UPDATED July 10, 2015 – Since this was written back in November 2012, a few features on Amazon and Goodreads have changed or disappeared. I’ve updated the list below to be more current.
First, let’s be clear: you shouldn’t support indie authors because they’re indie. You don’t owe authors anything, whether they’re indie or traditionally published (or both!). Forgoing the traditional publishing route is a business decision for authors that is complicated for a number of reasons – royalties, marketing support, time-to-publication, local vs. international distribution, and creative control, among many other considerations. But none of that should influence whether a reader supports a particular author. The reader (you) should choose to support a particular author for one reason and one reason only: they write books the reader wants to read.
Support authors who write books you enjoy, and you can’t go wrong!
That said, if you’ve found an indie author whose books you enjoy, congratulations! In some ways it’s much easier for an individual reader to make a difference in the career of an indie author. Indie authors survive because of readers like you! If you like an author’s work, you can help them out in a number of ways.
1 – Buy their books!
Every author appreciates every book purchase. But indie authors in general receive higher royalties than traditionally published authors, so you can buy knowing that you’re directly supporting the author.
2 – Write a review
Because indie authors typically don’t have any marketing support (or if they have it, they pay for it out of pocket rather than out of royalties), they rely on reviews from readers to get publicity started. If you enjoyed a book, please write a review on Amazon (or wherever you purchased it). The most detailed reviews are the most helpful for potential buyers, so the extra effort it takes to write a more in depth review that tells what you liked and why (without spoilers!) is really appreciated. Be honest. If you didn’t like everything about the book, that’s perfectly fine. Authors are people too, so don’t be cruel, but you’re not obligated to say you loved everything if you didn’t love everything.
Authors are readers too! As a reader, a review that says “YAY!!! THIS BOOK IS TEH AWSUM!!!” is enthusiastic but doesn’t really tell me anything useful. I’m not sure whether I will like the book… all I know is that someone out there enjoyed it. Our tastes could be totally different! An honest review that says “I liked X, Y, and Z. A didn’t really work for me, but I still enjoyed the book and would recommend it because X and Y were so enjoyable” is much more useful. Readers who like that kind of book will know this is a book they might enjoy, and readers who don’t will know to steer away from it. If you try to make your review useful for other readers considering whether to purchase the book, you can’t go wrong.
3 – Tell your friends.
Not everyone will like every book. Indie authors don’t expect readers to email blast everyone they’ve ever met about how awesome their book is. But if you have a friend(s) you think would enjoy it, please let them know! Word of mouth and personal recommendations are the very best advertising. You can even recommend their book to other readers on Goodreads! Obviously don’t spam strangers… be thoughtful. A personal recommendation means a lot.
4 – Give the book as a gift.
Know someone who might enjoy the book? Give it to them as a gift! Amazon and Barnes and Noble both make giving ebooks easier than ever – all you need is the recipient’s email address.
5 – Subscribe.
Many indie authors have email newsletters and/or blogs. Subscribe to them! Generally they contain news on what the author is working on and sometimes discounts on new releases. Forward them to people who you think might enjoy the author’s books! It’s easy, it’s free, and the author will appreciate it.
6 – Social media.
7 – Add their books on Goodreads.
If you’re on Goodreads, add their books to your “Want to Read” list! If a book is added to enough lists, it will become much more visible through the magic of Goodreads algorithms.
8 – Fan Art.
Are you an artist? Do you doodle? Fan art is like a huge pat on the back and boost of confidence and excitement and wonder and squeeeee! all at once. When I saw the first fan art by one of my readers, I basically jumped up and down in excitement. Why? It means that someone else cares about my characters… the imaginary people who I brought to life mean something to a reader. This is why I write! I want to share these imaginary people and their stories, and fan art is proof that for at least someone out there, my work paid off. They got it… they got the beauty and heroism and heartbreak and joy of the story I meant to tell.
Post your fan art on social media and tell the author! You will make her day. Or his day.
9 – Tell your library or book club.
Indie authors typically aren’t carried by many libraries. But what better way to gain new fans than through a library or book club? If you enjoyed the book, mention it to your local library or your book club as a potential acquisition. Authors may be willing to give you a discounted rate for a group purchase or library purchase. If you’re interested in copies of my books for your book club or library, please let me know!
10 – Keep reading!
You are the reason indie authors write! If you love their work, please keep reading it! Let them know you look forward to their next book or story. I love to hear from readers!