One of the most difficult parts of being an author is finding readers. Unfortunately, nobody tells you that up front. A lot of first-time authors have the idea that their friends and family will read it. Even if they don’t read it, they’ll at least buy a copy to be supportive, right? They’ll help spread the word once the book is released, for sure. Maybe a friend of a friend will like it and I’ll find new readers no problem!
Not so fast. It is remarkably difficult to find support in the most logical of places. For whatever reason, friends and family don’t always share the same excitement level for your accomplishment. Maybe they’re not aware of the time and effort that goes into becoming a published author. Some people hesitate to support something that isn’t established and/or popular for fear of judgment. They’re worried that if they recommend something, and people don’t react to it the same way they did, then that person will judge them for liking something “inferior.” As much as people like being the first to like something, the fact is, there’s just too many products out there to be discovered. There’s too much noise to drown out your attempts at publicity.
And with the rising number of self-published authors, it’s nearly impossible to know what quality level is being produced by a first-time writer. I hate to say it, because I want to be supportive of the indie, self-published industry, but there are endless numbers of bad books out there. Readers are also hesitant to spend their hard-earned money on something they don’t know is worth it. Without experience, and without a traditional publishing company supporting these authors (and without those traditional publishing company’s funds to pay for editing, cover design, advertising, etc), new authors get lost in the sea of nameless books.
Which is why this topic is so dear to our hearts. As an indie label, intent on supporting authors who are starting out, and are still trying to develop a readership, we want to inform and educate writers and readers alike. For authors, if our point hasn’t been clear enough already: temper your expectations. For readers who want to offer as much support as possible, or for readers who aren’t sure the best way to help, let’s get into it!
That graphic at the top of this post is the perfect place to start. All of those suggestions falls under the umbrella of “word of mouth.” Helping spread the word is the easiest, free-est, most effective way to help support an up-and-coming author. 80% of the ideas above require minimal time, effort, and money.
If the author has an online presence (who doesn’t at this point?), then be active.
- If they have a blog: comment, like, rate, and share their posts.
- If they have social media accounts: comment, react, and share their posts.
- Post pictures with their book out in the wild. Are you reading it on your balcony or porch? At the airport? On the beach? Curled up with a cozy blanket on your couch? Is it keeping you company at the coffee shop? Are you reading it in the car while your significant other is running errands? Authors love to see their books being read. It’s even better if you tag them in your post so they can see it.
- Reviews on Amazon and Goodreads are the lifeblood of any author. They tell other prospective readers that people have read the book and actually enjoyed it. It doesn’t have to be a full-on, eighth grade book review. It can be as simple or as thorough as you want. For Amazon specifically, there are a couple things to note:
- It’s the overall number of reviews that helps more than whether the reviews are positive or negative, believe it or not.
- Also, if you have a personal connection to the author, refrain from including that in your review. Amazon actively searches for reviews from friends and family, and will delete them. My guess is they’re afraid the reviews will misrepresent the actual quality of the product, but that’s just speculation. The bitter pill is that it’s hard to get new readers without reviews, so we rely on reviews from friends and family to get us started, only for those reviews to be deleted. Talk about an uphill battle.
- If you do enjoy the book, then recommend it to your friends that like to read. Nobody seems to be afraid to recommend their latest binge, or the newest release from Stephen King, but people tend to be tight-lipped when it comes to recommending lesser-known content (unless there’s already somewhat of a cult following).
The last suggestion is the one that requires the most effort and time. Local authors frequently participate in author fairs and schedule signing events at local bookstores, coffee shops, comic book shops, farmer’s markets, flea markets, and libraries. Meeting readers in person can be motivating for authors to keep working on our next project. Seeing the excitement and joy that our creation can bring to people is both humbling and inspiring. If you can bring friends that want to tag along, then that’s even better.
Most of these ideas take mere seconds and are more impactful than you might imagine. If you like somebody’s work, then let them know – there’s no shame in that!