6 Ways To Support Writers Without Spending A Dime

Readers and writers have a symbiotic relationship; one can't exist without the other. The absolute best way to support the writers you love is to buy their books. But that's not feasible for everyone, all of the time. There are plenty of great ways to support the writers you love without breaking the bank.

Use your library. Yes, authors benefit from libraries, too. Libraries know what titles by which authors are circulating widely, and will often buy more copies if the hold list is deep. If your local library doesn't have an author you love, ask if you can make a purchase suggestion. Most libraries are happy to make acquisitions based on patron needs, and even if they don't have funds to buy a new copy, they may be part of a consortium that will find a copy for you, and deliver it to your local branch. This helps writers by showing a demand for their books. And I imagine we're all pretty familiar with the theory of supply and demand.

Put Our Books Face Out on the Shelves. Any shelves - library or bookstore. How many times have you been browsing a shelf and your eyes have skipped right over a spine? A lot, I'm guessing. If you see a book you love, put the cover art face out so that it can shine. Think of it as a book recommendation to a stranger.

Follow Us. Love or hate social media, it can be the coin of the realm. A big following doesn't equal success, but it is a small indication to the writer that they are doing something right, and somebody cares enough about their book to see what else they have to say. Sure, it's a bit of an ego stroke, but if we're having a bad writing day and log on to Twitter to see ten new followers... no lie, it helps.

Tell Us Our Impact. I occasionally get fan email that opens something like this: "I don't know if you even read your own emails, but..." Yes, I read my own emails. I'm not nearly a big enough deal to not read my own email. I also answer them, which sometimes surprises readers. I appreciate each one of those emails. The bad writing day I mentioned before? A few of those have been assuaged by a message telling me what one of my books has meant to the reader.

Tell Someone Else About Us. Word of mouth is still the most effective marketing there is, and money can't buy it. If you love a book, tell your friends. Tell your friend's cousin. Tell anyone you know who loves to read. Those little ripples can turn into waves that sustain an author's career. It doesn't mean that we're all going to be New York Times bestsellers, but it does mean that our backlist might stay in print a little while longer because a new reader just discovered an author that flew under their radar up until now.

Write reviews. Did you love one of my books, but not the next one? (If so, you're not alone in that). Either way, I want you to write a review. Reviews - good or bad - on shopping sites like B&N or Amazon show the site that people are reading the book... which means they are buying and interacting with it and it is therefore worthy of promotion. Amazon needs to see a minimum of 50 reviews on a book before it will begin suggesting it to readers in the "Customers Also Bought..." section.

Note: There is some debate among writers as to whether or not this is true, but Amazon is notoriously tight-lipped on their alogrithms. Regardless, think of your reaction when you see a book with 13 reviews versus one with 256... you automatically know that the latter is doing better.

Feeling The Librarian Love

People always ask me how my life has changed since becoming published. And the honest answer is- not a whole lot. I still work the 40/wk, my dog still poops on the floor next to my bed occasionally, and I get flat tires just like everyone else. I've never really felt like things were different... until this past weekend.

I had the opportunity to visit Henderson Library in Jefferson, Ohio on Saturday. I've done a ton of presentations across the state, and I always enjoy meeting fellow librarians as well as talking face to face with fans. Reaching new readers is a plus too, and I'm not lying when I say I don't mind driving three hours to "go do a thing," as the boyfriend calls it.

But what happened in Jefferson this weekend was different. I told the ladies involved in planning the event that I think they put more effort into it than I did into writing the book.

For starters - they made Lynn's basement. Yes, they did. I honestly think Lynn could've walked into
that presentation room and said, "Yeah, I could live here." Why?

1) Her bed was in a strategic position so that she could see both entrances to the room.
2) There was water, canned food, and a lantern within reaching distance.
3) They said they wanted to include a rifle, but decided against it given... you know... the law.

But they didn't stop there-- Stebbs was well represented too. Just to make sure the old guy felt welcome they put red bandanas all over, and even included his ladder (in one piece) so that he could climb up or down to his secret water source whenever he needed.

Granted, Mother might have been a bit nervous when she saw that there were coyotes leaping all over the walls, but there was a border of roof tiles across the top so that she had a semblance of safety. Mother also would have found comfort in the fact that there were raindrops hanging from the ceiling (complete with book covers) and next door there was - get this - a water bar. Yep. Name your poison. Just make sure it's water.

