The idea for this blog has been on my mind for a while. Dropping a great, big cluster bomb of hints isn’t really my style, which is why I’ve avoided it till now. But I’ve come to understand that because most readers are unaware of the ins and outs of publishing, they also don’t know what a big difference they can actually make to an author.
And importantly, this blog isn’t only about me. It’s about any author whose work you enjoy.
Why writers write
Most authors are not primarily motivated by money. There are many more reliable and lucrative ways for wordsmiths to earn a dollar than by writing books. Corporate PR for example – the career in which I spent most of my adult life.
So why do we write? Because we feel compelled to. In my own case, there is nothing that replicates the sense of creation. Of bringing into the world something entertaining, healing, practical, instructive, compelling – or all the above. For me, this feeling is amplified by my wish to share the transformative insights I have discovered in Tibetan Buddhism. In the words of my precious guru, Geshe Acharya Thubten Loden: “The best gift that you can make to others is Dharma giving because you are giving people concepts that will enable them to obtain a lasting form of happiness …”
The flip side of why writer’s write is that just as actors must be watched, and musicians heard, writers must be read. Who wants to invest months, perhaps years of their life writing a book that nobody reads? Knowing it is valued by people out there in the world is what motivates us to keep on writing. There may not be a financial return, but there is an emotional one.
While I, like most writers, dream of a Harry Potter, Jack Reacher, Alchemist or Jonathan Livingstone Seagull changing my life, unless you get to those household name stakes, the financial returns for writing are dire. For those of you interested in the grim details, I’ve included a section called The Brutal Realities at the end of this blog.
The truth is that writers need the encouragement of their readers for the motivation as much as the money. I can’t begin to tell you how encouraging it is to read amazon reviews saying how much a book has meant to someone, or the ways in which the insights changed their life. Or to hear that bookstores or libraries in remote towns have a small community who value my work. This is why we do what we do . The reason we keep on at it.
So if there is an author who you wish to encourage, how do you go about it?
Five Ways Involving No Money At All
Post a review. This is probably the most meaningful way. But apparently, fewer than one in 100 book buyers do. A rating or a review is a thumbs up to an author, but it’s actually much more than that. The larger the numbers of reviews, the more likely that Amazon will show your books to others. Just as traditional booksellers are more inclined to recommend a book to customers which has already been endorsed by many other customers, so will Amazon. And there is no limit to it. Even if a book already has, say, 200 reviews, this doesn’t mean your own review doesn’t count. There are books out there with tens of thousands of reviews – it’s ferociously competitive out there.
So if there’s any one thing you can do for an author, it’s post a review. Even if the message is as simple as “I loved this book – read it!” When enough people say that, it counts for something.
Where to post? If you live in USA, UK or Canada – Amazon! Amazon accounts for around 66% of book sales in those countries (in my own case, over 90% of my books are purchased via Amazon). If you want to be really supportive, you can cut and paste your review and post it on Goodreads, Barnes & Noble, and any other digital bookseller you use. If you live in Australia, Booktopia is the most powerful digital bookseller.
Share the love on social media. Sharing your enthusiasm about a book with all the people you’re connected to is doing everyone a favour. Perhaps include a cover shot. If your favourite authors have a presence on the likes of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Linked-In, following their pages and sharing their posts is another way to help get the word out.
Subscribe to them online – and add them as approved senders! Many authors have newsletters, blogs and the like. Most of us are, paradoxically, hopeless communicators for the simple reason that we’d much rather stay in our metaphorical log cabin in the woods than deal with automated CRMs, social media feeds, digital marketing, blogging, promoting and all the other commercial hustle that is the antithesis of cultivating our artistic sensibilities. So please do support authors when they put their head out of the door.
Of course, this won’t happen if your email server sends all their newsletters to your Spam folder. The simple but critical act of adding an email address to your approved senders list will ensure that an author’s email arrives in your Primary inbox, and you open it. If you’re not sure how to do this, click here: https://davidmichie.com/whitelist-instructions/
Order their work from your local library. If enough customers do this, the public library system will buy an author’s books. Once its on the shelves, other readers can discover it too. While it may seem counter-intuitive to promote library borrowing, there are plenty of readers who are buyers as well as borrowers.
