Ye Olden Times
My mother always wanted to be an author. She went so far as to give me what she thought was a writerly name and to send a few pages off to an editor who was kind enough to write back with encouragement and advice. In those days, most editors saw it as part of their job to help find and nurture the next crop of writers. Agents would take on new clients and then eat their commission through the first unprofitable, formative years as a writer found his or her wings.
Those days are gone.
In this branded, Internet age, publishers, editors, and agents face grueling competition from every direction. They still try to find and foster new talent, but everything they do must be funded from the profits from the big brands in their portfolio. It’s a dangerous game. If they invest too little in the future, they’ll slowly starve, to much and they’re bankrupt tomorrow.
Today, you almost can’t sell a non-fiction book without a built-in audience from Youtube, a contentious term in Congress, or prime-time news coverage of you taking a bullet to save a kitten. And we fiction authors are not far behind. Anyone with a credit card can publish a book. Millions do each year. Publishers, increasingly, struggle to get their big guns out in front of consumers, to say nothing of the little guys or the new guys.
So how does this affect you as a reader? In two ways: First, you have your pick of more new reading material than ever before, though must of it, to paraphrase Christopher Hitchens, is that one book that everyone has in him but which, in most cases, is just where it should remain. Second, you can help.
How you can help good writing
- Be understanding. Yes, some writers are downright obnoxious in their obsessive desperation to self-promote, but we have to toot our own horn. Any writer who doesn’t maintain a mailing list, who doesn’t add a promotional footer to email and social media interactions, simply isn’t doing his or her job. I try to keep mine simple, tasteful, and whenever possible, humorous, but it has to be done.
- Spread The Word. Liking and following on social media is awesome–thank you! But you know what’s even awesomer? Sharing. Retweeting. Blogging. When you do that, your peeps can see what you like and your author gets badly needed exposure.
- Visit Their Website. We built it for you. Visit it and report any problems you see, then sign up for the newsletter, request the freebie, and pass the word to your like-minded friends.
- Review Their Work. Goodreads and Amazon are just two places where you can rate and review books and magazine issues you like. Reviews help sell all products these days, but they especially help with books by increasing the attention they get online. Have a blog or Youtube channel? Post a review, start a discussion, or just tweet a selfie of yourself with the book–or an “in the wild” photo of the book on a bookstore shelf. God, how we love those.
- Review the author. Love an author’s latest–and not for the first time? Think of why you like it–what it is that speaks to you–and post on that. One of my favorite parts of my website is a little scrolling list of kind words from readers.
- Pre-order that Novel. Preorders mean everything to new authors with a book contract. Really. Preorder it. Pre-order a copy for gifting, for the library, for the school. Tie up your friends, er…I mean…talk your friends into pre-ordering too.
- Nominate us. Attending Worldcon? YOU can nominate for the Hugos and the Campbell. Know all that “Sad Puppies” kerfuffle last year? That was only possible because almost no one ever does. Nominate and vote for awards big and small, international and local. We love that. A lot. Really.
- Come see us! We authors, we do these things called book signings? You know…you buy or bring a book and we open it up and scribble, “Dear Sally, I was told there would be donuts,” or something like that. Do that. You know what really makes our day? Smiling, happy readers. We love you. Really. We do it all for you. Well, at least half for you. Well you’re in there somewhere, anyway. And if you don’t come see us at Barns & Noble, we’ll have to post another selfie with the barista in the coffee shop, and no one wants that. Seriously. No one.
See what I did there? 🙂