Here's a little article I've written about no-cost ways for readers to promote their favorite authors. Feel free to copy and pass this article on, as it can be used to help any author out there.
Want to Help Authors You Like? Here Are Seven Ways!
by Stephen Zimmer
With a fairly intensive travel schedule to conventions, book fairs, and bookstores, I engage my readers often on a personal, face to face level. I also strive to be as accessible as possible, whether through email, Facebook, or other online channels. As such, I have had the good fortune to meet and interact with a great many readers, several of whom have become very supportive towards helping me advance in my career.
Many times I have been asked what an individual reader can do to help out, in terms of raising more awareness about myself and my work. I really appreciate these kinds of offers of support, as a motivated reader spreading word about an author can be incredibly effective. Word of mouth is by far the best advertising out there.
Over the course of time I have identified some effective, no-cost methods that can be used to help not just myself, but any author out there. I thought I would write a little about this topic, so that readers of any writer can be aware of some simple things that are of immense help to independent, small press, and even mid-list authors.
Here are my seven no-cost suggestions for readers who would like to help raise awareness about a certain author:
1. Reader Reviews: Without question, one of the biggest ways that a reader can help an author they like is by sharing their thoughts about the author’s books on sites like Amazon.com (hugely important), GoodReads (another big one), Shelfari, or any online store outlet like Barnes and Noble that provides for customer generated reviews.
A review on these types of sites does not have to be formal. It can merely be a few short sentences explaining why you enjoyed a particular book. It does not have to be a perfect review either. An element that one reader did not completely like might be just the thing another reader is searching for. A range of reviews ultimately creates a solid overall perspective on the book itself, making it more likely that a reader looking for that type of book will be willing to take a chance with it.
I really believe that readers sometimes think that their reviews make little difference, but this is definitely not the case. A building list of endorsing reviews, which give some perspectives on the books and the content within them, goes a long, long way to encouraging new readers to give an author a try. If a new reader sees an author that has 5 reviews in the 3-5 star range, and another that has 65 reviews in the same range, guess which one they are more likely to be confident in going with, if the book and its genre are similar?
Furthermore, momentum flows into the design of the software used by some of the online sites like Amazon.com. The more a book is favorably reviewed, the more the site’s software will recommend a certain title to readers who buy books of a similar genre.
Online reviews and comments are perused by all sorts of individuals, from prospective new readers to industry professionals. Your review helps to build a body of responses that can really factor strongly in bringing some consideration to an author. Ultimately, the book will have to speak for itself, but it sure doesn’t hurt to draw attention to it.
With the explosion of eBooks, reader reviews are rising in importance, especially on sites like Amazon.com with its massively successful Kindle. eBooks are primed for quick responses too, with the ability to be instantly downloaded if a reader is intrigued. Your comments might be the tipping point that encourages a new reader to download a title.
Reader reviews, as you can see, are of major help to an author, so take a few minutes and put your comments one about a book you liked, and an author you support.
2. Library Requests: If you frequent libraries, enter a request that they get in a copy of your favorite author’s book or books. Some of my most dedicated readers have discovered me in libraries, and if one branch brings in a certain title that begins to be checked out, it is possible that others in a city or town may follow suit. A library is a great place for readers to try out an author, and help to start building a following of a particular series. Most libraries have request forms that take only a minute or two to fill out. Your simple request might be the thing that leads to a brushfire of word of mouth, bringing a lot of attention to your favorite author.
3. Bookstore Requests: Very similar to the library situation, if you frequent a bookstore (and especially if it is an independent bookstore), make sure that they stock a copy or two of an author you like on their shelf. If the author’s books have an industry standard discount, and are returnable (and are available through the major distributors like Ingram or Baker & Taylor), there is no real impediment to a bookstore giving an author a try.
If the store has a resident expert in the genre of your author, talk to them as well and encourage them to look into the author you like. If there is a club suited to the genre of the author based in the bookstore, suggest it as a title for them to read.
If the store begins to stock a title, and it begins to sell a little, it can really help an author progress, and create a viable situation for an author to visit the store for a signing.
4. Bookmark or Promotional Material Distribution:Most authors have some degree of promotional material, whether it is just bookmarks, or cover art postcards, or a range of materials such as I utilize for my two series (we have collectible, postcard-sized art card sets, 8X10 glossy covers, etc.). If you happen to frequent some independent bookstores, libraries, or go to fan conventions such as DragonCon, GenCon, or other genre-affiliated events, you should contact the author and ask if they can send you some promotional material to distribute. Libraries always have a need to give out bookmarks, and most conventions have “free tables” where fliers and advertising materials can be put out.
Some readers of mine have graciously done this at many events, including World Fantasy Con last year in Columbus, which I couldn’t make due to a schedule conflict. I can say with surety that having the ability to get the materials to places that I cannot personally attend does indeed help greatly.
I do have to make a special note in regard to this suggestion, though. As the cost of materials and shipping is incurred by the author in this instance, please make sure to follow through with distributing the material, if you request it. Unless the author is at the heights of the best-seller list, there is little room to maneuver with resources.
5. Social Networking/Links: Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks are at the heart of day to day interactions between people. Whether status updates, comments on walls, or commenting on the status updates of others, a reader can easily leave a comment and/or link regarding their favorite author or a specific book. The link can even be a direct one to a place to get the book, such as to the title's Kindle page on Amazon.com.
The more that the public sees a certain name, the greater the chance a few new readers may give that author a chance. Don’t underestimate the value of putting up a status update or wall post, with a link and cover art image.
Encourage others to add that author as a friend, follow them on Twitter, or follow their blogs (on popular blog sites like Blogspot or WordPress). You don’t have to overdo it, but mentioning your favorite authors from time to time, putting up some links to reviews, and highlighting your reading preferences makes a significant difference.
6. Blog Comments: There is a growing genre blog community online that reviews, interviews, and hosts guest articles with authors of all levels. A reader can reinforce an author that they like by leaving a public comment at the end of an interview, review, or other posting.
It takes only seconds to do, and it does wonders in terms of letting the blog site know that the article was read, and that they had a worthy guest. I also believe that a person visiting the site who does not know a certain author is more likely to pay attention to the interview or posting if they see a lot of comment activity
Just keep in mind that you are representing the author, in a way, when you do this kind of activity, so try to phrase your comments politely if you are in a situation such as commenting on a review or even another comment that you disagreed with.
7. Bulletin/Message Board Threads: If you are a member of an online bulletin board community, or are active on threads at places like Amazon.com, sprinkle some comments and links in regarding the authors that you like. Perhaps even start a thread dedicated to that author. Again, the more that prospective readers come across a name or title, the more likely they will give it some serious consideration.
Bulletin/message boards are well-suited for frank discussion and commentary. They are not well-suited for an author self-promoting themselves. You can be the bridge of that gap!
As you can see, none of the above recommended activities costs any money for the reader to do, and none of them involve a tremendous time commitment. The majority of them are congruent with activities that a reader is already doing.
Yet all of them can really help an author move forward on what is, without a doubt, one of the toughest roads to take in the realms of entertainment and art. I hope that these suggestions have helped give some guidance and insight to readers looking for ways to promote their favorite authors. Please feel free to spread this outward, so that authors of all genres and styles can benefit.
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