It's one of the most common sentiments I hear from readers and bloggers. Whether in regards to writing reviews or posting to social media, folks just don't know how much impact they have on the careers of their favorite authors.
Much like the right to vote, each person has a voice, and using that voice paves the way for great change. Sadly, some astronomical percentage of people choose not to exercise their right to vote. The same is true for readers and authors. Readers hold the power in their hands but often don't know how much their voice matters.
So, let's say you found a new favorite author. They're not a bestseller. You couldn't name a single person who's read one of their books. Now what?
1. Leave a Review
Every book distribution site (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, etc) has a mechanism for readers to leave their feedback on books. Bloggers like to write these long, drawn-out reviews that read like essays for English lit, but in reality, a sentence or two is great!
Here's some tips to writing reviews:
A. Be honest! Other readers are counting on you to let them know what the book was like. Don't let them down.
B. Be considerate! People reading your reviews likely have not read the book, so make sure not to include spoilers. It really ruins the effect for many readers.
C. Share your reviews! Readers can leave reviews on multiple sites, from distribution sites like Amazon and Barnes & Noble to shelf sites like Goodreads and Library Thing.
Reviews are by far the most important way readers can impact the authors they love. Book promotion sites like Book Barbarian and BookBub use the number of reviews and the overall rating to determine which books they will promote. Amazon uses reviews and ratings as part of their algorithms for best-seller and high-ranked.
As a reader, if you do nothing else on this list, leave a review!
2. Tell your friends in real life
Word of mouth is one of the most powerful mechanisms for a book's success. A good friend recommending a book has WAY more weight than a stranger online, an ad, a promotion, or anything else.
If you have a friend or family-member who likes similar books or genres, be sure to let them know when you've found a new favorite. They'll find a new author and the author will get a new reader. Everyone wins!
Last Christmas, a reader contacted me to let me know she bought ten paperbacks and was gifting them to her friends as holiday presents. She literally put my book into the hands of ten people she thought would enjoy it. I was so amazed and honored to have such a reader!
3. Tell your friends on social media
If you're like me, you have 5-10 real life friends and hundreds of online 'friends'. On the interwebs, I hoard high school acquaintances, former coworkers, estranged relatives, and all manner of folks I don't see daily. Sharing your favorite books and authors on social media will have a much wider impact than in person (though that impact won't be as powerful).
As a bonus, most authors are active on social media. Following your favorite authors will make you privy to release date, giveaways, bonus features, and all kinds of fun extras. Just this week I gave a $25 Amazon Gift Card to a reader for sharing the cover reveal for my upcoming release, The Lethal Agent. The new cover was shared nearly 1,000 times and a reader received a gift card. A win-win!
4. Recommend on Goodreads
Goodreads is one of those sites that can make or break a new author. Readers from all distribution sites gather to discuss and recommend books. I've gotten some of my favorite reads from the Goodreads community.
For books you love, consider hitting the RECOMMEND IT button in the top right corner of the book's description. You'll choose the friends you want to tell about the book. Those friends will be notified of your recommendation and be able to read the description and reviews. It's an easy way to spread the word.
5. Follow on BookBub
BookBub is one of the best (if not THE best) book promotion service. They have a large and loyal readership. Each day, they notify their following of major deals and free books. If they promote an author, you have the option to follow that author on BookBub. You'll receive special notifications on any upcoming deals for your favorite authors.
BookBub also uses those followers to determine which books to promote. For a new author, BookBub can make or break a career. Following your favorite authors contributes to their being selected for a feature in their newsletter, and potentially earning thousands of new readers.
6. Go to live events
No matter where you live (okay, for the most part...) there are local book events throughout the year. You can find author signings on Facebook or Eventbrite, or even just a Google search. You'll see which authors will be attending.
See an author you love on that list? Then go see them! We authors love when loyal readers come out to see us in person. We'll sign your books and bags and babies and anything else. You'll get to listen to us speak on panels and take pictures to show your friends.
Author signings are like the rock concerts of the book world. You don't want to miss out!
7. Ask for books at Barnes & Noble
Ebook sales are a huge portion of today's book market, but the fact is, people still like real books. Having a book on a real, wooden (er, faux wood) shelf is so much more powerful than seeing a screen on your laptop.
So the next time you're at your usual local haunt, ask the folks at the counter for books by your favorite author. If enough folks ask and the books are accessible, you can help bring indie books to major book retailers.
8. Gift a copy to a library
The same theory applies to libraries. As a kid, I lived at the local library, and I credit it with my love of all things book-related. While technically you could ask the library to order a favorite book in the same way as a book store, I much prefer to donate books. Libraries do so many good things for our communities. Sharing copies of your favorite reads puts those books into the hands of new readers.
It makes a difference!
Readers have the power to transform small self-pubbed titles into international best-sellers (just ask Andy Weir). Leaving reviews, making recommendations, and posting online has an insane an undeniable effect on the success of books. Please don't make the mistake of thinking you don't have an impact. You do! You really, really do!