Tuesday, December 11, 2007

An Author's Holiday Wish List

If you're a reader, you're probably giving more thoughts to book now that the holiday season is underway. You're thinking about books you'd like to receive as presents, books you'd like to give as gifts, books you'd like to read over the holidays and the like. If you are or have a writer in your life, you may have considered what you can treat yourself or that person to in an effort to keep the words flowing. (Friend and author Mary Castillo has some cool ideas on her blog called Mary's Favorite Things.)

During this season of generosity and giving, I'd like to humbly request that you bestow a present on your favorite author. As much as we love it, the writing life is hard. Along with the magic of being creative comes the challenge of staying in business. Publishing is an increasingly difficult industry, complicated by the mystery of how it actually does and does not work to our readers. That is, the folks who may appreciate us the most tend to know the least about what we go through to get that book into your hands. As a result, sometimes our biggest fans do things – or fail to do things – that hurt our ability to get that next book to you.

So in this season of giving, I'd like to recommend to book lovers things you can do before the end of 2007 to be sure that your favorite author can continue to serve your entertainment and/or enlightenment needs in 2008 and beyond. They cost little to no time or money, and make all the difference. Here's what's on my holiday wish list.

Buy your copy. To properly feed you favorite author, you must buy the book, LOL! Seriously, it's that simple. If you borrow if from your friend and then pass it on to your cousin, of course, we're flattered. But we're also in trouble. The biggest thing that makes the publishing house think, "This is an author we should keep publishing," is book sales. Word of mouth only helps an author if it translates into more books sold not borrowed. There's no way to track borrowed books so please, if you can afford it, buy our books rather than borrow them from someone else.
Buy the book for someone else. In general, books are fantastic gifts because there's one for every person, even the one who hates to read. Now to give back specifically to your favorite author, buy the book you love most and give it to someone else who you think will love it, too. Don't just tell him or her, "You have to read this," and hope they do. And because it bears repeating, certainly don't give that person your copy, LOL! Buy the book for them. If you can get it autographed, that's a special touch, and most authors love to oblige if you're cover the postage and give us enough time. Chances are that if you go to such a length to stand by your recommendation, the person will actually make the time to read it. There's no better way for a fan of an author to show his or her appreciation than by recruiting new readers to our work. J
Ask for it at the library. Not all people who love to read can afford to buy books, but you can still support your favorite author through your local public library. Simply ask the librarian to order copies of our books if the neighborhood branch doesn't already have them. In their diligent effort to serve you, librarians do keep track of such requests as well as monitor which books are borrowed most frequently. Get your favorite author on your librarian's radar, and you have done an incredibly helpful thing.
Write a review. We don't care if it's on Amazon, your personal blog or an email you send to some friends. If you love what we've done, put it in writing so that others can see it. Especially the people who have the capacity to keep us in business. J
Tell us if no one else. Even if you're hesitant about posting your opinion of our work on the internet, at least consider letting us know how you feel. I have a folder called Besos where I keep all my fan e-mail forever! When a reviewer chops me up, I don't get that grant I was so confident about or just am having a hard time showing up to the page, I look through that folder for inspiration and motivation. I know other authors who do the same. We may not always answer (especially if your note comes when we're under deadline), but we ALWAYS appreciate it and read it over and over again! J If you do nothing else this holiday season, write a few lines to your favorite author telling them that you enjoyed their last book and are looking forward to the next one. That's it. You don't have to prove to us that you caught every nuance or read every title. We don't care about your spelling, grammar or punctuation. We only care that you exist.

If we disappoint you, nicely pull us aside. Now I don't suggest you do this during the holiday season, but. . . There's always room to grow, and every artist needs people – especially fans who truly wish us continued success – to tell us how. If for some reason, our latest work was not up to your expectations, we don't mind if you tell us. To be in this business, we have to have thick skins. Just take care to put more emphasis on love than on tough, and we'll know that you're criticism comes from a good place and take it seriously. Don't blast us on Amazon. Tell us nicely in a private email, "This didn't work for me because. . ." Be specific and constructive. Remember that we are human beings who make mistakes, have flaws and possess feelings. We know the difference between an honest but compassionate appraisal from a supporter that should be considered and an attack from a hater with a dubious agenda that should be ignored (or sometimes even checked or maybe that's just me who does that, LOL!)
Limit the request on freebies. Many authors love to meet with their fans be it at book signings, club meetings, online chats and teleconferences. Some of us can command sizable fees to speak to a group (and we must to survive despite the pervasive myth that getting published renders an author into an overnight millionaire.) Despite the need to supplement our writing income, we will often meet with a local book club for no cost. The way we see it is that you have supported us by buying the books, and we are glad to reciprocate with a few hours of our time. We also see it as an opportunity to say thanks for the support as well as to discover what resonates (or not) with our readers. I find this especially true of young adult authors who will gladly give of their time to visit schools and centers in their community.
However, if you're going to ask a local author to donate his or her time, don't ask for free books, too. Too many times schools, centers and organizations will ask an author to come speak (sometimes even teach!) when they haven't even purchased copies of the book for the library. ??? We know that public institutions and nonprofit organizations are underbudgeted. But so is your average novelist! An author cannot live to write another day when (1) s/he is volunteering her time to meet with your group in person that could be spent working on her next project yet (2) also constantly give away books for free. The cliché that time is money and money is time is true here. Please ask for volunteer time or request books but understand why we cannot always give you both.
These small efforts are the gift that keeps on giving because they help keep us in the business of writing stories that you love to read. Promise to do one of the above for just one author this holiday season. It makes a difference not only spiritually but materially, too.

Can I get an amen from some other authors out there? Additions are welcomed, too. Just remember to keep them low on cost and time.


Writer and Artist on Board said...
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Black Artemis said...

LOL! Hey, I'm looking forward to your Chico Santana series. I've packed a box of mystery series written by African American and Latin@ authors to read on my hammock in PR. ;) I'm very heartened by the fact there are so many these days.

Writer and Artist on Board said...
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Black Artemis said...

OMG! When I went to your site, I kept telling myself, "Damn, that name sounds familiar..." But you weren't going by Roman back then so it never clicked. Wow! Now I have a some idea of what you've been up to since HS, LOL! You know Rosemary and I are still tight, and I'm still in touch with Porton. No more lip synching though. I've come to grips with my limitations.

Black Artemis said...

P.S. re: no more lip synching. Now that's a damn lie. It's worse. i actually sing karaoke now and again, but at least I know better now than to let anyone videotape it! Think Porton has footage of me mimicking Lisa Lisa and is waiting for me to hit the NY Times bestseller list to leak it to the press. It keeps me up at night.

Writer and Artist on Board said...

Rosemary! Wow. Okay. We should have a reunion. Me, you, Rosemary, Porton in the Bronx. It could be awkward. I'm posting that video of you lip synching Lisa Lisa tomorrow.