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5 Ways to Support an Indie Author*

*We are assuming, of course, that you actually like said author's stuff and feel, well, rather fannish about it and would like very much to see him or her make the New York Times Bestseller List. Don't try the following steps if you aren't in love with the fiction. At worst, it's unethical; at best, it will leave you feeling vaguely dissatisfied and probably won't help the author all that much anyway.

1. Send fan mail.
Nothing motivates a writer to keep going quite so much as knowing that someone out there is waiting for the next book. If you've read something that changed your life, broadened your perspectives, or gave you a good laugh, take time to say thank you.

Seriously. Authors pour their blood, sweat and tears into their writing. Fan mail refills the reservoirs.

2. Signal Boost when appropriate.
Did your favorite author just win a big award? Do an interview? Write a particularly insightful blog post? If something made you smile or think, wow, cool, then take time to blog about it or share the link or even just call your family over to the computer screen to take a look.

(Do NOT slavishly retweet every banal comment your favorite author makes on twitter. That is called spam, and nobody likes it.)

3. Review their stuff.
Indie authors love reviews.

Most online retailers allow customers to write reviews about their purchases. You can also review on GoodReads or on your personal blog. The biggest enemy of an indie author is obscurity, so if you can help your favorite author's work stand out from the crowd, you'll be doing him or her a big favor.

When writing reviews, don't just say, "This was awesome!" or "This sucked!" (even if it's true). Take time to write several well-thought-out paragraphs. Say what you liked and what you didn't like. The more honest and specific you are in your reviews, the more useful they will be to potential buyers.

4. Recommend your favorite author when your friends get an e-reader.
It's an amazing phenomenon. The instant someone acquires e-reader -- a kindle, a nook, an ipod, whatever -- he or she begins craving books for that device. The trouble is, e-books by big name authors cost a lot of money. Almost as much as a hard cover edition. Ouch!

So help your friends out: Recommend your favorite indie author. Indie books are cheap -- between 99 cents and 5 dollars per book, generally -- and while some indie books do have editing problems, the ones you recommend to your friends won't. So your friends get cheap books, your favorite authors get new readers, and you get the satisfying knowledge that you've made the world a better place.

Cool, huh?

5. Time your Purchases Strategically.
Ok, well, since we assume you're already a fan of this author, you probably own most of their backlist. What about new books? Is there a way to make your purchase more helpful?

As it turns out, there is. Big online retailers like Amazon and Barnes & Noble use sales data to decide which books get displayed to customers who are browsing. They track books that have sold a lot of copies in the past few days and display the books with the best running tally in their "customers who bought this book also bought..." links. The closer together a book's sales are, the higher it jumps in the rankings, and the more likely it is to get attention from new readers.

So: Time your purchases so that you buy when the book is on the upswing. Release day is a good bet. So are days when the book was featured on a really good review site, or when it's getting 'buzz' in online conversations. Buy when other people are buying, and your purchase may help your favorite author jump into the "top 100" rankings.


Aug. 23rd, 2011 12:02 pm (UTC)
and trad authors too
It should be noted that traditional authors need this sort of support as well! ALL of it holds true for any author you love.

Reviews are very important--and I'd only disagree with you on one point--two or three paragraphs are fabulous, but even a short review is a good thing. Don't be afraid to just write that line or two that says, "I enjoyed this. It was well-written." Write what you feel you can--we read it. We love seeing it and other readers rely on it to help them decide if a book is worth purchasing!

Great column, Nancy. And congrats on the great review you received the other day!
Aug. 23rd, 2011 12:06 pm (UTC)
I'm curious what makes this list five ways to support an indie author, as opposed to just five ways to support an author? They're good suggestions, and I agree with them, I just don't see anything indie-specific.
Aug. 23rd, 2011 09:09 pm (UTC)
Good point. They're not really indie-specific.

The post grew out of online conversations where I saw readers express an active interest in supporting independent authors, so my brain was sort of in indie-mode at the time.

But I agree -- they're good tips for supporting any author.
Aug. 23rd, 2011 03:43 pm (UTC)
Her intended audience for this article seems the obvious answer. No denying the overlap.

There's the impression in her angle of attack that tradpub authors have some perks over indie pubbers (like distribution, bookstore presence, paid professionals every step of the way, upfront money, easier access to awards consideration and other publicity builders, yada yada yada) and that because indies tend to lack those things, maybe fans would want to throw them a bone.

Not that tradpub authors don't need or crave or benefit from the same bones--just that the indie author with no bone might appreciate it a smidge more than the tradpub author who may already have a bone or two thrown their way.

Not trying to speak for Nancy, and not trying to dis tradpubbers or say they got it easy--Pshaw!

Just that the gap between zero and one may be psychologically broader than the gap between 1 and 2...

YMMV and all that,

Aug. 23rd, 2011 09:15 pm (UTC)
Uh-oh... I hope I haven't unintentionally stepped in the inde vs. trad battle with this post. Wasn't my intent at all.

I do think indie authors crave validation from readers a bit more than trad authors do, because a trad author has been validated by an agent, editor, and publishing house by the time her book sees print.
Aug. 23rd, 2011 10:15 pm (UTC)
no battle from me!
Way I see it, just about all writers are like underdogs in the pound. Commercially published writers might look like they've been fed a little better or cared for a tad more, and indie types are usually mangier scrappers less likely to be adopted... but at the end of the day, we're all still dogs in the pound at the mercy of the customers and whatever fleas we brought in with us.

And it isn't even that nice of a pound, compared to other artistic animals. ;)

Aug. 24th, 2011 01:02 pm (UTC)
Re: no battle from me!
Blinks. I think Lon just called me a MANGY, FLEA-BITTEN DOG!!!!!

The *least* you coulda done was call me a mangy CAT. And I took my flea medicine.

Aug. 24th, 2011 02:25 pm (UTC)
Re: no battle from me!
But cats are too full of win to EVER allow a phrase such as "undercat" to even arise!


Aug. 24th, 2011 03:38 pm (UTC)
Re: no battle from me!
Which is why I'll stick with "cat."


Aug. 24th, 2011 03:33 pm (UTC)
Re: no battle from me!




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