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I was so flattered. Just walking into the room was an amazing experience, and then they knocked me flat by sharing a Mindy McGinnis Mix CD. These girls did their research (they are librarians, after all). They found my playlists for both NOT A DROP TO DRINK & IN A HANDFUL OF DUST and played the songs while the audience filtered in.

And that's when things got surreal for this farm girl. Most of the people who came to see me were already fans. I'm not stupid. I know I have fans, but when they are getting so many tickets in advance that we ended up scheduling two presentation times to accommodate them, it kind of blows my mind. And they had questions - real questions that showed they'd read my books, contemplated them, and got them.

My blog even got some love. A college student told me that one of her assignments had been to find a blog and do a paper on it. She found Writer, Writer, Pants On Fire while cruising for an appropriate subject and chose it. This really floored me. Like, Mindy Is On The Ground Now. Most of you are probably aware that blogging takes a lot of time, a lot of dedication, and is completely non-monetary. I don't make a dime off this blog, and there's been more than once that I thought maybe I should hang it up and concentrate on novels. It never fails that when this happens I get an email from an aspiring writer, telling me that they use it as a constant reference from the query trenches, or a fellow writer going through submission hell who says that the SHIT interview is what kept them sucking air while waiting for a reply.

All that being said, I'm still me. I own more Carharrts than purses, and I just spotted a little bit of breakfast on my cheek before I sat down to write this. So, has my life changed since becoming published? No, not really. But after this weekend, I think maybe me being published has affected other people's lives.

And that's way cooler.

This Is What Librarians Do

I've talked before about being a librarian, and how misunderstood the job is. No, we don't sit around and read all day. And I want to say right now that I've never shushed anyone. Being a librarian is a pretty unique job because it's like retail, stocking shelves and being a data analyst all at the same time.

Oh, and some of us are pretty muscular too, because being a librarian sometimes requires heavy lifting.

What? Yeah, it's true.

This past spring and summer I undertook one of the hardest tasks of my life - and yes, I count being published in that estimation. I reconfigured a K-4 library all by myself. It took over 200 hours, some of them unpaid. And I'm not posting about this so you'll tell me how awesome I am - I guarantee you there are many librarians that have done - and would do - exactly this many times over.

Without going into the sad, sad business of public school funding too far, I'll simply say that because of money issues our district lost the full time library position in the elementary building two years ago. The lady whose job this had formerly been was still in the library when classes were in there, but that was the only time. The solution to actually maintaining the library - shelving in particular - was to have high school students do it.

I know anyone reading this who is a librarian is probably cringing right now.

Cringe harder.

At the end of one year of having teenagers manage the shelving the elementary library looked like this.

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 I'm guessing I don't need to tell you that Dewey had pretty much gone out the window.

The district librarian and I are located in a different building, so when I went over to this library to do my end of the year report, I ended up saying some very bad words. I said them alone, because that's the proper thing to do, but I said them loudly. 

And then I proceeded to fix it.

First - discarding. This library hadn't been properly weeded in years. I ended up getting rid of about 3000 books that were beyond salvaging. Torn books, books whose spines were completely broken, and some books that were actually growing mold. Don't worry - these weren't dumpster fodder. These 3000 books went home with the children who picked them off the free book table. Even if they only had one more read left in them, they got the chance to prove it.

Second - re-cataloging. Hundreds of books were quite simply, nowhere near the places they needed to be. For example Attack of the Alien Fire Ants was in non-fiction. No idea what happened there.

Third - genre labeling. As many picture books as possible were put into categories - dinosaurs, dogs, holidays, etc - so that the little kids could actually find books that interested them, rather than rummaging through a colossal mess and hoping they hit something good in their allotted library time.

Fourth - putting all that crap back. Yep. This place was such a wreck that the best solution was to empty every single shelf and start from scratch. Obviously this was done one section at a time, but I made a HUGE mess before things got better. 

And lastly - I showed administration these pictures and explained that a library needs to be maintained, not just manned. And they listened. Even though we don't have a librarian in that building full time, we do have a staff member assigned there specifically for shelving and item maintenance, and teachers are handling the checkout process for their own classes -- which is a lot easier now that they can find books on their own. Ahem.

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A lot of people have no idea the amount of work that librarians put in on a daily basis just because we want to make sure that people (especially kids) have the books that they want in their hands when they walk out the door.

During the summer when I was working the a/c in this building was turned off. So I'd spend hours covered in sweat and filth, come home sore from moving so many pounds of books around, and still have someone say to me at a party, "Shhhh!!!" when I told them I was a librarian.

And I'm like, "You know what? I think I'm going to punch you in the face."