“10 Ways to Support Indie Authors”
by Joe Walters
Do you know someone who has published a book?
If so, awesome! Congratulate them and send them my way. Writing and publishing a book is no small feat, especially for those who don’t publish with a big 5 publisher.
Who’s that? you ask.
Well, in a nutshell, the Big 5 publishers are the companies that stock your local Barnes & Noble. They’re the ones you see in every bookstore across the US. They’re usually the ones that get the blockbuster movie deals, the foreign rights, the big book tours. They are Penguin Random House, Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins, Macmillan Publishers, and Simon and Schuster.
If you take a stroll through your local bookstore, do me a favor and take a peek at the bottom of the spine or at the copyright page. Chances are, they’re published by one of the big 5 or an imprint of the big 5, meaning they’ve still got a leg up on the competition.
So what does that mean for the author in your life?
Well, this publishing process is going to be a whole lot harder. They could have published with a small or indie press or they might have published the book themselves. Either way, they are most likely in charge of their own marketing and promotion. You know what that means?
- Printing books (which costs money)
- Shipping books (which costs money)
- Advertisements (Cash rules everything around me)
- Travelling for book tours (Dolla dolla bill, y’all)
- And much, much more.
Because of all the work they have to endure, indie authors need your help. Will you be the one to offer it?
Here’s my guide for “10 Ways to Support Indie Authors.”
1. Go to their events
If your indie author managed to procure an event at a local bookstore, coffee shop, bar, etc., recognize that the venue did not come to them. Whether it was their small press that reached out or if the author did it themselves, they had to convince the venue that it would be beneficial for them, too. One step further: what if the event takes place in the author’s hometown? The author is hoping that their family and friends (i.e. you!) will stop by and fill out the audience.
Don’t worry about if you’ve never been to a reading before. Don’t worry if you feel like you won’t understand it because you’re not good at listening to people read. Just the fact that you are there helps the author, and really—you might end up enjoying the night out.
2. Post about it on social media
If you’re alive and kicking in 2019, you know how important social media is for small businesses. They’ve got a product they want the world to see, and social media is a free tool where real life human beings can come in contact with the things they want to buy.
So if your indie author has an event coming up, tweet about it. Tag the venue. If you just got your indie author’s book in the mail, snap a picture and let #bookstagram know that you can’t wait to read it. Talk about it on Facebook before, during, and after reading it. Any bit of validation helps.
3. How to buy the book
First of all, hell yeah. I’m so glad you’re considering taking the plunge and supporting your indie author. They spent a ton of time trying to produce this thing, and they’re proud of it. However you want to buy their book, the author will be grateful for your help.
But if you want to make sure you’re making the right decision, here’s a guide:
- Directly from the author
- If you want to give your indie author the most money, buy it in person or through their website. When they’re selling the book, that means they probably already have the copy and won’t send it back to the printer if it doesn’t sell. They’ve already paid for it (or the small press has), meaning that there could be books just chilling in their garage. Might as well help them out with a few extra bucks.
- Local Indie Bookstore
- While making the most money might sound like the best way to support your indie author, this one might be even more supportive. When you order a book from your local indie bookstore, someone is sitting behind the counter making the order. That same person gets notified about the book, might read about it, and if it seems like demand might be there for their customers, could potentially order more copies to stock at the store. In order to buy it from them, you can use Indiebound, request it in person, or send your local indie an email with the title, author name, and ISBN number.
- Amazon is an incredible resource for indie authors. When you buy from them, you’re helping their book climb the rankings in their category and potentially grab an elusive “Amazon Best Seller” moniker. Also, when you purchase on Amazon and plan to leave a review there, it gives you one of those fancy “verified purchase” tags that tells future Amazon browsers that someone else in the world wanted to purchase the book and liked it enough to review it. It makes a big difference.
