(Updated) Want to support an author’s or illustrator’s new book but can’t afford to buy it? Here’s what you can do.
(Updated October 6, 2020 – also see reader comments in reply to the original post)
The quandary: You want to support someone’s new book and as much as you’d like to buy it, you can’t. Perhaps you can’t justify the cost of the new book right now. Perhaps your author friend is prolific and has multiple books coming out, and you can’t afford to get them all. Perhaps you have so many author and illustrator friends that if you tried to buy all their books, you’d need to sell your car first. Or your house.
It’s a challenging time for authors and illustrators who have books launching these days, especially those who are debuts (their FIRST book). In-person launches are not possible these days, nor are in-person school visits.
If you CAN afford to buy a book, I encourage you to purchase it from an independent bookstore if at all possible. Research online to see if your local indie bookstore is open, provides curbside pickup or delivers. In the U.S., you can shop from Bookshop.org, which is an online bookstore with a mission to financially support local, indie bookstores. I haven’t been able to find an equivalent online bookstore in Canada, though you can check out Don Gorman/RMBooks’s map of Canadian indie booksellers who deliver new books.
Here are some other ways you can show support for an author’s or illustrator’s new book (feel free to suggest other ways in the comments!):
First, read the book. How do you read it without buying it? Borrow it from the library. For picture books, you could even read the book AT the bookstore – do be careful when handling the book, and make a note to support that bookstore in the future. Indie bookstores are facing an especially challenging time during the pandemic.
Help spread the word about launch events! It is a challenging time to be launch a book, especially for debut authors and/or illustrators. Online launch events can also be a chance for you to hear the book creator read part or (in the case of picture books) all of the book. Even if you can’t attend live, many launch events are archived online. Here is a link to the archived Gurple and Preen Story Time launch event at Blue Willow Books, for example. Please do buy the book from the hosting indie bookstore if you can, or make a note to find other ways to support them in the future.
Reserve a copy at the library. At least at some libraries, this helps show the library that at least one person is interested in that book. If popular enough, the library may order more copies.
Review/rate the book. Post a rating and/or review in sites like Goodreads, LibraryThing, Amazon, BN.com or your own blog. If you didn’t like the book, don’t lie. Nilofer Merchant suggests using a phrase like “this book is not for you if you are xxx” because even this kind of negative review may help others know the book IS for them. Take a few extra minutes to browse the other reviews of the book and then (if the feature’s available) Like the reviews that you did like or found helpful.
When you read the book, read it where people can see it. Not sure about the rest of you, but I’m always surreptitiously checking out the covers of books that people read in public. This is where print books have the advantage of digital. Read the book on public transit, in the park, on the beach, at the airport, while waiting in line. You never know when people will decide to check out the book just because they saw you enjoying it.
Recommend the book to others through social media. Including the book cover (either scoop the cover image from the publisher/author/illustrator website or photograph the book cover in the library or bookstore) especially helps. Even just a short “Loved this book!” along with the cover will be appreciated. You can make it even more personal by adding a reason why you loved it. Take the time to tag the author or illustrator; tagging not only alerts the author/illustrator to the post but it also encourages people to click your tag link to find out more about the person.
Share and retweet the author’s or illustrator’s posts. Be judicious — don’t share/retweet everything, especially if you tend to share/retweet a lot on your feed. To authors and illustrators: make sure your post is PUBLIC if you want it shared. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve started to share someone’s FB post but then discovered that it’s a Friends-Only post; even if I shared it, the only people who see it would be our shared friends who already have it in their feed. If you’re confused, read this FB support page about how to control who sees your posts.
Post a photo of the book in the wild. Especially around launch time, I find that social media sometimes gets inundated with images of just the book cover. Make your post more personal by taking a selfie of you holding the author’s book, or another reader with the book — photos with people in them always get more Like-love. Or take a photo in a fun setting, like adding a cup of tea beside a picture book about a tea party, for example. Or if you see the book in your local bookstore or library, take a photo and tag the author or illustrator. I can’t speak for other author/illustrators, of course, but I always appreciate when someone does this.
If the author or illustrator is on YouTube, subscribe to their channel so you can more easily find out when they upload new trailers or videos.
Become a fan of the author’s on Goodreads. Add upcoming releases to your Goodreads “To Read” list.
Follow authors you like on Amazon. Check Amazon to see if your favorite authors have an author page (most do).
Talk about the book. Don’t underestimate the power of word-of-mouth. Recommend the book to friends, work colleagues, your local bookseller and librarian. When a friend of mine recommends a book they personally like and think I’d like, too, I pay MUCH more attention than when I see a generic “this new book just came out, you should get it!” post on social media.
“Like” the author’s page or the book’s page on Facebook. If you think any of your friends might like the author’s work, invite those Facebook friends to do the same.
Additional suggestions from reader comments:
Consider buying the ebook version if you can’t afford a hardcopy. “I am a diehard want-to-hold-it physical-copy reader but also know that digital versions produce some royalties to the creators, and often are less expensive so may fit in a book budget better.” – vcoulman
If you have a blog, post about your favorite books, or “feature books and their authors/illustrators. If you have a website, use it at least in part to focus on stories and the artists who create them.” – Library_Sheri
“Pin it. If you have a Pinterest account, pin the book to one of your boards.”
“Suggest it for your book club. When it’s your turn to toss in a suggestion for future reading, you know what to do. Don’t be squeamish if you want to share a picture book. That would a refreshing change for any book club.” – Library_Sheri
“Ask your public and school libraries to help. Librarians love books and appreciate their authors and illustrators. Ask one to display certain books and explain why.” – Library_Sheri
Tell the author. “We understand being poor and we love personally feedback. Heck, I’m always glad to give free review copies. Fans are more important than money to me.” – Rachel Eliason
“Go to their events (book signings, talks, etc.) even if you don’t plan to buy their book. I remember one of my early book signings in downtown Honolulu. Sue Cowing showed up with a lei for me! That was years ago, but I still remember how thrilled I was. She took a seat beside me and stayed awhile to chat. Sometimes we get a book signing and the only ones who talk to us are the ones asking where is the bathroom!” – Elaine Olelo Masters
If you see a nasty, negative review do not, I repeat DO NOT reply in kind. I have seen many flamewars that started this way, and it often ends up hurting the author rather than helping.
Whether or not you can afford to buy my book(s), THANK YOU SO MUCH to everyone who has supported me and my work! I really appreciate it.
Do you have other suggestions about how to support book authors and illustrators? Please post below.
How To Buy A Picture Book (without Buying A Picture Book) by Josh Funk
How To Support An Author Beyond Buying Their Book by Erin in Pub Crawl
How To Help An Author (Beyond Buying The Book) Part 1 – Part 2 – Part 3 by Jen Malone on Writers’ Rumpus
Five Ways To Help Your Favorite Authors – by Becca Puglish on Writers Helping Writers
10 Simple Ways To Support Authors You Love – by Jody Hedlund
22 Ways To Support Your Favorite Authors – by Janette Foreman on Fiction411
What’s The Best Way To Support Your Favorite Authors? on The Wayfinder
How To Support An Author’s New Book: 11 Ideas For You – by Chuck Sambuchino on Writer Unboxed
How To Support An Author – by Nilofer Merchant
5 Quick Ways To Support Your Favorite Author – by Dorothy Wiley
How To Support An Author Beyond Buying Their Book – by Erin in Pub Crawl