How to Help an Author (Beyond Buying the Book): Part One

By Jen Malone

In this season of making resolutions, what could be a better one than using your talents to help those around you achieve success? As a critique group, we at Writers’ Rumpus are invested in the careers of our fellow writers. We offer help on a monthly basis in the form of critiques, we share relevant industry information via email chains, we give hugs for bad news, and cheer heartily when good news is announced. I’m constantly warmed by the generosity and camaraderie of the kidlit community.

However, while many of us realize that buying the book is a fantastic way to help the authors in our lives, we might not realize there is an optimal time and place to buy, or we may not be in a financial position to buy copies of their books.

Today will be the first in a series discussing fun and easy ways you can support the authors in your life (much credit to Writer’s Digest and Chuck Sambuchino for many of these tips). Over the next few months, I’ll discuss methods for helping to drive book sales, whether or not you are in a position to buy the book yourself. This month will include the best ways to buy the book (yup, there are strategies here!) and subsequent months will talk of other (free) ways to help generate word-of-mouth and put books in readers’ hands.

Buy the book:

Obviously this is ideal, as cold hard cash keeps the publishing world going. Book sales put money in an author’s bank account and allow authors to reach more readers, which (for most of us) is an equal or bigger part of why we write. But you should know that it matters a lot when and where you buy the book.

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Preorders can help a book’s sales soar.

To help the author the MOST, you should always pre-order the books you know you’re going to shell out cash for. Pre-ordering from a local bookstore may prompt them to order additional copies. Pre-ordering from one of the big bookstores like Barnes and Noble puts the book on their radar. A pre-order could even trigger automatic orders for additional copies, due to the formulas these companies use to calculate ordering strategies. High presales also encourage booksellers to offer extra marketing attention and prime in-store placement to those titles.

When bookstores order more copies in advance of a book’s release, it can trigger publishers to order a bigger initial print run and generate a push for more in-house marketing efforts. Additionally, many houses wait for early sales numbers before green-lighting a sequel, so strong pre-sales could give them the confidence to move forward on a Book Two.

Furthermore, pre-orders get lumped all together into first week sales, thus bumping the author farther up in the sales charts for their “opening week.”  This can also capture the attention of smaller indie bookstores, who factor sales rankings into their ordering decisions. In some slower weeks, as few as 2,000 combined pre-orders and opening week sales can put an author on the NYT bestselling list. Any idea what having “NYT Bestseller” on a book cover does for future sales?

If you buy after a book’s release and are doing so in person at a bookstore, don’t go directly to the book, even if you know where it is located. Instead, ask the bookseller to find it for you. You’ve now effectively put this book on his radar. If enough people request it, he’ll be curious, which will make him more apt to read it himself. Firsthand knowledge of the book could lead to his hand-selling the title, or putting it on a shelf of staff recommendations.

Gift the book:

Books make great gifts and since you know the author, chances are you can arrange for a signed book or have the author mail you a personalized bookplate to attach to the inside cover. You can also gift copies to classrooms and libraries. Better yet, gift a copy and arrange for the author to do a free short Skype visit after students have had a chance to read it. You’ve now created thirty or so new fans off of one book purchase. Or leave spare copies around town, on park benches or in café’s, with a little “Take Me Home” sticky note attached. Now you’ve not only made the author’s day, but also the day of a lucky reader!

Next month, I’ll discuss ways to put a book on the radar of your local librarians and other actions you can take to help boost a book’s visibility.

How do you help the authors in your life? Which books will you be pre-ordering in 2014?

Book graph image by ddpavumba, courtesy of


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