4. Request it from your library
If anybody understands the difficulties of supporting indie authors financially, it’s indie authors. So don’t you dare think that if you’re short on cash that you can’t support them. When you request the author’s book from your library, that library has to purchase the book in order to store it. And guess what? Chances are that they will! Sometimes that opens the author up to host events at their location, and when you return it to the library, future browsers could find it and help promote it on their own.
5. Write a review
Just like your favorite podcasts, YouTube channels, and local shops, indie authors are in extreme need of reviews. Nothing quite says validation like heading onto your indie author’s book page and finding that the book has been read and reviewed by 25+ people. While those authors might not be hounding you to review it after you’ve read, they probably wish they would have.
So if you read the book, just drop a line or two on one of Amazon, Goodreads, or both. If an indie author has 25+ reviews on Amazon, the website actually might start doing free promotion for them. Once they hit that number, they’ll also be accepted into spectacular book promotion websites like BookBub. So really, they can’t do it without your reviews. And it should only take a few minutes.
6. Give their book as a gift
When you recognize something that someone else would like, your instincts aren’t off. There’s a reason why you remembered that Agatha enjoys Sci-Fi, that Mike reads business books, and that Sandra used to write poetry. It’s because you want to help your indie author.
Whether you buy another copy or just share your own, sending the book to someone who might enjoy it puts this thing into the hands of another reader. That means that this someone is reading a book they would have not read otherwise. They might talk about it with their friends or family, and holy smokes is that helpful. Even if it just sits on their bookshelf, it puts the book in a new visible position. And if they’re a book blogger, they might even write about it!
7. Request it to your book club
First of all, great job being part of a book club. Whether it’s digital or in person, you’re doing something special in sharing books and stories with those around you. (If you’re looking for book recs, think about these titles.)
But wait! Before you recommend any of the books on that list, request that your group reads your indie author’s book instead. Oftentimes when book club members agree to read something, they all will purchase the book in order to read it. And honestly—what better way to make some real concrete sales for the author in your life?
8. Keep it visible!
I go to a coffee shop about two or three times a week. And fun fact: I always bring a book with me regardless to whether I’m reading or not. I lay it down on the table while I work. You’d be amazed at how nosy strangers are, especially when they’re readers! They might fall in love with the cover, title, and/or recognize it from the book blog they’ve been paying attention to. And when that happens, intrigue builds in their mind and sometimes, it sends them straight to the purchase button.
But it’s not just about reading or displaying it in public. If you’re like me and like to keep your books in a bookshelf or in an attractive display of some sort, don’t be afraid to give that book a little exposure. Whenever I go to someone’s house and see their bookshelf, I stop listening and start browsing. (Sorry, friends). If I find a book I like the sound of, I’ll pick it up and learn about it and maybe fall in love with it enough to save it in my phone. Do that for your indie author. It’s the small things that help.
9. Rep their merch (stickers, bookmarks, t-shirts, etc.)
Just like the last one, it’s important to put your indie author’s product in the faces of potential buyers as much as possible. Sometimes, authors purchase merchandise like stickers and bookmarks to help spread the word about their books, and if you’re willing, put that baby in a noticeable place!
I know one terrifically talented author who sent out stickers with his book cover on it for readers to slap on the back of their laptops, on their water bottles, etc. And if you like the book, why not let that sticker go to use?
10. Read the book
If their book doesn’t sell, authors will survive. If they don’t get a movie deal, it’s fine. But if no one actually reads their book, their hearts might explode.
When you make that purchase or grab your copy from the library, set off a bit of free time and give it a shot. You might not like it, but you also might fall in love with it. Indie authors are capable of just as much and sometimes more than the books that get the most exposure, so go ahead and give it a shot. And when you do, tell your author about it. Share the thing that you enjoyed most. You’ll make your author proud. And if that’s it? Well, you’ve done your job in supporting them.
About the Author
Joe Walters is the editor-in-chief of Independent Book Review. When he’s not doing editorial or reviewing work at IBR, he’s working on his novel and trusting the process.
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