Cottage industry has slipped back into vogue in America in the past five years. Indie authors are setting up shop in bedrooms and dining rooms and kitchen tables on every street in every neighborhood from Staten Island to Oahu. In 2005 about 300,000 new book titles hit the shelves of bookstores and the pages of Amazon. In 2012 I’ve read estimates of over 1,000,000 titles — just for this year alone!
It used to be when I told people I was working on a book, they would look at me like I was some cute, exotic monkey creature with bucked teeth and big brown eyes. Now they say, “Oh, do you know Ed Jones or Debbie Wild? And I heard that the Kindergarten teacher at Adam Smith Elementary has published her first YA fantasy novel. It’s about unicorns and princess vampires and other stuff like that.”
Yes. Everyone knows a writer or six these days. And just like your neighbor who owns a clothing boutique or your friends who work at Macy’s and Walmart, this is writers’ make-or-break season. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about an independently published author or someone under contract with a publishing house, the holiday season is when books sell the most.
So I have a few suggestions for my reader friends out there. Not only is this the time of year to buy books, but it’s the time of year to make people feel good, to let authors know you support them.
1. Use the Amazon Kindle “Give as Gift” Button – Yes, electronic books are hard to wrap, but you can send them as gifts with the click of a button. It’s on the right side of Kindle Book pages in the green “Buy Now” box. When you find a book that’s under $5.00, it’s such a great value. Go ahead and splurge. Send gifts to 10 people — and make that holiday message to them count. Make sure to let the author know what you did. Any writer who sees 10 purchases on his or her Kindle Account page will cry with joy and pee in their pants with happiness. You want to make sure you get credit for that.
2. Leave “Comments” at Authors’ Web Sites – Even top writers don’t get many comments for most of their posts (I’m talking writers here, folks, not those blogeteer marketers who pretend they’re wise and sexy). Authors spend half a day perfecting a blog entry because they want people to read their words and react. Comments are a deeply appreciated but simple (and inexpensive) act. In fact, if you understand what I’m talking about, make a deal with yourself to comment once a week all year at an author’s site. You can just say, “Wow. I never thought of things that way before. Keep up the good work.” Or you can ask them what toilet paper they use, or even how they voted in the last election. Note: if the author doesn’t respond to your comment within 48-hours, it’s okay to never buy their books again.
3. Write Book Reviews and Post Them at Amazon – This is a biggie. Of course, you probably need to like the book to write a review that makes an author feel good. You probably also need to read the book. This is probably the best gift you can give an author. We live and die by reviews. We can’t get enough good ones (seriously!). It’s a suggestion that should be connected to #1, above. If you read someone’s book and then leave a positive review, doesn’t it make sense to gift that book to friends and family?
4. Share Book Promo Info on Facebook and Twitter – From Salman Rushdie to yours truly, virtually all writers promote their work on Facebook and Twitter. So, when you get a book promo, or even just a blog post on an upcoming book, ReTweet it or Share it to your Facebook Wall. You have no idea how stupid we all feel sending out our little advertisements, knowing more than likely they won’t go anywhere. When we see someone has RT’ed or Shared a post we pee in our pants not just once but usually on and off for the rest of the day. That means, if you’re smart, you should also invest in Hanes stocks or Fruit of the Loom … or, yes, Depends.
5. Buy a Kindle or a Nook (or whatever) – This should probably be #1 on the list, but statistics show that nearly half the readers out there (i.e., people who truly try to make time to read) own some form of E-reader. So it’s #5 since most people reading this are already caught up. If you don’t have an E-reader, you really need one. I had a profound experience at my dentist’s a few months ago. I brought my Kindle and sat waiting for nearly 30 minutes reading paranormal erotica in the waiting room while everyone else read back issues of Time and People. I was titillated. They were not. I was catching up on research I have been doing on how to add some zest into my otherwise literary stories. They were reading about stuff that happened five months ago. My hygienist and I had a very flirty 40-minute session while she worked on my luscious, salivating mouth.
6. Get Smartphone/Computer Reading Apps – I have Kindle on my iPhone. I read books in line at the grocery store or if I’m waiting for something like a train. I don’t suggest reading erotica when you’re out in full public view (but you could try it, especially if you’re wearing a coat). I also have to admit there are times when instead of working I fire up the Kindle App on my laptop and read a chapter or two of something. Usually I choose to review “Samples” I’ve downloaded when I’m not using a dedicated E-reader. I read the beginning of Ed Robertson’s Melt Down waiting for gas the other day and quickly bought the book right before I got out to finally pump 8-gallons into my Prius. (Ed’s book cost me $0.99, a gallon of gas was $3.59).
7. Send Authors Email – Snooty assholes don’t respond to emails from people they don’t know, but most writers aren’t snooty assholes. If you read something you like, it’s often easy to find the author’s address online (or at least their blog). Reach out. Ask questions. Give us a piece of your mind. Pat us on the back. Shit, send us long essays. If someone has gone to the trouble of writing a 350-page novel, they read and write all the time. More than likely they’ll respond. It’s not like the old days where we had to actually work to address an envelope and remember to drop a return letter in the mail box.
8. Send Emails About Books You Like to All Your Friends – It’s kind of like sharing and ReTweeting, but it’s so easy to send email to a mailing list these days. Authors don’t like to bomb people’s in-boxes, but most of us appreciate it when a friend, colleague, or acquaintance does some strategic advising for us. If you like a book, let everyone in your directory know — especially if the author is an indie writer. Make sure you cc: the author. What a simple and cheap present! Make sure you put the Amazon link in the body of the email. You will make that writer’s day. This is something you only want to do once or twice a year, and only if you really liked the book.
9. Don’t Buy the E-book, Buy the Paperback – Most indie writers worth their salt these days make sure both E-books and P-books are available to readers. That’s almost always the case with folks on contract to publishing houses. For indies, if you buy the paperback, the royalties pay more. We make about $2.04 off of E-book novels that sell for $2.99 at Amazon. We make about $4.00 for a P-book that you pay $16.00 (plus shipping) for. The royalty percentage is lower, but the dollar amount is higher. Make sure to leave that paperback lying around your living room. Use it as a conversation piece. You don’t even have to read it. Books with nice covers and the author’s name in bold print are awesome advertisements. Let the author know you made this choice in an email, blog comment, or Facebook post. They’ll pee in their pants for sure and probably be willing to go out to lunch with you (you buy!) to sign the book.
10. Go Hog Wild with Free Books and $0.99 Deals – There’s never been a better time to acquire books. On any given day, Amazon, iBooks, and Smashwords offer thousands of “free” titles that you can download to your heart’s content. There’s probably more $0.99 deals out there than free books. And, for that matter, $2.99 — the standard price for an electronic copy of a backlist or Indie novel — is kind of good, too. You can buy four novels online in 10-minutes for less than the price of admission to the movies. If you’re one of those people who says they don’t have time to read, don’t go to the movies next Saturday night, stay home, buy four books and get down to business. You don’t have to give up your movie star fix completely, but adding a good read in at least once a week will enhance your life, and expand your mind, and make you a better person. I guarantee it.
Happy Holidays, Peace & Love, and Merry Christmas to all…
David Biddle, December 2, 2012