Have you ever been in the drive-thru for Starbucks, pulled up and had the barista say, “The car in front of you paid for your coffee. Have a nice day!”
Okay, neither have I. I haven’t won the lottery yet, either.
Regardless, I know people who have had this happen, and I’ve made it happen for my fair share. It’s the “pay it forward” movement, and I think it’s pretty awesome.
One of my favorite things about being an author is the lack of competition I feel when I talk to other authors. It’s true in most professional arenas that shared success is greater than individual success. However, as authors, we tend to wear this ideal like a badge.
That said, the publishing market is a business driven by numbers. Sales, ratings and page views all apply in terms of success. The market is swamped, and with the advent of streamlined indie publishing (and the fact that new authors are pretty much expected to go that route now, even when agented), getting the word out about our publications gets more and more difficult with every title released.
This is why I think authors, the great group of compadres that we are, need to band together in an Author-Pay-It-Forward movement. I’ve been thinking about ways to boost sales for my fellow authors. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far.
1. Reach out to your in-genre authors and offer them some free publicity
I recently reached out to a fellow Urban Fantasy author and offered to take a stack of his bookmarks to my upcoming signing. I plan on making this offer to a few others as well. All they have to do is send me their promo items and I’ll tuck them into my little goody bags that I’m planning on handing out at the Phoenix Festival of the Arts during my book launch.
How this action pays it forward: There isn’t a single reader out there who only reads one author. There isn’t an author alive who can keep up with his readers. A book takes months to produce and days to read. While my readers are waiting for the sequel to my book, they’re going to want something else to fill the gap. I’d love to point them toward other, in-genre authors who, like myself, are in the trenches, trying to get their books known.
2. Buy an extra copy of their print-edition book and donate it to the library
I wish I could take credit for this idea, but that just wouldn’t be right. It came from a promise made to a friend-of-a-friend on a Facebook thread. She promised to buy a copy of our mutual friend’s book to donate. Honestly, it was her comment that was the inspiration for this post. What a kick-ass awesome idea! I will be doing this!
How this action pays it forward: Libraries love to get free books. Sometimes they hit the library shelves. Sometimes they end up in fundraising sales. Either way, the library benefits monetarily, and that author’s book makes it into the hands of a reader that might not have otherwise known about it. Having another copy in circulation raises awareness, and that readership increases sales long-term.
3. Write honest reviews
If you love a book, leave a review. If you hated a book, leave a review! Be specific. Give it an honest star rating and at least a few sentences describing why you rated it the way you did! One of the beautiful things about indie publishing is that we, the authors, can admit to our mistakes and release revised editions. This obviously isn’t the goal, and we should strive to produce the best, most polished work possible. (Hire an editor. *ahem*) If you notice problems with an edition of a book, don’t just give it 2 stars and walk away. Tell the author why.
How this action pays it forward: Remember I said that publishing is a numbers game? Ever look at Amazon and notice the “Author Rank” and “Book Rank”? The more an author sells, the higher that number climbs. The higher that number grows, the more likely their book will turn up in the “recommended for you” page section for random readers. And reviews add even more to your ranking than sales. Also, reviews drive purchases. A book that has 100+ reviews is more likely to be picked up than one with none. By leaving a review, you help the author learn his or her strong and weak points, and you help drive his or her sales. It’s win/win!
4. Blog about your fellow authors, or allow them the chance to guest-blog
People read blogs. I have several hundred followers here. Other bloggers have thousands of followers. If you read a book, and you like the book, blog about it! Post a link to the author’s sales page. If they have a personal sales page on their own website, link that before going straight to Amazon’s link. Get the author as much direct exposure to your own reader base as possible.
How this action pays it forward: The web is enormous. Pages get swallowed in the dark. Authors tend to make announcements on their personal sites, or provide newsletter signups for devoted fans. Driving traffic to their site by blogging and linking them directly creates a web of contacts and builds a shared community of readers. Alternately, allowing the author themselves to guest blog on your site provides an avenue for the author to express his own, unique voice to a new, fresh set of readers outside his normal circle of influence.
5. Talk them up!
Whether on social media, standing in line at the store, or at a family gathering, if you read a book that you liked, tell people! Share that link. Spread the author’s name. Build up her readership as if it were your own. Never be afraid to gush about another author’s work.
How this action pays it forward: Besides generating sales, you are also broadening your fellow author’s reader base. It’s very easy for an author to promote herself inside her own sphere of influence. Finding footholds outside of her friends, family and collection of initial fans can be difficult. The more we spread the word about each other, the wider our influence grows.
The moral of the story is, we are all in this together. The more we talk about each other, the more community we build, and the wider we spread. We each have a web of influence with ourselves at the center. By throwing lines across to one another, we link our webs together, creating a chain of shared readership. The more we build each other up, the more successful we’ll all become in the long run.
My fellow authors, this is your call to action. Get out there, and promote not just yourself, but the other authors around you as well.