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How Do You Support an Author Without Breaking the Bank?

Do you speak about the authors you read? What do you know about author promotion? Are you an author, and if yes, would you add anything to this list?
Author promotion is a tricky beast. In earlier times, it was the publisher’s job. Now, whether you’re trad published or indie, author promotion falls to the author. As an author, I’m immensely grateful to everyone who reads, reviews, and supports my books–this blogging and writing community that bands together to support each other.
 
As I work on what little I can by way of author promotion for The Blue Bar, I thought I might answer a question I seem to receive quite frequently from friends not involved in the publishing world. They wanted to know what they could do beyond buying my book, and gifting it to friends. (I have amazing friends–I know many authors say their friends want free signed copies.)
 
How does author promotion work? How can I support an author without breaking my bank?
 
The first question is difficult to answer, with my limited knowledge as an author, but suffice to say that each author is now competing with all other authors (of their time and in history). She’s competing for attention against social media, streaming content, and television. So a good author promotion is ideally one that will make this specific author and her books stand out.
 
This article speaks about some of the aspects of book promotion in traditional publishing, and this one speaks more about the indie publishing scene. As you can see, the author juggles (and struggles with) a lot.
 
The second part of my two questions above, I have a much longer and clearer answer for. Authors often band together and help each other do some of what I’ve listed below, but trust me, authors would love you forever if you did any or all of these for them. Even one is great!
 
Of course, an author appreciates you buying their books (free copies are usually reserved for those who blurbed the book or otherwise helped bring it to being). There’s a lot else you can do to help in author promotion though, and from personal experience I can tell you each of these helps!
 
Recommend the book to your book club: If you like a book, suggest it to your book club. The author would appreciate this gesture, and would often virtually visit with the club where real life visits prove difficult. This helps the author make new friends, and hopefully, fans.
 

Request their book at your local library: Libraries are where readers discover authors, and their books. Library goers buy more books than those who don’t visit the library. Publishers are very pleased when a book is acquired by libraries, because these days it not only means hardbacks and paperbacks, it is also licenses for audiobooks and ebooks. And if a library buys one of an author’s books, chances of buying others rises, as well.

Drop a review of the book on Goodreads/Amazon: I know that sounds like a tall ask, but really, quantity trumps quality. A line or two saying what the experience of reading the book was like for you is all that’s needed. You can make the review long and in-depth if you like, but just so you know, for the author, having a super-brief review from you will be better than having none. Some promotional newsletters ask for a minimum number of starred reviews before they accept a book for promotion.

Add the book to your Goodreads “To Read” list: Goodreads is the one social network for readers and booklovers, which still gets a lot of eyeballs (Storygraph is fast rising, though). When you add the book to your list of books to be read, that notifies your friends and followers on Goodreads. This helps start a buzz about that author’s book. This is author promotion gold, and takes less than a minute.

Support the author on social media & share their posts: Social media is where a lot of readers hang out. Amplifying the author’s voice on social media is easy and free. Authors appreciate shoutouts, and if you’re shy to write a review, a line or two on social media might do the trick instead. If you’re on an image-heavy medium like Instagram or Tiktok, presenting the book might be all that you need to do. If you see a good review of their book, boosting that will be appreciated, too.

Suggest the author as a speaker or workshop leader: If you are at an office or a school looking for speakers or workshop leaders, recommend the authors you know. It seems intuitive, but people don’t think of authors as speakers. They can be fascinating when asked to speak about subjects of their interest. It gives them more exposure, provides them with extra money (most authors could use extra cash given how little publishing pays), and last but most important, it often makes them feel encouraged and appreciated.

Add a link to the book if you run a newsletter: If you run a newsletter, adding a link to an author and their books adds value for your subscribers, and is a free and easy way to introduce the author to new subscribers.

Include the book in a blog post about your favorite books: If you’re reading this, chances are you might be a blogger. Even if you don’t run a book blog, or are not an author, consider mentioning the books on your radar. Again, this is all about word-of-mouth, the absolute cornerstone of author promotion.

Talk about the author/ book with your friends: I can’t stress this enough. Even if you’re shy on social media, and don’t want to leave reviews, and maybe don’t have a book club, if you like a book by an author, speak to your friends about the book when the occasion arises. Yeah, again the same old story: word of mouth is the best kind of author promotion.

Ask your local bookstore to stock the book: If you visit your local indie bookstore often (more power to you!), look for the book by the author you’d like to support. If it is there, you can take a picture of the book and put it on social media, tagging the author, the publisher, and the bookstore. If it isn’t, you could ask the bookstore staff about the book, and ask if they can get it. A lot of bookstores would order books for their customers, and you’ve done the author a solid favor without spending a penny!

This is by no means a comprehensive list—merely an informal start-off point for book-lovers to support those who have provided them with insights and entertainment. Given our busy lives, no one can be expected to hit each one.

Some readers manage many of the above, organically, through their love of books. Book bloggers like Lynne LeGrow and readers like Kacee Jones Pakunpanya who have been featured on this blog, are passionate about reading, and let this passion guide them into reviewing and promoting books and authors.

