David Louis Edelman David Louis Edelman

How to Help Promote Your Favorite Author

We often latch on to the authors we love. We realize this is a tough business, and we don’t want them to starve. We want them fat and happy, sitting on cushions stuffed with hundred dollar bills. But what’s the best way to help them?

People who aren’t in the writing and publishing business often have skewed ideas of how the business works. I’ve had to educate more than one eager friend or family member who thought the best way to promote Infoquake was to walk into Barnes & Noble and turn the book facing out on the shelf so it covers up David Eddings’ titles next door. I tell them to please stop doing this, because David Eddings sends armed hooligans to ding up my car with cricket bats every time he finds one of my books in front of his.

So now let me educate you, o blog reader, on some ways you can help pimp your favorite author, and some ways you should not pimp your favorite author.

Picketers with 'Infoquake' signs

Do…

…buy the author’s books. That’s the first and most obvious thing you can do. There’s really no need to analyze strategically which venue you should buy an author’s books from. We’re generally not so particular where you pick them up or for what price. Just buy ‘em, and read ‘em.

…buy the author’s books at their preferred venue, if you have the choice. The foregoing notwithstanding, many authors would be happy to see you buy their books from a specific venue, if it’s all the same to you. What is the author’s preferred venue? It varies. Check the author’s website (assuming they have one) to see if they have something other than the standard Amazon button listed. Lots of authors like to champion independent stores like Clarkesworld, Mysterious Galaxy, and Powell’s. Rob Sawyer politely pushes you to buy autographed copies on his eBay store.

…tell your circle of friends and acquaintances about the author’s work. Duh. Word of mouth is the absolute number one way that most books are sold these days. So aside from buying the book, the most important thing you can do to promote your favorite author is to put your mouth to work for them. Don’t feel like you need to compose a detailed essay or review; don’t be pushy or intimidating. Just spread the word, one person at a time. I’ve had people tell me how they sent emails to a groups of their friends, and then some of those people go off and email a group of their friends. It snowballs.

…use social networking tools like Digg, StumbleUpon, MySpace, and LibraryThing. See all those little funky icons at the bottom of blog posts all over the web? They lead to social networking sites that can seriously boost an author’s web traffic (and consequently, their visibility and sales). I got a surprise jump in traffic from someone who listed my post on The Return of the King on StumbleUpon. (Here’s the StumbleUpon page.) How big a jump? About 14,000 visitors in the space of a few days. That’s 14,000 potential new readers who might not have heard of me before.

…write a positive Amazon review. Don’t worry too much about the other specialty book sites out there; people may buy books from a number of different online venues, but they go to the Amazon reviews to hear the buzz. Keep in mind that generic two-line five-star reviews with no content (“David Lewis Edleman Rulez!!!!!!!”) and reviews that are obviously from friends and family (“Even if David Louis Edelman hadn’t donated a kidney to my sick child, I still would recommend his books!”) don’t help. Thoughtful critiques that don’t just summarize plot or shovel out meaningless platitudes — even critiques that contain negative impressions — are much more persuasive.

…write about the author on your own site(s) and link to the author’s website. Got a blog or a website? It may seem like a no-brainer to write reviews of your author’s favorite works. But linking to the author’s website helps in a number of other, less visible ways: with Technorati ratings, with Google rankings, with Alexa rankings, etc. Not to mention having your favorite author’s name linked on your site is a constant tickler to your web visitors, who may be inclined to purchase something on your recommendation, but who might not always remember the name of the author you recommended.

…join the author’s mailing list. Yes, lots of people get their information from RSS feeds and Tumblelogs and Facebook updates and the like. But believe it or not, email is still far and away the number one driver of Internet traffic. Some authors just send out ticklers with release dates and upcoming events; others really put their heart into it. But mailing lists give authors a simple way to get in touch with their readers all in one pop. Fellow Pyr author Kay Kenyon has a dynamite newsletter wherein she dispenses writing tips and little mini-essays about her fiction, if you’re looking for a good example. (Here’s the signup for my mailing list, if you’re interested. Just sayin’.)

…ask for the author’s work at your local bookstore. Yes, it’s a computerized world, and book chains largely stock books on their shelves based on impersonal corporate formulae developed by Darth Vader in consultation with Russian mobsters, big tobacco companies, and Dick Cheney. But that doesn’t mean that bookstore managers don’t listen to what their customers are saying. Books like The Red Tent and The Tipping Point became hits largely because of a groundswell of demand from readers. It can happen.

…suggest the author’s work at your book club or reading circle. Depending on the size of your book club, that’s a large number of potential sales all at once, and a large number of people to potentially spread the word. Plus it’s a nice little ego boost for an author to hear that a group of people specifically got together to discuss their work.

