How to Make an Author Happy
Let's say you found a book you love, or an author you love, or series you adore—something like that. It would be a tragedy, wouldn't it, if all of a sudden the books stopped coming and the author just faded away?
It happens. It happens a lot. Especially in this day and age with traditional publishing in such turmoil, many authors find themselves getting turned down for new contracts. Because they're not mega bestsellers, or their last book didn't sell well enough, publishers don't want to risk resources. Now, with digital publishing so readily available, a number of these authors do find an alternative way to build their audience, but you'll no longer accidentally stumble across their books on a shelf or table in your bookstore. Might not even know they exist on Amazon unless you specifically search for them.
If you have an author you love to read, there are three things you can do to keep the author writing and the books coming—and every one of these matter:
- Buy the book: Good sales are what allow the publisher to offer the author another contract. If the author's book doesn't sell well enough, the publisher will hesitate to make an advance on another book, and the author will need to find an alternative way to keep the lights on. If you are not a book buyer, prefer to read second hand or from the library, you can support your author by encouraging your local libraries to purchase the book. In fact, even if you buy the book for yourself you can still encourage all the libraries in your city to carry the book by making requests. A book sold is a book sold.
- Talk about the book: More books are sold by word-of-mouth recommendation than by any amount of publicity. If you believe your author deserves an audience, you can share the work with those you feel would enjoy the read and help build the fan base. If you are part of a book club, chosing your author's book for your selection is a great way to support your author. Some authors (I do this whenever time permits) will Skype in for a book club discussion—it never hurts to ask.
- Review the book: Online reviews really do matter. They may possibly matter more to the author's ego than to actual sales, but they matter to sales, too. Some readers only look at star ratings before deciding to make the purchase, and the overall star average of books with a higher number of reviews carry more "weight" with casual book browsers, so stars matter too.
Although I can't speak for all authors, most of the ones I know truly appreciate feedback and interaction from fans. I live something of an isolated life and spend more time with my imaginary characters than I do with real life people. I spill my blood onto the pages and send them into the world, and nothing means more to me than to know that someone out there has connected with me through my creation.
Like everyone else, I have good days and bad days, and on my bleakest days when I'm full of self-doubt and frustrated with the industry, I wonder if it's worth slogging my way through the next one. Then I get a letter from a fan telling me how much my work has meant to them, and I change my mind and carry on. If you have an author whose work you love, three minutes to email them and tell them how much you enjoy their work might be just what they need to keep on bringing characters to life. Even if you never hear back, I can guarantee that your support is appreciated.
Taylor Stevens is an award-winning and New York Times bestselling novelist who—by odds and expectations—should never have become either successful or published. Like many aspiring authors Stevens had no credentials or platform, and no direct route into the publishing world. But, unlike most, she was also limited by a life of cultural isolation and a sixth-grade education.
Born into an apocalyptic cult and raised in communes across the globe, Stevens grew up as a child laborer, cooking and cleaning for up to a hundred at a time, caring for younger commune children, or out on the streets begging on behalf of commune leaders. Books, movies, music, and pop-culture from the outside world were strictly forbidden, and she finally gained unlimited access to fiction after returning to the United States in her early thirties. Her books have since been published in over twenty languages, with The Informationist optioned for film by James Cameron’s production company, Lightstorm Entertainment.