So, the question is: What are ways I can support my favorite authors even when I cannot afford to buy their beautiful new book off the shelf for $10-$20?
Authors put a lot of heart, dedication, time, sweat, and tears into writing and editing and polishing their stories. The passion only feeds us for so long. The process of bringing an idea to a ready-to-publish, complete manuscript can be downright brutal! So much of the time, these authors do not see a return of even half of each book sale made because everyone else takes their cut first. In the case of self-publishing, I can attest. The printers have to pay for printing materials as well as their own dedicated employees, as well as printing corrections, online fees, distribution and so on. The author who spends a year or more of their life on the book takes what is left over after that. Even ebooks, which have no physical printing costs, are the same way.
For example: An ebook you purchase for 99¢ pays the author only 35% from that sale. Not even half. Higher-priced ebooks, however, can pay the author between 35% and 70% in royalties from that sale. (These percentages are based on Amazon). To give you an idea of the range.
Because of this, I don't agree that books are "too much" to buy, as far as setting a price point is concerned. When I read blog posts and articles comparing buying a book with buying a burger or having a sit-down dinner of pasta and a side salad at a restaurant, I get what they mean and I agree with them. It is true, most people don't think twice about going out to eat every day or every other day, or even twice or three times a week. While they balk at the price of a book one can read and enjoy over and over again, claiming it is just too expensive.
But I am writing this for those of us who find such articles untrue in our own lives, and cannot relate to this comparison—or accusation, in some cases. What about us lower-income individuals, who love books with as much passion as middle-incomers or high-incomers? We want to support these authors, but when the choice comes down to feeding the body or feeding the mind—we really don't have an option at all.
I grew up where a monthly outing to the nearby Wendy's for two items off the dollar menu was our version of dining-out, and something to look forward to with as much enthusiasim and anticipation as being able to go see a movie at the dollar theatre (of which actually closed down just a couple years ago). While I never went without, and my mother—thank God for her—was very wise in the income we had and how to make the dollars stretch when and where they needed to, I would never have dreamed of being able to go to the bookstore and buy a brand-new novel—smelling of fresh-off-the-printer ink and paper—off the shelf. And buying a used book from a thrift store certainly wasn't going to support the author at all either.
Over the years, as I began my own pursuit of novel-writing, and as I experienced the process of publishing and pricing my work so the royalties were worth my efforts, my eyes were opened to the world of authors in a whole new way. I wanted my money to go to the authors to encourage them and support them in their careers of book-writing. I wanted to support my favorite authors just as I longed for that same support in my own writing career.
But, we still live in a world of often harsh and disappointing realities. Money does not grow on trees. I still have to choose between paying bills, buying groceries, or purchasing much-loved books to fill my library. Fellow book lovers, I hear you. The struggle is real.
How can we support our favorite authors when our budget does not allow for spending on our passion for books? This is a question that has been continuing to press on me. So, I have included a few ideas based off my own experiences as both a reader and a writer:
- Social Media - It's a big deal! We spend most of our lives glued to our smartphones, tablets, and laptops; scrolling through newsfeeds, tweets, and articles—searching for the latest trends and obsessions. We want recommendations; we want to join the crowd and connect with people of similar likes and interests. Maybe you cannot afford to buy the book yet. Maybe you know it is going to sit on your wish list while you tackle paying a medical bill, affording groceries, or fixing those always-unexpected-and-inconvenient car repairs so you can get to work and back. But you CAN still show your support by following the author on social media platforms, sharing tweets, and posting to your friends and family to say, "Hey! Check out this author!" "I can't wait to read this book, it looks great!" Spreading the word through these platforms is being active in your support and will encourage other readers and help the author boost their online presence, making more sales in the process.
- Libraries - Borrowing a book from the library may not pay the author for their work directly, but it brings notice. If the book is not available, enough people asking for the title and generating buzz about the book may send the librarians out hunting for a copy to get for their shelf. They keep track of these things! If a book falls too low in the rankings, and has not been checked out enough over a certain period of time, often they will just get rid of it. After all, like our own home libraries, they only have so much shelf space and new books beings released every year. After borrowing the book, snap a photo of you reading it and share it on Twitter and Instagram. Tag the author; share your enthusiasm. "Just finished reading another great book!" etc.
- Write A Review - Okay, obviously this means you needed to have either borrowed the book from the library (see previous bullet point) or found yourself a copy at a thrift store or garage sale (As a reader: I delight in finding these affordable on a small income treasures. As an author: It makes me want to cry). Keeping an eye out for Goodreads Giveaways is another way to acquire a copy. (Disclaimer: No, you are NOT required to write a review if you win a giveaway on Goodreads, but the author always appreciates it if you do!) You can rate and review the book on several platforms, including Amazon, Goodreads, book seller sites, and even your own blog. Ratings and reviews help boost the presence of a book and its author. Reviews hold a LOT of sway for people who are checking out a book for the first time and debating whether or not it will be worth their time and money. You can help answer questions for them (preferably without including spoilers) on the book's content, style, and storyline. The review doesn't have to be a professional essay of paragraph upon paragraph of eloquent perfection. It doesn't even need to be two paragraphs. Maybe just a sentence on why you loved—or, (hopefully not) why you did not love—said book, and the reason for your choice of rating. Even as an author, I struggle with writing book reviews. So, if nothing else, keep it simple and just be honest.
If you practice other ways to show your support for books and their authors, while not forgoing on much needed groceries, feel free to share in the comments!