Ways to Give Back to the Book Industry

I had a wonderful birthday last week. I got many lovely wishes and some truly thoughtful and amazing gifts. It got me thinking about the act of giving, and how it’s really just a way of showing that we care. Big expensive gifts are great, but the ones that truly touch me are those that someone put time, effort, or consideration into. Really, when you break it down to its simplest form, it’s another form of communication.

And of course, since I work in the book industry, my mind took it there. I feel incredibly lucky to work in a job I truly love and in the special industry that surrounds it. It would be difficult (and sappy) of me to detail all of the many ways people in this industry have touched my life, so I’ll spare you that. Instead, I thought I would brainstorm some ways that I, and you, and all of us can give back to an industry that has given us so much.


Buy Books

This might seem painfully obvious, but the book industry is first and foremost business-driven. Without money in the form of purchases from consumers, there wouldn’t be an industry to support artists in a career capacity. And as much as I love libraries, if everyone rented every book they read instead of buying some, the whole business would go broke.

In that spirit, I’ve recently been going back and buying some of the books I rented from the library for free (thanks in part to this post courtesy of Nina Badzin) – especially those books that truly impressed me. For one thing, I’ll likely want to either reread or loan out most of them. It’s also a good way to encourage my favorite authors to keep on publishing their work. Essentially, I’m giving everyone who worked on that book my vote of endorsement, from writer to cover designer.

Review Books

Second, like my buddy Laura, I’ve been reconsidering my stance on doing book reviews. I haven’t come to a definite conclusion yet, but I’m weighing my options. The posts where I discuss books are some of my most popular posts (Twilight, Fifty Shades of Grey (which I’m pretty sure was a mistake; you guys all seem to think I’m super kinky now)), which makes me think I have something to offer readers in regards to book reviews. So I don’t know; we’ll see.

But it’s undeniable that book reviews help the industry. (My quandary is whether or not other authors – specifically me – should be the ones to provide them, not that they should exist.) Positive reviews boost sales for authors. Negative reviews steer readers towards good choices that will keep them reading. And all reviews build hype and awareness for books in general. If you’re in a position to do book reviews, it’s a great way to give back.

Talk about Books

Maybe you can’t afford to buy books and instead get them at your public library. Maybe, like me, you’re a writer who’s chosen not to do reviews. But there’s still one vital way you can support authors and books themselves: tell your friends.

If you love a book, recommend it. Loan it. Spread the word. If everyone who loves a book does this, the book gets a wider audience and, eventually, more sales and support. This is something that any reader can do. (For even more ideas, I absolute LOVE this post by Chuck Sambuchino at Writer Unboxed: “How to Support an Author’s New Book: 11 Ideas For You.”)

Send Fan Letters

Last week I blogged about how to write a fan letter. I took you through the steps, sprinkling in some tips I hope were useful, but what I didn’t have space to do was talk about why writing fan letters to authors is so important.

Writing can feel like such a lonely occupation. It’s a career riddled with rejection, critique, and criticism. Sales are great, but they aren’t personal. I can’t imagine an author in the world who wouldn’t be touched by a personal letter praising their art. Really, it’s what writers strive for: touching others with their words. Being concretely told that they were successful is a beautiful thing.

Support Writing Organizations

In talking about supporting the industry, I would be remiss not to mention writing organizations. Their main purpose is the support of writers! So if you’re not sure how you personally should give back… you can always support organizations who decide for you.

If you’re a writer, you can join them. Dues go to funding that help the group do good deeds. You can also contribute your time, your expertise, your leadership, or your moral support.

If you’re not a writer, you can still help these groups by donating money or volunteer hours. Most groups do fundraisers once or twice a year.

And please forgive a quick plug for one of my favorite non-profit groups. Every time I buy a book online, I go through the Amazon banner at the top of this website to help fund my local poetry organization. Supporting local poets AND supporting the authors I love? Win/win. We would love for you to do the same! After you click on the banner to get to Amazon, the rest of your shopping is exactly how it always is, but we get a small percentage of your total purchase.

Share Things You’ve Learned

Ah, advice. When I was new to this writing-as-a-career thing, I was so anti-advice it wasn’t even funny. *hides deleted blog posts under the table* I was convinced that there was no one “right way” to do things, so all of this advice hype must be bullshit. And you know what? There IS no one right way to do things. But… there are many things that have been proven effective for hundreds of writers time and time again. And who am I to belittle that?

Part of growing as a writer is accepting that I don’t know everything. One of the benefits to growing as a writer is actually learning a few things that drastically improve my craft, lifestyle, etc. So for me, advice to other writers is all about sharing the things that have most helped me personally. Advice can come across as “my way or the highway” or “I know it all,” but if it’s shared humbly, with the intention of genuinely helping others, and with the acknowledgement that everyone is different… it’s hard to go wrong. The advice naysayers are certainly free to ignore it.

