Raccoons, by Michaela Roessner

How to Support
Your Favorite Authors
for Free

The $0, 50 cents,
$5 - $7,
Approximately $10-$17,
and $20 and Above Options

Years ago, before I started writing, a friend of mine had an old high school buddy who'd succeeded in becoming a well-published novelist. Every time a new book of his was about to come out, he sent a note to all his acquaintances and relatives, asking that they at least request his new book at their local bookstore. That way he figured he'd build anticipation for his latest work before it hit the market, whether the folks on his mailing list actually came through and bought his books or not. This was his notion of a way people he knew could help support him without necessarily putting any money on the line.

I don't know if his gambit worked, in that day and age, but I do know that nowadays it would likely backfire. Today if bookstores order a quantity of a certain book in hardcover, and it doesn't sell through, they just ship the books back to the publisher. If they do the same for a paperback and it doesn't sell, they strip the covers off the book (gasp!), and send those back to the publisher to prove the book didn't sell (because it isn't worth it to the publisher to pay to have the paperbacks shipped back to them) — all to the detriment of the author.

When folks walk into a bookstore requesting copies of a book they then don't buy, on the face of it the bookstore won't be out any money. But that bookstore has still paid employees to process those nonexistent requests, pack and mail back the unbought hardcovers, and they've had a lot of sales they may have been counting on fall through. If they do, indeed, remember the author's name, it won't be with any fondness or inclination to hand sell that author's books.

So what's the modern alternative to help keep your favorite authors' books in print, for cheap? I'm so glad you asked, because I have the answers.

The $0 dollar option, where you really spend no money whatsoever, is that whenever a relative or good friend asks what you'd like for your birthday, or Hanukkah, or Christmas, or your anniversary, or any other gift-giving occasion, tell them the name of your favorite author's current book. If that book is out in hardcover, you've just saved 20+ bucks that you might have been tempted to spend on yourself. If it's out in paperback or trade paperback, you've saved yourself whatever that amount is. You've spent absolutely no money whatsoever, helped to support a writer, and you even get bonus points because you've been a decent human being and not put your friend or relative in the position of having to rack their brains and run all over town looking for some gift for you that you probably wouldn't have liked anyway.

The $5.00 - $7.00, approximately $10 - $17, and $20 and above options are simply the same situation as above, but in reverse. Now you're the friend or relative running around town looking for a terrific gift for them. Depending on the closeness of your relationship and the current size of your wallet, you're going to have to spend that $5.00 - $7.00, $10 - $17, or $20 and above on them anyway.

If they have a favorite author, make them happy and buy them that author's current opus. If they don't have a favorite author, buy them a book by one of the writers that you like. Put some integrity and extra effort into the exercise: do the best you can to match them to an author and work that you think they'll actually enjoy. If you succeed, you've just done one of your favorite authors a really big favor, above and beyond buying one of their books: you've introduced their writing to a new fan, who, it is hoped, will go on to buy that author's books for their friends and relatives.

The 50 cent option may be another $0 dollar option. It depends on how your local library system works. Go to your library and ask for books by your favorite authors. If they aren't available, request them. Demand for books leads library systems to buy those books. If they are in the system, but not currently available, ordering them through the library's computer system may run you approximately 50 cents. Is that so much to spend to help make sure your favorite authors get published enough to keep writing? And you only had to spend 50 cents to enjoy their writing, spend a little time in their world. It's a win-win situation.

Text & Photos Copyright © 1999 by Michaela Roessner

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