How to Help Debut (or, really, any) Authors

I’ve had quite a few people (well, okay, like 5) ask me the best way to support me, and so I thought I’d collate the information I’ve learned. Obviously, this isn’t a completely altruistic post (as evidenced by my clever buy links) and it’d be wonderful if you use this information to help Pantomime, but some of this was new to me, it might be for you as well, and you can use it to help all the wonderful books that need a little extra love.

Buy the book

Yes, seems obvious, but really the best way to support an author is to pay with your dollar/pound/currency of choice. Debuts especially live and die by the numbers, especially in the early months. These numbers can have a huge impact on the writer’s career, such as if further books in the series are commissioned.

If you can’t buy it: request at your local libraries! Libraries are awesome.

How to Buy the Book


The format that will probably give them the most money in their pocket is actually e-book, as there’s lower costs to the publisher (manufacturing, distribution, storage, what have you). I personally make the most money through Angry Robot’s store, where the (DRM-free!) ebook is dispensed straight through the publisher. Kindle/Nook/whatever is also beneficial to the author as usually royalties are around 25% net receipt.


However, print books are still important. Of course there are online dispensaries like Amazon, but buying from a bookstore can be very important for a debut. Bookstores buy in a certain number of books, but the important part is the sell-through—i.e. how many of those books actually come off the shelves and are taken home by a reader. If the stock starts moving quicker, then the bookstore will notice this and order in more copies at a time, maybe put it face out on the shelf or on the bargain 2 for 3 table, and all that good stuff. If the books don’t sell through, then those books are remaindered, count against an author’s advance, and basically isn’t very good. Poor little books without a home. 😦

If you go into a bookstore and don’t see the book that you want, it could be the book hasn’t been distributed to that particular store, or the copy(ies) have already sold and more haven’t come in. If you don’t see a book that you want, ask a bookseller rather than just shrugging and wandering off. As was the case just after Pantomime’s release, a few people I know went to the bookstore, didn’t see it, and it turns out it was just in the back of the shop and hadn’t been put on display yet. The bookseller gave the person who requested it a copy, and also took out a few more copies to go on the shelf.

Also, if people request a certain title often enough, then booksellers will sense there’s a demand and supply more copies. Shelving space is tight, and competition is fierce.

Spread the Word

Most debuts especially don’t have a huge marketing campaign. Debuts, as with all authors, are very reliant on word of mouth. A little baby book is thrown into the world, and it’s expected to beat the odds, sell decently, and find enough fans that might follow the author along to future books. And it’s so easy for books—really awesome books—to become lost in the noise. It makes me think of this quote: “Writing a book [of poetry] is like dropping a rose petal down the Grand Canyon and waiting for the echo” (Don Marquis).

So if you read a book and like it—spread the word! If you read a book and hate it—spread the word anyway! For a debut, there is no bad publicity (even if the bad reviews can hurt our sensitive little hearts if we stumble across it). Book-related sites like Goodreads are a great place to leave ratings/reviews, and doing little things like becoming their “fan” (yeah I really have no shame with these links, do I?) can help the publisher know that there are, indeed, fans of the work. A lot of casual readers just look at places like Amazon or Barnes and Noble, so leaving reviews there helps. Also, there are magical algorithm thingeys (technical term, I’m sure), so that the more reviews there are, then the more lists and ads and whatnot the book will appear on. All of that adds up and helps visibility.

Personally, I rely mainly on my friends to tell me what to read next, or trusted bloggers I follow. If my best friend, Erica, tells me I’d love a book, I’m pretty much guaranteed to get it because that girl knows me inside and out. If everyone tells 5 people about a book they liked, and they tell 5 people, and so on and so forth like Pay it Forward, aka a film with soulful Haley Joel Osment that makes you cry, then word about a book can spread far and wide.

Whatever happened to this kid? Didn’t he have a mugshot?

I’ve been really humbled by how nice people have been to me about my book. People I know who would never read a YA circus fantasy picked it up to support it. Someone at my work bought four copies–one as a gift, one for him, one for his wife, and his wife also bought it on Kindle. Yay Jimmy! I am happy to promote myself but a lot of the time don’t know what to do or who to contact. People have used connections to help me schedule book signings, school visits, festivals, and a radio interview (more on that in a minute), all of which helps boost my book’s signal.

Before I wrote a book, I never thought about any of this. Over the last month, I’ve understandably thought about it a lot. As a hopeful writer you think a lot about the process of getting published, but not quite as much after it happens. It’s like you’re too afraid to daydream that far ahead. So many new fears and uncertainties face you that it can be overwhelming, especially because you don’t have hard numbers at your disposal. Almost every day someone asks, “so how’s the book selling?” And I kinda go like this:

Subtext: “I don’t knooooow!”

All you have is the Amazon Central numbers if you sign up for it, which don’t count e-books or about 30% of bookstores. So all it does is crush your confidence and dreams. (Joking. Sort of.) As ever, it’s best to just ignore that stuff and get on with writing the next book, but easier said than done.

Some other posts on helping debut authors:

Paul Joseph: “How Can Readers Help Debut Authors?

Natalie Whipple: “5 Easy Things you Can Do to Support Debut Authors

Mary Robinette Kowal has a series on Debut Author Lessons, which I have found invaluable.

A lot of bloggers do a debut author challenge each year, which is wonderful.

Do you have any other tips and suggestions on how to help debut authors?


Event announcements:

I’m going to be on schmuFM’s The Literature Show Saturday, March 16. It’ll also re-air the following Monday at 1 pm and be on the website for a week. I’ll be doing a few short readings and also answering questions via the FB event page and choosing some tunes.

I’ll be doing a school event March 22 and possibly signing up in Moray, Aberdeenshire, on March 23 but details still be be confirmed.

I have a signing at Waterstones Langstane Saturday, April 13th at 1 pm. Please come, and bring lots of people so I’m not sitting awkward and alone at a table!


11 thoughts on “How to Help Debut (or, really, any) Authors

  1. Great post Laura! I found out the other day that someone I know has pre-ordered my book already and I was SO touched. To bastardize a quote from A Streetcar Named Desire: Authors really do rely on the kindness of friends AND strangers 🙂

  2. I really enjoy writing reviews of other authors on Amazon. I have posted forty so far. It is excellent writing practice because you have too say a lot in a few words. It’s a sort of win-win activity.

    1. I wrote little review of every book I read for years before I became a writer. It really helped me pinpoint what I like/didn’t like about a work, and that helped my fiction immensely!

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