Those who asked me the question are mostly compulsive book buyers who wanted to understand how to go beyond the buying of books in order to support authors they love. It’s thanks to readers like them that debut or mid-list authors can hope to get beyond the author promotion machine. In a capitalist society, publishing is profit-driven, which means a very subjective take on which new books to punt on, and, betting always on the authors who have established platforms and audience.

If you help an author or a book you like, you’re helping in absolutely real terms— you’re supporting more books you like in that genre, from that author.

Do you speak about the authors you read? What do you know about author promotion? Are you an author, and if yes, would you add anything to this list?

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My lit crime novel, The Blue Bar will be out soon with Thomas & Mercer. It is already available for preorders. Add it to Goodreads or pre-order it to make my day. You can also help by requesting it at your local library.
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Damyanti Biswas

Damyanti Biswas is the author of You Beneath Your Skin and numerous short stories that have been published in magazines and anthologies in the US, the UK, and Asia. She has been shortlisted for Best Small Fictions and Bath Novel Awards and is co-editor of the Forge Literary Magazine. Her forthcoming literary crime thriller, The Blue Bar is represented by Lucienne Diver from The Knight Agency, and will be published by Thomas & Mercer on January 1, 2023.

I appreciate comments, and I always visit back. If you're having trouble commenting, let me know via the contact form, or tweet me up @damyantig !

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32 Comments

  • Erin Callahan says:

    I hate the Zon, but it’s amazing how powerful reviews are in that space. There was a joke floating around on Twitter a while back about how if an author gets 50 reviews on Amazon, she wins a unicorn.

  • Inderpreet says:

    This is an impressive list to help authors. I think this must be widely shared. Ever so helpful for an indie author like me.

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Please feel free to share it, Inderpreet. We authors all need all the help we can get to get the word out there.

  • So many amazing ways to help!

  • Vinitha says:

    I recommend books to our local library every now and then. These are some great tips to support an author, Damyanti.

  • Sara Kapadia says:

    What a great piece

  • CJ says:

    Great insight! Hope to see more

  • Such an important post for friends of authors.

  • M. Charles says:

    Great suggestions!

  • KATHY Z.PRICE says:

    Such a great topic!

  • PJ McIlvaine says:

    Great tips!

  • Sathya Achia Abraham says:

    This is such a great resource!

  • Amelinda says:

    Great list ❤️ One of the many things I love about Twitter is ability to hype and be hyped!

  • literarylad says:

    Thank you Damyanti, these are great tips. Sadly, what you’ve outlined is a huge and daunting workload for a misanthropic author who can barely find time to fit writing around work, managing the house, etc. (a novel generally takes me four years or more). Knowing I would need to do all of this for promotion if I want to be successful is very disheartening. Remind me again, exactly what is it that publishers do, beyond financing the printing and distribution? ;¬]

  • hilarymb says:

    Hi Damyanti – I must ask our library to get your book into their system … I tried before the Pandemic … but will now repeat! I’ve read The Blue Bar – apologies for taking so long … but will be leaving a review on Amazon … it’s excellent … I love the way you’ve crafted the storyline.

    You’ve listed many of the places that are there to promote books and new authors … what a brilliant resource – cheers and many congratulations on The Blue Bar … Hilary

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Thanks, Hilary, for reading, and for requesting The Blue Bar to the library. So pleased the book resonated with you!

  • Jemi Fraser says:

    That’s a great list!
    I love to talk books in Real Life – and while very few people in RL know I write, I’ve convinced several that writing quick reviews for books they love is important!

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      That’s wonderful, Jemi! And the real world is where a lot of the action happenes–so many readers have little or no online life. It is great to be able to generate real-world word of mouth.

  • Chetan says:

    Such lovely, simple and effortless ideas. But anyone who has ever published a book knows these to be true. I would add “Gift the book to people on occasions like birthdays and anniversaries.”

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Thanks, Chetan. Yes, that’s a lovely idea. I’m always gifting books!

  • These are very practical and effective ways. Thank you for sharing these apt points .

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Thanks Chinmayee, even one or two of these would help an author put the word out about their books.

  • Those are all great ways to support an author beyond buying a book. Getting one’s library to stock it means many others will find it and enjoy it.

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Exactly, Alex. I regularly request books from my library, and so many do get acquired.

  • “Thank you for these practical and mostly simple ways to help.

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      You’re welcome, Sue. I think these small steps make a big difference. Even one of them is helpful to an author.

  • What a great list of ways to help, Damyanti. Sharing…

  • Jack Eason says:

    Check out their authhor page on sites like Amazon and buy one or two of their books, particularly if they’re books are available as ebooks! What’s $0.99 or £0.99 these days? Nothing!!!

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      True, but I hesitate to ask people to buy books. They will if they want to, and those who do, won’t need any nudging. These tips are mostly for those who are readers and look for more ways to support an author other than the buying of books.

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