Promote yourself to Ambassador. An ambassador seeks to influence others and promote their cause. Telling friends about a book you are enjoying is a great way to support your favourite author, “word-of-mouth” remaining the very best form of marketing. And it needn’t end there. Your intervention could be a game-changer if a friend of your sister’s happens to be a producer for Oprah, if your childhood sweetheart is now Development Director at Netflix … you get the picture. If this sounds far-fetched, you’d be surprised. Somebody’s friend is the sister of an influential producer – and there is no substitute for enthusiasm!
Four Ways Involving the Almighty Dollar
Buy their books at the normal price. Pretty straightforward – but you’d be surprised how many people wait for a deal. A chance to buy the Kindle for 99c instead of, say, $4.99.
Deals are for the people out there who don’t know us. It’s a way of getting strangers inside the tent. It’s not for true fans. The truth is, when you pay 99c the author makes almost nothing – and if it’s part of a paid-for promotion, it is almost certainly costing the author to put it in your hands.
Pre-order! When an author brings out a new book, the volume of pre-orders, early sales and reviews all contribute to its momentum. And the algorithms employed by the likes of Amazon automatically promote titles that sell well, so that the more they sell, the more they sell. Once the momentum of the first weeks and months goes, so does the promotion. Algorithms switch to the next shiny, new thing. So if you can, pre-order. You will be helping an author more than by buying the book at any other time.
Tell your local book/gift store owner If you are a prolific book buyer and can afford to spread the love around, it’s a wonderful intervention for you to put in a word in with the person who orders for your local book or gift store. Any store can set up an IngramSpark account free and order books at, typically, 50% off RRP. Paradoxically, I find that my own books sell in far greater volumes from shops that sell interior décor, homewares and artefacts than from traditional bookstores where there are so many other books that they are only displayed spine-out among thousands of competing titles.
Gifts for friends. You loved the book. Great! What about your friends? Who else might like it? Whose birthdays are coming up? What about stowing away a few copies for Christmas? Are you a member of a book club? Helping an author find new readers is one of the most generous things you can possibly do. If every reader who relished a book also bought a second one as a gift, the impact for the author would be massive!
I hope this has given you a few helpful ideas. My sincere thanks, in advance, for all the wonderful support you have already shown me. And I hope my work continues to touch readers’ hearts.
In summary, how you can encourage your favourite authors:
- Post an Amazon review (or a Booktopia review if you are in Australia)
- Share the love on social media
- Subscribe to their newsletter – as approved senders
- Order their books from the local library
- Promote yourself to ambassador
- Buy their books at regular prices
- Pre-order when you can
- Tell your local book/gift store manager
- Buy their books as gifts for friends
If you want to know the true facts about the financial side of writing, you can do so here: https://davidmichie.com/the-brutal-realities-of-writing-and-money/
(Photo credits: With grateful thanks to Tra My for the Featured image and Tucker Good and Sabina Sturzu for the two subsequent images, all from unsplash.com)
And while you’re here … my own new book, The Secret Mantra, published on 23 October 2020 is available now for pre-order from Amazon, Apple, etc as well as from your local bookstore! This is the long-awaited sequel to The Magician of Lhasa.
Check it out at:
Apple Books: https://books.apple.com/us/book/id1525491393
I hope you found this blog useful. If you did, here are a few things you can do:
Sign up for my newsletter. You’ll hear from me once or twice a month with blogs and other news designed to be stimulating and useful.
Have a look at the Free Stuff section of my website. Here you will find lots of downloads including guided meditations, plus audio files of yours truly reading the first chapter of several of my books.
Join me on Mindful Safari in Zimbabwe, where I was born and grew up. On Mindful Safari we combine game drives and magical encounters with lion, elephant, giraffe, and other iconic wildlife, with inner journeys exploring the nature of our own mind. Find out more by clicking here.