So if you’re a writer and you’ve heard some good advice that helped you, go ahead and share it! Will it work for everyone? No. Will it help someone? It just might.

Be a Cheerleader

And last but not least… never underestimate the importance of moral support. It weren’t for the love of my incredible family and friends, I would most likely be straightjacketed right now, trying to write a novel by pecking the keyboard with my nose. Or worse, I might have given up completely.


So, dear readers, what have you been doing lately to contribute to the book industry? Do you have some ideas I didn’t think of? I’d love to hear from you!

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  • Regina Richards

    That’s a great list, Annie. Other things we might do to contribute to the book industry? Let’s see…maybe join or start a book club. Or teach someone to read. Or simply read in public (on the train, in the park, in a cafe). Seeing others enjoying a good read encourages me to read as well.

    • Thanks Regina! Yes, a book club is a great one! And I love that you mentioned reading in public. I hadn’t thought about it that way, but you’re so right!

  • Wonderful post!!! You’ve inspired all sorts of ideas in me and set a great example. Online forums such as facebook and twitter are great places to give public accolades to books & writers that you love. GoodReads is another place where you can share your opinions and promote the books you like. As you suggested in another post, readers can go to Amazon and post reviews of good books.

    I have always given books as gifts for Christmas and other occasions. I like to think my neices & nephews think of me as the “book aunt”. I also love to give the brilliant author in my life’s poetry & stories as gifts to friends & family. My brother gave me a subscription to Highlights when I was 5 yrs old, which was one my all time favorite gifts. My older sister gave me a cherished edition of Robert Louis Stephenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verse and then later The Hobbit & The Trilogy, accompanied by a poster of Middle Earth. I still have those ragged paperbacks displayed in my bookshelf.

    If you have kids of your own or in your life, tantalize them with gorgeously illustrated books. Read to your kids, even when they’re babies, and keep reading until they get too old to listen. Teach them to associate reading with love and comfort. Turn off the TV and let them see their parents reading for fun. Then talk about what you’ve all read! I can’t think of my mom without thinking of “Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Day” or my dad without thinking of Smoky the Cow Pony. My grandpops is forever associated in my mind with “The Creamation of Sam McGee”.

    Now that I’m in the awkward years between kids and grandkids, I sometimes read to preschoolers on a volunteer basis. Find some kids to read to, even if you don’t have your own!

    • You got straight to the root of it, didn’t you? Instill a passion for reading early on. So incredibly true. Luckily I had a mom who did that for me, and I couldn’t be more grateful. =)

      Giving books as gifts is a wonderful idea as well!

  • Melissa Crytzer Fry

    Love this post, Annie. Read a similar one during the holidays from author Lydia Netzer, but you’ve added even a few more! I’ll tell you – with the advent of the ebook, I’m actually buying MORE print books. Hear me out: if I read a book I love on the treadmill (ebook), I will go back out and buy the printed copy as well, for my own collection and future reference. And definitely, I do the same if I’ve borrowed an ebook from the library!

    PS Love the new headshot with the curly locks!

    • Well you’re doing double the good deed then, aren’t you? Supporting the author with two purchases — good for you!!
      Thanks Melissa. =)

  • Rah Rah Rah! GO LITERATURE! *I totally did a hurkey in my office* 🙂 I think the fan letter is a great idea, the internet seems to have supplanted “letters” with things like snarky reviews, blog posts and 140 character shout-outs.

    Other authors reviewing books is a bit of a double-edged sword. I’d be prone to send my review directly to the author if it was a small name / press. If I’m reviewing, say, a Stephen King book, I wouldn’t have any qualms about putting it out there.

    One thing you missed – local writing conventions! You support a local community of writers, can buy their books (they often sell them in the dealers room) and give face to face feedback! I just went to ConDFW XII, a sc-fi fantasy con in Addison. (AHEM Check my blog for a review, heh.)

    • Yes, I agree with you about reviews. Bigger names seem safer, for some reason. Maybe because I assume they’re too busy to troll reviews online and get twisty panties. Who knows?

      Conventions! Of course, that’s a great one. It supports the organization who hosts it, the writers who go, and the authors and speakers who are selling things. Nice addition!

  • Lura Slowinski

    Here’s something not on the list: Attending author events at local bookstores and libraries! Even if you can’t buy the book you still help to generate a crowd that the author will surely appreciate. Granted, if you don’t live near a major city you might not have many authors swinging through on tour, but it’s a great opportunity for those who are so lucky.

    • Yes! That’s not really on my radar because I don’t live in a big city, but that would be a fantastic way to show support. Very nice.

  • “Negative reviews steer readers towards good choices that will keep them reading.” I agree, and I’ve even found that it’s a negative review that prompted me to buy a book. What another person disliked about a book might be something I would like. So, maybe there’s no such thing as bad publicity.

    Happy belated birthday!

  • I’m going to pat myself on the back for doing most of this! 🙂 Great post–helpful as always. That’s becoming your trademark!

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