How to support an indie or small press author

I’ve been very blessed by those who support my writing these last couple of years. I’m often asked “What’s the best way to buy one of your books?”

Since you asked, here’s the answer. There are two things you can do to support my writing, or the writing of any indie or small press author.

1. If possible, order my books through your local, independent bookstore.

You might have heard buying books directly from the author puts more money in their pocket. This is true, if you’re talking about the individual sale. However, even with direct sales, I don’t make much for one book.

If you want to help me sell lots of books, it’s way better to ask your local bookstore to order it for you. Or if you don’t have a local bookstore, to buy it from Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

Here’s a little secret: Books I get at author cost and sell at events don’t count towards my “official sales.” At least in the eyes of Amazon, USA Today, The New York Times or anybody who puts out a “bestseller list.” So even though I’ve sold lots of books over the past year (more than some “bestselling” authors), and even though my royalties have been pretty healthy for a small press author, almost none of those sales count.

Why that matters: Amazon tends to “back a winning horse.” That means books which are already selling well get a marketing boost, showing up more often in their recommendations. For all Amazon knows, those direct sales are all sitting in my garage collecting dust, not in the hands of real readers.

However, if you buy my books from Amazon.com, they know a real reader bought it, and those sales bump me up in their algorithm for which books deserve attention, and which books don’t.

I know what you’re thinking. “Then why did you tell me to buy it through a local bookstore, Kat?”

Because of a little thing called Bookscan. Think of it like the Nielson ratings for books. Mainly because that’s exactly what it is.

If you buy my book from Amazon, they’ll bump me up in their algorithm. But they keep that information mostly to themselves. However, if you ask your local bookstore to order a copy, it gets run through Bookscan. They’ll probably still order it from Amazon, but now that sale is a little more public. It counts as a “real sale” on the bestseller lists.

It also gets a little more weight. You see, Amazon doesn’t know your local bookstore already has a buyer. Which makes my book look even better to their algorithm. Sales to bookstore buyers are like “bonus point sales.”

And also, aside from my purely self-motivated reasons, I think it’s important to support locally owned businesses, especially bookstores. There’s a ton of reasons why buying local is good for your local community.

Okay, I told you there was a second thing you could do to help me out. Here’s the other thing.

2. Post an honest review of my books on Amazon (and Goodreads, if you’re feeling generous). 

Buying my books through bookstores or Amazon will help readers find my books. Writing an honest, heartfelt review will convince readers to buy my books.

Seriously, if you’d tell a friend in person “Hey, I wasn’t so sure about this whole steampunk thing, but I read this really fun book and totally enjoyed it” then just take the time to type that out in a review. Even a dozen positive, honest reviews makes a HUGE difference. It gets the ball rolling.

Another secret: There are big email lists which can get books in front of thousands of interested readers. But almost all of them require your book to have at least some reviews, or for your average rating to be “above average” (3.5 to 4 stars). If an author doesn’t have at least a few good reviews, they can’t even pay to advertise their book to readers.

Most book bloggers also have requirements before they’ll even agree to read a free copy of your book and review it.

It’s like when you were starting out in life and couldn’t get a job because you had no experience, but the only way to get experience was to have a job. It’s a Catch-22.

So, if you really want to help me in my writing, do just those two things. Spend a little money with a local business in your community, and take a few minutes to write down what you liked about my books.

 

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