen, and it can take a long time for an author to recover.