How to support your favourite authors without breaking the bank

In case you somehow missed it, comic/book Twitter was ablaze on Friday with the news that Marvel fired Chuck Wendig in a rather unceremonious and contentious fashion. (Wendig recaps the news here.) A lot of readers were justifiably upset and angry. Myself among them.

As a result, I ended up buying Wendig’s book on writing, Damn Fine Story: Mastering the Tools of a Powerful Narrative. I’ve been meaning to read it for a while—especially with a major fiction project coming up as I wrap up “The Rose and Honey Soul” and I move on to devoting writing time fully to The Thousand Shattered Gods—and it seemed as good a time as ever to finally follow through. No surprise, Damn Fine Story is… damn fine. Anyone who reads Wendig’s blog, Terrible Minds, knows his sublime ability to to provide writing advice with a narrative voice that’s at once funny, cutting, and insightful. He’s got the uncanny ability to turn writing advice into page-turning material. (More on that later, when I post my full impressions of the book.)

Wanting to go further, I took to Twitter and crowed about Damn Fine Story, imploring others to go out and buy it (or one of his other books) in a show of support. But this raised a point: the cheapest version of the book (Kindle/Nook) is $10. That’s not a nominal amount, especially for readers on a budget. Buying books is expensive—going out of your way to buy books as a show of support for an author even more-so, and not everyone can shell out cash on a whim to support an author. Luckily, it’s 2018 and (despite the year’s… other issues) there are a lot of ways to support the things we love without spending a dime.

So, I wanted to use this place to discuss all the various ways readers can support their favourite authors while reading on a budget. Let’s explore.

Totally Free

These methods’ll cost you zilch. Not even the lint in your pocket, or the moths that flutter out of your wallet.

Review their books online

Online reviews are huge for authors. They sell books. They help convince publishers to pick up their next book. They help authors appear more prominently on book selling sites. Etc. You’ve read it, you’ve loved it, and now you’re totally free to encourage other readers on Barnes & Noble, Goodreads, Kobo, and Indigo to read it, too. It doesn’t have to be a long, expansive review. Something short, concise, and positive is all you need.

Use your local library

Get a load of this—did you know there are places you can go and read books for… free? Like, totally free. Some of them are big buildings with a ton of books. Some of them live on the street corners in residential neighbourhoods behind glass-paned doors, accompanied by a sign with a little ditty encouraging you to “Take a book, leave a book.”

They’re called libraries, and they’re AMAZING.

Borrowing books is awesome, but don’t forget that you can also request your library bring in books they don’t have. This’ll net the author a sale, while also allowing you (and future savvy readers) a chance to read it without breaking the bank.

Also, did you know you can get eBooks and Audiobooks from the library? ‘Cause I didn’t until recently, and, holy shit, that’s great. No more stinky, falling apart paperbacks.

Spread the word

Word of mouth is still the best form of marketing for an author, and with the Internet, it’s never been easier to turn readers onto your favourite works. Get on social media and post about the book. But, don’t just paste a link and call it a day—tell people why you loved the book, convince them that they need it in their life. (Without being obnoxious, though.) Or, do it the old fashioned way: pass a copy off to a friend, co-worker, or family member. Convince your book club to read it next. Hell, convince your husband’s book club to read it next. Your mom’s. Grandpa’s.

Point is, if you convince other people to give your favourite author a look, they might pick up another fan who’ll buy their books. It’s the most tried-and-true method for growing an audience.

Give ’em a shout

Seriously. Authors love to hear from readers who have enjoyed their books. No matter how big and successful they are, it never gets old to hear how you’ve positively affected somebody. Check out their website for contact info. (Just, be polite, mm’kay?)

Start a blog!

Seriously. I know it seems self-aggrandizing, since you’re reading this on my blog, but I’ve been doing this for over a decade now, and it’s never stopped being an absolute delight to write about the books I love and expose other readers to new authors. No matter what a two-bit publishing house might think (it’s safe to read the comments/replies to this one!), book bloggers are a huge, integral part of the industry, and drive forward a lot of book sales each year.

I suggest using WordPress.com.

Cheaper than a cup o’ coffee

If you’ve got a bit left over in your budget, there are also a few ways to make a buck go a long way.

Seek out their cheaper work

Many authors, especially in the science fiction and fantasy world, have cheaper works available. These might be free short stories, $3 novellas, or whole self-published novels that can be had for less than the price of a coffee.

Support used bookstores

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve first discovered an author thanks to a cheap used book, and then gone on to devour their back catalog. Even though the author doesn’t earn anything off these sales, it still allows you to enjoy their work, and practice many of the above steps. Plus, by donating old books that you’re never going to reread, you’ll be giving another reader—maybe someone young, maybe someone who doesn’t have the option to buy new, full-priced books—to discover something that you love at a fraction of the cost of a new book.

Kick ’em some cash

Lots of authors maintain Patreon and Ko-fi accounts that allow fans to monetarily support them in whatever way fits their budget. Oftentimes, doing so also gets you access to exclusive/early material. Some accounts to check out: N.K. Jemisin, Kameron HurleyBogi Takács, Jason Sanford, Amal El-Mohtar, and Catherynne M. Valente. Oh, and me. Check out my Twitter thread for a whole slew of other great creators.

Go, go, go!

As you can see, there are a lot of ways to support authors that don’t require you to break the bank. So, get out there and show your favourite authors the love. They’ll appreciate it.