So, you like to read, and maybe you like to write, too. You are a connoisseur, a patron, a Renaissance man (or woman). What can you do this holiday season to support those authors in your life? Here are ten ideas.
01. BUY THEIR WORK. I mean, I know it sounds obvious, but this is the most direct way to help out the authors you love to read. See if they have a new novel out, or a collection, or perhaps they just published in a journal or anthology (you get TWO gold stars for supporting small / indie presses here, as well). I know, it gets expensive. So, think about the voices that you really love, the people you want to succeed. Maybe you set aside a few dollars every month and then spend it at Christmas. Or perhaps you find the work on sale at Amazon, or directly from a small press. I have over 50 entries at my Amazon profile, and they range from 99 cents to 99 dollars. Something for everyone!
02. BUY SIGNED WORK DIRECT. Another possibility if you’re a collector, or really want to put extra money in the author’s pocket is buy directly from them. Most authors will get a few dollars per book when you buy at Amazon or B&N or your local bookstore. But many get extra copies from their publisher, at no cost to them. Some authors BUY extra copies of their own book (at cost, or a great discount) just to resell and help earn a bit of money. Recently I’ve bought signed copies directly from Brian Evenson, Priya Sharma, Stephen Graham Jones, Paul Tremblay, and Maria Dahvana Headley. I love to have that personally signed copy on my shelves.
03. FOLLOW THEM ON SOCIAL MEDIA. So, this doesn’t cost any money! Believe it or not some presses and agents actually LOOK at how many followers authors have, and that’s a BONUS. So, why not friend them on Facebook (or like their author page), and follow them on Twitter. Maybe Instagram, or subscribe to their blog, or their Amazon Profile. And then engage with them! You might learn something about their process, hear about an open call, or just be entertained by their witty comments, and ribald jokes.
04. REACH OUT AND SAY SOMETHING NICE. I know this can be a bit stressful, the idea of reaching out to your heroes and idols, or even just other authors and peers you know, but BELIEVE ME, a kind word about a new story or novel, or past work, can really make an author’s day. They may be struggling—to create, to believe, to push through a block. I love to hear from friends, peers, students, and strangers about my writing—it always thrills me when somebody says a story of mine scared them, or inspired them, or helped them to take chances with their own prose. Every year when I read the Best Horror of the Year, and other anthologies, when I read a story that blows me away—I reach out to that author. I connect on social media (see #3. I usually drop them a private message via Facebook, and then Tweet publicly to them on Twitter. Nothing fancy, just along the line of, “Hey Livia, I loved your story ‘Allochthon’ in Best Horror, wow, that was intense, so visceral, and unsettling. Keep up the great work.” I’ll do that for authors I’ve known for years (HI STEPHEN!) as well as voices that are new to me. ESPECIALLY if they are emerging, or new to me.
05. SPREAD THE WORD. Once you’ve followed them on social media, it’s easy to retweet, share a post, or engage. So do that. And if you go on to buy that book, or collection, talk about that too! Post pictures! Just be sincere and spread the word. Do whatever you’re comfortable with, it all helps. Support their Kickstarter, retweet about their new book, share that post about an upcoming class they are teaching, etc.
06. POST REVIEWS. If you read a novel, collection, or anthology, take a moment and post up some kind words on Amazon and/or Goodreads. Don’t worry about writing some eloquent review, just speak from the heart. Talk about what you liked, how it made you feel, what it reminded you of, how it was innovative, whatever you like. If you ARE great at writing reviews, then DO take the time to write something polished. Those deeper reviews not only sell books, but can help an author to get through a dark day as well. Whatever you can share—it all helps.
07. SEE THEM LIVE. If you get a chance to see one of your favorite authors speak, go do it! Not only is it a lot of fun, but nothing makes an author happier than reading to a packed bookstore or auditorium. To look out at a sea of happy, smiling, supportive faces? Wow, that’s a great feeling. (And while you’re there, buy a book and have them sign it.)
08. TAKE A CLASS. If you’re an author, and you have the extra money, and that author you love so much is teaching somewhere (online or in person) why not study with them? Part of what got ME writing at the age of 40 (I’m 51 now) was the chance to study with Craig Clevenger. He taught me so much, and pushed me to submit work from his class, which ended up being my first professional sale (“Stillness” in Shivers VI at Cemetery Dance, alongside Stephen King and Peter Straub). I ended up taking THREE classes with Craig. I also studied under Monica Drake, after reading her novel Clown Girl. And then Max Barry. Later, with Jack Ketchum (RIP, brother), and then Stephen Graham Jones. Those were all wonderful experiences for me. Each author taught me something different, and I’m friends with most of them in real life, as well.
09. DROP THEIR NAMES WHEN INVITED IN. Some of you may be at the point in your career where you have a little bit of influence. Kudos. Way to go. The next time you get invited into an anthology, be sure to ask if the TOC is full. If it’s not, and the editor needs names, share with them the voices that inspire you, and who knows—you may get to publish alongside a hero of yours. I not only drop names of authors I like, but I push for diversity and inclusion. I always ask about the ratio of men to women in the anthology (or just comment on it if the TOC they show me is all SWM). Nothing pushy, just, “Do you need any names? Are you short on women? Great, here are a few authors I love.” And I also look for authors of color, and suggest them as well. You may not be in this position now, and it may be awkward the first time you do it, but trust me—any editor that bristles at the idea of diversity, is probably somebody you don’t want to work with anyway.
10. INVITE THEM IN. Likewise, if you ever get to a position of power, say an editor at a magazine, or an anthology, be sure to reach out to those authors that inspired you over the years. Sure, the paycheck is great, but it’s just as important to show those authors that you value their work. Invite them in to that anthology you’re editing, reach out when you have a new issue of a magazine coming out and the theme submissions aren’t what you expected, or just make sure they know about the open call, and that you’d love to see something from them. Authors, we’re a bipolar bunch. One day we’re KING OF THE WORLD, the next an obvious hack and imposter. I can tell you that it is THRILLING to see authors I came up with, or past students that I’ve taught, evolve and grow, eventually running magazines, journals, and presses. Whenever they reach out to me and ask for work, it’s so flattering, so exciting. It means the world to me.
So, whatever you can do this holiday season (and all year long) it all matters, it all helps. Spending money on the authors you love is one way to support them, but it’s just as important to share your kind words, and help spread the word about the voices that haunt, entertain, and inspire you. Happy Holidays!