How do you support authors? Any way you want that values their work. That’s it. It’s that simple. You can buy their hardback for $18.99 or you can buy their ebook when it’s on sale for 99 cents. You can join their mailing list via InstaFreebie and read their book for free, leaving a positive review if you liked it. If possible, you can download it free from a retail site*** (like Amazon or Barnes & Noble) and leave a review. You can tell your friends about it and suggest they read it. You can do any of those things and you will have supported that author.
I say this because a Facebook thread I was on suddenly took a turn that I didn’t like. And it all hinged on people’s notion of how one supports an author. A friend posted a link about the movie Hidden Figures beating Rogue One for top spot at the box office. A person commented that people should support the author of the book the film was based on. So far, so good. No problems yet. The person who suggested buying the book added, “It’s on sale at Amazon for $1.99 right now.” I’d seen the movie, was interested in reading the book and was like, “Booyah! I’m going to get that book.” I clicked the link, and the ebook was $10.99. Umm. That’s a far cry from $1.99. More than five times the price, in fact. I’m not saying the book isn’t worth that price. It’s just not what I was expecting. So, at that point, I chimed back in and said, “Hey, the price went up.” Apparently, I missed this price by 20 minutes, as it had been $1.99 at the time the person posted. No harm, no foul. I said since it was going to be around $10 regardless, I would probably get the paperback instead, which was $9.59. That way, I could pass it on to others in my family to read ( Yes, I know you can lend Kindle books, but I’ve never figured out how to work it and not all family members have kindles). It is at this point that I became irritated. I was told that rather than buy the cheaper version, I should just pony up more money and buy the hardback version of the book in order to “support the author.”
Ahem. No. First off, in this specific instance, that was absolute nonsense, because the person who posted the link would have been happy to see me pay $1.99 for the book. If I had bought it at that price and chimed back in, I’m pretty sure everyone would have said “Great.” Had I purchased the book at $1.99, the author would have earned only a few pennies on the sale, and my support would have been significantly less than what the author ended up earning based on my purchase of the paperback.
However, because I chimed in that I was concerned about price, my act of support suddenly became one of not enough support (even though it was technically more support than the author would have gotten if I’d clicked that link within a few seconds of the person posting it). No, just no. Here’s the deal. I’m an author, but I’m also a reader, so I support a lot of different authors. If I pay the highest price available for every book I read, then I read a lot fewer books and support a lot fewer authors. That’s not where I want to be. I want to support many authors, and that means being price conscious at times.
Second, as a consumer, why would I ever want to pay a higher price for the same product if there were no costs associated with getting a cheaper product? If the paperback was going to cost me more (shipping), then maybe it’s not equivalent. But I’ve already paid for my Prime membership, so there is no shipping cost. So why would I suddenly pay more for the ebook, when I actually have more utility with the paperback, because I can let my children or husband read it? I just can’t imagine a scenario where I say, format A costs X, format B costs X+5, I’d be happy with either format, so let me grab format B.
Third, regardless of the price I pay (so long as it’s a sale of .99 or more), the author does get a benefit when a book is purchased. They benefit with a higher sales ranking, moving them up the charts, so they can appear in the list of top-selling books (if they get enough sales). If you’re on that first page of trending books, you get tons of sales from people who happen on the book because they’re browsing the best-seller list. Another benefit is reviews. And on Amazon, verified purchase reviews in particular, help authors. They provide social proof that a book is good and may tip the scales in favor of another fan buying.
While I’m perfectly happy to support authors, I am not perfectly happy when others suggest that the way in which I am supporting an author is not enough. In this specific instance, the book is one that embodies diversity and the people who were posting on Facebook knew very well that diverse books need all the support they can get. Their over zealousness may have come from that good place of wanting to see this book do well. However, I would suggest that when someone is supporting an author, just say thanks. Don’t tell them how they can spend more of their money to do it in a way you’d prefer.
And don’t ever let anyone tell you that you need to support an author in some specific way for it to be good support. So long as you are valuing the author’s work (as in not pirating/stealing it), it’s good support. How do you value their work? You read it, and you leave a review for it if you enjoyed it. You tell others about it, so they might consider purchasing it. If you’re able to, you purchase their work. But all authors understand that people don’t buy every book they read. They have libraries, gifts, loans from friends. That’s fine. And that’s support. Good support. Never feel like you have to pay the most expensive price for a book for it to be support. If you’d be happy with a $2.99 ebook, you don’t need to buy an $11.99 paperback instead to “support the author.” Get the format you enjoy.
Anyway, rant over. Have a great day, and if you haven’t seen Hidden Figures, try to check it out before it leaves the theaters (and guess what? I don’t care if you see the discount matinée, the regular matinée, the full price evening show or wait around until it hits the second-tier discount theaters. Just try to see it soon. You can even wait for the DVD at your library, if you need to. It’s a worthwhile story that should be viewed). And read the book, too, if you can. It’s a great story, regardless of format (though the book is obviously a richer, more accurate account than the film).
***Stealing (this includes reading pirated copies of a book) does not support an author. If an author chooses to make their book or sample available for free and you take advantage of that, that’s great. I you come by a book free legally (borrowing it from a friend or library), that’s great. Stealing–in person or online–is not cool.