Stop Press! Authors are struggling. Ok, not all authors are struggling – some are doing amazingly well. But most aren’t – in fact, most don’t even make what you might consider a full time living from making books, let alone a good one. Most of us (and, by us, I of course mean both writers and illustrators alike) have to juggle dreaming up new books alongside many other commitments. Just think for a moment about how many more lovely books there would be in the world if this was not the case. Don’t worry – this isn’t about you cooking me Christmas dinner this year, or crowd funding my next project. But what if I told you there was a way to help keep your favourite author in pencils and paper, at no financial cost to yourself? You’d want to know about it, wouldn’t you? Of course you would, because you want to keep those lovely books coming, don’t you?
Well, here’s how:
1. Support your library. Every time you borrow a book, an author gets paid. It may only be a few pence, but do that a few times and it’s the equivalent of buying one of their books in a shop. Look out for new books (and backlist titles) from your favourite authors (and new ones you like the look of too) and order them in. Most libraries will do this for free. Most will even let you recommend new books for them to buy in, if they’re not stocking your favourites already. Not only will you support your favourite authors by using your local library, you’ll be helping to keep libraries open too. Even if you’re loaded, you should still use your library regularly for the benefit of those who aren’t. And if you’re not loaded, your library is a free and unlimited resource for which you and your kids will be eternally grateful. I say this from four years, and counting, on the breadline. When you can’t buy your kids expensive games, or take them to Disney, you can always let them fill their boots in the library – and you will do them more good in the end anyway.
2. Write book reviews. Most library services (see above!) will encourage you to leave reviews online to benefit other borrowers. Most online bookstores will let you leave reviews for books you have read, even if you have not actually purchased the book from them. And there are a whole load of specialist book review sites out there also – including popular ones like Goodreads, and Toppsta (which is just for kids). Many of these sites also run giveaways in exchange for honest reviews. If you’ve really loved a book, consider cutting and pasting your review to multiple sites. There is nothing dishonest about this – so long as the review itself is genuine of course!
3. You know that thing about social media being either a power for good or evil? Well use it positively, and give your favourite author a boost to their sales. Even if you’re not buying books yourself at the moment, it doesn’t mean your family and friends won’t be. Follow your favourite authors and publishers, and share their posts. Create lists and wishlists, share reviews and ‘shelfies’. Tell people about the books you love, and they will love you for it. Obviously not all the time though, or people will get just as sick of it as they do those endless candy crush requests (but you know this already!) Be creative with it – you could even start a book blog if you get really into it! Makes a change from posting bangers and mash, don’t it?
4. Don’t forget to share in the real world too. Join a book club, if you have time – but just pass on recommendations (and hand-me-downs!) if you don’t. Recommend your favourite authors as speakers for clubs and associations. If you have kids of school (or pre-school) age, get them to tell their teachers about the books they love too. Teachers will often share a child’s favourite book with the whole class, and may even devise a whole session around it if it fits in with a current topic. Not only are you helping an author with this one, but your kid gets brownie points too. What’s not to love?
5. Vote in book awards. Ok, fair enough, this may not be everyone’s up of tea as it probably involves a bit more research than some of my other ideas. But there are literally hundreds of book awards out there – most of them are chosen by professional panels, but some are open to members of the public to vote in too. Like Strictly or X-Factor, but for books!
6. Support local literary events. Once you start looking out for these things, you’ll be amazed just how many there are. From rhythm and rhyme times in your local library, to niche signings in independent bookshops, and workshops in local literary festivals. Keep an eye out for your favourite authors and, again, maybe even check out some new ones. You really honestly don’t have to buy anything, and most authors and organisers will be just as happy to see you as your wallet anyway - even if you are buying. You can help to generate book buzz just by being there, and taking part in the event
7. Drop an author a line. Ok, this doesn’t strictly generate any income for the author – but remember your goal is to keep them working on new books too . . . Nothing is more encouraging to an author than an appreciative reader. Nothing. Just remember though that, if it’s me (and especially if you dress your kid up as one of my characters for World Book Day!) I will most likely follow you on social media forever. And I mean forever. You have been warned!
So there you have it – my lucky seven. Seven ways you can change a struggling author’s luck by not even spending 1p. And best of all? Best of all is that the less well known and established the author is, the bigger the difference all of this will make. Want proof? Take a look at my Amazon sales rank. Yeah, I know. Tragic, isn’t it? But every time I get a nice review, or meet some lovely kids in school, or my dad posts pictures of me signing books on Facebook, those numbers start to look a little bit better. And then (and here’s the really special bit) even if you do just one of these lucky seven things (yes, you!), those numbers start to look even better still. And then, before you know it, and still without you even spending just 1p, I’m starting to build a career. And then it’s not a choice between making books and feeding my kids anymore. And you can get a nice warm glow inside. And we can all live happily ever after.