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.
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.
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!Share this: