Have you ever been in the drive-thru for Starbucks, pulled up and had the barista say, “The car in front of you paid for your coffee. Have a nice day!”
Okay, neither have I. I haven’t won the lottery yet, either.
Regardless, I know people who have had this happen, and I’ve made it happen for my fair share. It’s the “pay it forward” movement, and I think it’s pretty awesome.
One of my favorite things about being an author is the lack of competition I feel when I talk to other authors. It’s holds true in most professional arenas that shared success is greater than individual success. However, as authors, we tend to wear this ideal like a badge.
That said, the publishing market is a business driven by numbers. Sales, ratings and page views all apply in terms of success. The market is swamped, and with the advent of streamlined indie publishing (and the fact that new authors are pretty much expected to go that route now, even when agented), getting the word out about our publications gets more and more difficult with every title released.
This is why I think authors, the great group of compadres that we are, need to band together in an Author-Pay-It-Forward movement. You might be asking yourself, “How can I pay it forward for my fellow authors?” Here’s what I’ve come up with so far.
1. Reach out to your in-genre authors and offer them some free publicity
Before my initial book launch, I reached out to fellow Urban Fantasy authors and offered to take a stack of bookmarks to my signing. Since then, I’ve made this offer to others as well. All they have to do is send me their promo items and I tuck them into swag bags and copies of my books that are available at events.
How this action pays it forward: There isn’t a single reader out there who only reads one author. And there isn’t an author alive who can keep up with the demand of her readers. A book takes months (or even years) to produce and days to read. While my readers are waiting for the sequel to my book, they’re going to want something else to fill the gap. I’d love to point them toward other, in-genre authors in my network who, like myself, are in the trenches, trying to get their books known.
2. Buy an extra copy of a fellow author’s print-edition book and donate it to the library
I wish I could take credit for this idea, but that just wouldn’t be right. It came from a promise made to a friend-of-a-friend on a Facebook thread. She buys copies of our mutual friend’s books upon launch, and she hands them over to her local library. I have since followed suit and either recommended or donated books by fellow local authors to my library.
How this action pays it forward: Libraries love to get free books. Sometimes they hit the library shelves. Sometimes they end up in fundraising sales. Either way, the library benefits monetarily, and that author’s book makes it into the hands of a reader that might not have otherwise known about it. Having another copy in circulation raises awareness, and that readership increases sales long-term.
3. Write honest reviews
If you love a book, leave a review. If you hated a book, leave a review! Be specific. Give it an honest star rating and at least a few sentences describing why you rated it the way you did. One of the beautiful things about indie or small press publishing is that authors can react to our reviewers and release revised editions. This obviously isn’t the goal, and we should strive to produce the best, most polished work possible. (Pro tip: Hire an editor) If you notice problems with an edition of a book, don’t just give it 2 stars and walk away. Tell the author why.
How this action pays it forward: Remember I said that publishing is a numbers game? Ever look at Amazon and notice the “Author Rank” and “Book Rank”? The more an author sells, the higher that number climbs. The higher that number grows, the more likely their book will turn up in the “recommended for you” page section for random readers. And reviews add even more to your ranking than sales. Also, reviews drive purchases. A book that has 100+ reviews is more likely to be picked up than one with none. By leaving a review, you help the author learn his or her strong and weak points, and you help drive his or her sales. It’s win/win!
4. Blog about your fellow authors, or allow them the chance to guest-blog
People read blogs to find out about topics that interest them… including what authors to read. If you read a book, and you like the book, blog about it! Post a link to the author’s social channels. If they have a personal sales page on their own website, link that before going straight to Amazon’s link. Get the author as much direct exposure to your own reader base as possible.
How this action pays it forward: The web is enormous. Pages get swallowed in the dark. Authors tend to make announcements on their personal sites, or provide newsletter signups for devoted fans. Driving traffic to their site by blogging and linking them directly creates a web (no pun intended) of contacts and builds a shared community of readers. This type of earned media is invaluable. It costs the author nothing, and can gain them a steady stream of new readers. If you don’t have the bandwidth to put together a post of your own, consider inviting the author to provide a guest blog on your site so she can express her own, unique voice to a new, fresh set of readers outside her normal circle of influence.
5. Talk them up!
Whether on social media, standing in line at the store, or at a family gathering, if you read a book that you liked, tell people! Share that link. Spread the author’s name. Build up her readership as if it were your own. Never be afraid to gush about another author’s work.
How this action pays it forward: Besides generating sales, you are also broadening your fellow author’s reader base. It’s very easy for an author to promote herself inside her own sphere of influence. Finding footholds outside of her friends, family, and collection of initial fans can be difficult. The more authors spread the word about each other, the wider everyone’s influence grows.
When it comes to authors, we are all in this together. The more we talk about each other, the bigger community we build, and the wider we expand our reach. We each have a sphere of influence with ourselves at the center. By throwing lines across to one another, we link our little worlds together, creating a chain of shared readership. The more we build each other up, the more successful we’ll all become in the long run.
My fellow authors, this is your call to action. Get out there, and promote not just yourself, but the other authors around you as well.
What are some of the ways you pay it forward for other authors? Tell me in a comment!