…send the author a note of encouragement. I suppose Neil Gaiman and George R.R. Martin aren’t hurting for the lack of encouraging fan mail. But keep in mind that writing is a solitary occupation; we writers don’t get the instant validation of applause when you enjoy our books. So most of us get very encouraged by fan emails, because it’s the only way we know that you’re digging what we’re doing. I’m not saying you need to write a 12-paragraph discourse on how their works have changed your life; but just letting an author know that you loved their book, will be buying more, and will be spreading the word among your friends does help. Really.

Don’t…

…feel guilty about checking the author’s work out of the library. Some fans are under the mistaken impression that checking an author’s work out of the library instead of buying it is a betrayal of sorts. It’s not. After all, libraries are paying customers too, aren’t they? Libraries keep track of which books are checked out and which molder on the shelves, and that affects their purchases of future books.

'Infoquake' protestors…move the author’s books around on the bookstore shelves. Ever been tempted to grab a stack of your author’s latest and sneak it over to the new releases table? Resist that temptation, pal. Believe it or not, the spots on those new release tables and window displays are often paid for by publishers. Messing around with Barnes & Noble displays might sell a few extra copies for your favorite author, but it’s equally likely to piss off the bookstore management.

…pester people to buy the author’s work. It’s one thing to recommend your favorite author to your friends; it’s another thing to irritate the hell out of them by pushing them to read the author’s books when they’re clearly not interested. I purposefully avoided watching Firefly until long after the show was dead and buried, because I kept hearing how much I should be watching it. You certainly don’t want to push people away from your favorite authors like that.

…worry if you didn’t buy the book through the author’s Amazon link. You’re probably aware that authors get extra commission from Amazon if you buy their book through the specially crafted link on their site. And considering that authors only get a relatively small percentage of every sale after the money is sliced up among publishers and agents, that commission can double an author’s profit. But guess what? It’s one sale, and the dirty little secret of the publishing industry is that Amazon sales are generally not a very big percentage of an author’s total. So click the link if you remember, but don’t sweat it if you forget it.

…special order copies of the author’s books and then not purchase them. Guess what? Those five copies you special ordered from Borders and never picked up? The manager didn’t shrug her shoulders after you failed to purchase the books and then shelve them in a special display at the front of the store. She sent them straight back to the publisher, and the publisher docked those sales off the author’s royalty statement.

…try to sabotage other authors. This isn’t a winner-take-all game. You can promote the good things about your author without writing nasty anonymous Amazon reviews about the other guy.

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Okay… so, what am I missing?

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(Apologies to the 2005 picketers of the Kenosha, Wisconsin school board, who have fallen victim to my mad Photoshop skillz above. No apologies to the raging douchebags in the second photo, who get their kicks out of telling gay people that they’re going to Hell. Be thankful I didn’t Photoshop something much nastier in there.)

Comments RSS Feed

  1. Thom Stanley on February 13, 2008 at 2:01 pm  Chain link

    Hey! I haven’t done too badly then (although I am a bit pushy)…

  2. David Louis Edelman on February 13, 2008 at 2:22 pm  Chain link

    Oh yeah, Thom, you have rocked the house. And this author is extremely grateful. :-)

  3. [...] he mentioned this post  by David Louis Edelman and I love it. If you’re looking for ways to help your favorite [...]

  4. J Alan Erwine on February 14, 2008 at 11:14 am  Chain link

    This is some great advice. I’ve linked to it in several places.

    Thanks for posting it.

  5. Allison Baker on February 14, 2008 at 12:56 pm  Chain link

    And don’t forget to nominate books, novellas, short stories, etc. for awards. It is added publicity and exposure for authors when they are simply nominated. Widening their audience and thus helping to guarantee that they get to write more books in the future. :)

    Allison Baker
    Monkeybrain Books

  6. Thom Stanley on February 14, 2008 at 4:11 pm  Chain link

    My point, dear author, is that I try to promote your book to co-workers and friends, under the auspice that if you read at least half of it, you will think about it, and talk about it. But I have been known to be a bit forceful. It’s hard to describe, honestly; when people ask me what it’s about, I can’t decide if I should say sci-fi, nanotechnology, sales, or what?

  7. Thom Stanley on February 14, 2008 at 4:12 pm  Chain link

    Which begs the question: how do you describe Infoquake to someone who’s not sure if it’s for them?

  8. David Louis Edelman on February 14, 2008 at 4:39 pm  Chain link

    Allison: Excellent point.

    Which begs the question: how do you describe Infoquake to someone who’s not sure if it’s for them?

    Ah, that’s actually easy. Six words: “Dune meets The Wall Street Journal.” Or maybe “Neuromancer meets Wall Street.” “The love child of Donald Trump and Vernor Vinge” works, if they know who Vernor Vinge is. When all else fails, I just point people to the excerpt online.

    My editor called book 2 “The Matrix meets Boston Legal.” I’m quite proud of that one.

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