I adore books. I especially like free books, as proven by yesterday’s freebie blast. They’re a fabulous way to discover new authors and genres. But it makes me wonder … if we get all these books for free, how do those authors get paid?
“A barista spends 3 minutes making you a $6 latte; you tip her. A writer spends a year writing a book, and you complain that $4.99 is too high.”
— Robert Swartwood
Authors typically receive 8-10% of a book’s cover price. The same is true for ebooks. So if you pay $9.99 for a book, the author may get a dollar. That’s one dollar for every person who purchases the story they spent months, often years, crafting. They get a little more if the title sells 5000 copies. Then their profits jump to 12 or sometimes 18%, but only if it’s a hardback. Regardless, 97% of books published never sell 5000 copies.
That means that 97% of authors most likely never make even $5000 on any one of their books. How’s that for an annual wage?
Now, I am not suggesting that we all make anonymous donations to our favorite authors (though I’m sure they’d appreciate that) or that we nobly insist on paying for books when they’re free. Neither am I saying that writers are victims. Most would continue writing even if never paid! But if we like what they write and we want to read more, we need to support them. But how? I have some suggestions.
- Send them a note. Okay, so this isn’t going to get any money into their pockets, but it will give them some much needed encouragement. Writing is an isolating job and writers typically need lots of reinforcement. A little note of gratitude can go a long way. Just say “Thanks!” or “I loved what you wrote here … this impacted me in this way …” Even something simple like “I’m praying for you.”
- Pray for them. We don’t often think to pray for strangers, but God’s arms are never to short to reach those we can’t. We never know what that person, the one whose story made an impression on us, is facing today. But God does and He can use those simple, anonymous prayers to great effect.
- Talk about your favorite books and authors. Word of mouth is a powerful force. Friends tend to invest in what their friends think is cool. If you like reading and share it with your friends, eventually that investment will flow back to the author which will translate into more delicious books for you to devour.
- Post positive reviews. You can do this on just about any site that sells books — Amazon.com, Christianbook.com, BN.com — or on sites like Shelfari and GoodReads. You could post recommendations on twitter or facebook. Honestly, this only takes a few minutes and it’s tremendously helpful for the authors.
- Suggest the author and his or her books to your library. This takes about 30 seconds and, more often than not, results in a sale for your author.
- Host a book club. Members typically buy the selected titles, which helps the author, and this introduces readers to the author which could trickle into more books bought and read. You could even invite the author to attend either in person (if local) or via skype. You might be surprised at the response!
- Blog about books. You don’t have to have a strict book blog. You could simply post once in a while when a title impacts you. You could even participate in book blog tours. By doing that, you’ll get a free review copy of the book, have access to author interviews and even giveaways! These are typically hosted by the author or publisher, but I work with a few publicists, like LitFuse. Check out their site to see how you can get involved.
- Get on publishers’ mailing lists. This is another way to get free books. They want to get the word out and you can be the conduit for that. In return, they give you cutting edge updates and advance copies of new releases.
- Follow your favorite authors through social media. Not only will this boost their fan base numbers, but it will keep you updates on new projects, book releases, events, sales and freebies.
- Buy sequels. Most free ebooks are the first in a series. If you loved the book, buy the next one! In essence, you’re getting two books for the price of one. It’s still a stellar deal.
- Think before you complain about the prices of books. Would you be willing to work for so little?
This all may sound like a lot of work. It’s really not. I admit I often neglect these simple helps, but I love stories! And I want to support those who write them.
It typically takes me two days to read a well-written novel. How much is a weekend of entertainment worth?
“Those who work deserve their pay.” — 1 Timothy 5:18 (NLT)
For more ideas, check out this great article: How to Support an Author.
Your Turn: Who are the authors you absolutely love? What do you do to show your support?