DON’T Steal This Book!*

Reading for Haunted: Eleven Tales of Ghostly Horror, Room of One’s Own bookstore, October 2011. L to R: Georgia Beaverson, Monica Valentinelli, Jason Blair, Alex Bledsoe, Bill Bodden. Reading was well attended.

Occasionally, memes go by on Facebook or Twitter regarding ways to support authors. This does not necessarily mean every and all authors, mind you — just ones whose work you enjoy. It has never been more important to do so now; with conventions cancelling and postposing their events because of conrona virus fears– events that many authors were counting on as a source of income as a guest by or selling their books — it’s possibly more important than ever to help spread the word so your favorite authors can continue to eat and pay rent.

Let’s start with some basic things (I’ll recap in a numbered list a the end.) First: Buy their books, of course, but also READ them. We’re losing reading for pleasure as a thing people want to do, and the negative feelings toward reading are reinforced by all the dreck we’re forced to read in school by people who think those paper implements of torture are Important Books. Buying books isn’t always possible due to financial issues; everyone’s comfort level with their disposable income is different. If you can’t buy books, request them from your local public library. They buy books too, and their purchases help just as much, plus then you get to read the book, and maybe enable others to read it as well. Also: books make great gifts, and a book that you’ve enjoyed will mean more as a present – as long as that person has similar or compatible tastes in fiction.

Second: Help spread the word about the books and authors you like: write reviews on Goodreads, Amazon.com, Library Thing, and even your own blog if you have one. The reviews don’t have to be Great Works themselves: short and sweet is fine too. Example: “I enjoyed the novel Julie’s Day Out. It was fun to read, and I loved the character of Julie and her many adventures.” Simple, direct, and it will encourage people to at least find out more about the book. There are also sites that are happy to publish your more extensive book reviews, as long as the books you’re reviewing fit into their overall theme. Flames Rising (http://www.flamesrising.com/) for example, covers horror and dark fantasy fiction, and while they may be interested in other genres or authors from time to time, it’s best to inquire first. (Full transparency: I’ve written reviews and other articles for Flames Rising.com, am friends with the site’s publishers, and have had my work reviewed there by others from time to time.) If you do get reviews published, share the link to that review far and wide, on every social media platform you use, and possibly email the link to friend whom you think might find it enjoyable or useful. Not only does it help the author, it also helps the site where the review appears by bringing in more traffic, and it helps you to become known as a reviewer – but more about that another time.

Third: If you belong to a book club, lobby to have one or more of your favorite books chosen to be the next book(s) the book club reads. This ties in nicely with point #2: buying books or requesting books from the library.

Fourth: Use social media to encourage people to check out the books and authors you like. The various social media platforms are powerful tools to aid in the spread of information. However, they can also be extremely ephemeral, only attracting attention for a short time before the message falls off everyone’s front page, replaced by more recent posts. Be sure to share pertinent links, like favorable reviews, interviews with the authors, and sites selling featuring a sale on the book(s) in question. Its important to note that too many authors see social media as the single key to their success, and blanket Twitter, Facebook, or whichever platform with “buy my book!” messages. It can be tedious and highly-off-putting, so be careful not to overdo things: certainly post no more than once/day, and maybe not even that often.

Fifth: Authors try to schedule readings at bookstores to draw attention to their newest works. Attend them if you can. Buy a book if you can (or bring one previously purchased) to have signed. This is, of course, vastly more difficult if you buy books as digital downloads or audiobooks. Still, attending a reading is, by itself, a show of support and greatly appreciated. There is nothing so soul-crushing for an author than to go to the trouble and effort of arranging a reading or other promotional event, only to have no one show up for it. Believe me: I know from first-hand experience. Along with attending, spread the word about the reading in your community: post to social media, neighborhood message boards, offer to help the author and/or the venue by posting flyers in libraries, grocery stores, laundromats – anywhere with a board for posting such things (Make sure it’s okay with the owner/manager first.) Encourage the venue or author to list the event in the local newspaper or free weekly reader via mailed or emailed press release.

Sixth: Lastly, word of mouth is one of the most effective advertising campaigns ever devised. The phrase “Read any good books lately?” used to be more common in everyday conversation. Later, it became a more of a joke, as fewer and fewer people found reading a pleasurable pastime. Still, it does come up in actual conversation from time to time, and this is a perfect opportunity, to expound (briefly) on your favorite books and their authors.

RECAP

1: BUY (and read) books OR request that your local library branch acquire copies of the books you wish to read.

2. SPREAD THE WORD about your favorite books by writing reviews and posting them to Goodreads, Library Thing, Amazon.com, and websites that cater to the specific genres you’re reviewing.

3. ENCOURAGE your book club to read the book(s) you enjoy for their next meeting.

4. PROMOTE your favorite authors and their works on social media, including posting links to reviews, interviews, and sales pertaining to their books.

5. INFORM friends, colleagues, and relatives who might have an interest about readings and book signings happening in your area, and offer to help the author and the venue to spread the word about the event.

6. TELL people who ask about authors and their books you’ve enjoyed

Helping your favorite authors to grow their readership can only benefit you by assuring that they sell enough books to be able to write more! Doing so helps the economy, encourages literacy, and fosters a stronger sense of community.

*With no apologies to Abbie Hoffman.

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