by Linda Rodriguez
Some of the things I’ve learned as a published novelist have turned me into a better fan of my own favorite authors. I’ve written on this blog before about pre-ordering and how I learned of its importance to writers. Instead of waiting for the books of my favorite author to be published, I pre-order now, knowing I’m contributing to their success as well as assuring I’ll have their book as soon as it’s available.
I thought I was already helping with reviews. On my blog, www.LindaRodriguezWrites.blogspot.com, I try to spotlight books by literary writers of color who might be hard for the average reader to find, as well as mystery novelists who are writing high-quality fiction. I do this with profiles, interviews, and sometimes reviews of individual books. However, I’ve learned that reviews on Amazon and Goodreads count more toward sales than those longer ones on my blog or elsewhere.
I’ve always just given stars to books on Goodreads. I’ve read so many books that I didn’t think I had time for more than that. I was wrong. Those stars don’t do much good. It’s the reviews that make others decide to pick up the book to read. It’s the same with Amazon—reviews lead to sales. Even for authors who seem to have it made! Often even famous writers are just a breath or two away from tumbling down the slopes in the fickle game of publishing (as we saw recently when the major publishers all suddenly threw off multiple mystery writers, leaving many scrambling for new publishers or trying to reinvent themselves), and success is even more volatile for midlist authors.
I learned about how important these reviews can be to authors, and I’d set myself a goal to post a daily review of a novelist whose work I enjoyed on either Amazon or Goodreads. Unfortunately, Amazon now won't allow me to review many of the books I'd like to, because they assume I'm friends with the author. In some cases, I barely know the author, and in others, I don't know them, at all, but Amazon has decided that, since I'm an author myself, I must necessarily know all other authors, apparently. So this is one way that I can't contribute to keeping my favorite authors publishing, but if you can, those reviews matter more than almost any others. I have learned how to link my blog, so a review on my blog posts to my author page on Amazon or Goodreads, however. This is one thing I can do to make sure the writers I love don’t disappear on me.
I’ve always been a person others ask for book recommendations, primarily because I read so much in so many areas. Now that I’ve learned how important that word-of-mouth advice on books can be, I’ll be doing a lot more book recommendations and not just waiting for folks to ask me. I have occasionally requested my library system buy a book I want that they don’t have. Now, as soon as I know a book is coming out by one of my favorite writers, I will request my library system order that book—and my own pre-orders for those books will be through local bookstores because that helps them decide whether or not to order in that book to have on the shelves.
The publishing business is in deep flux right now, and authors are being required to do more than ever to promote their books. Every novelist I know, famous or unknown, is buried in a mountain of promotion efforts while still trying to write the books we fans love and wait for breathlessly. The sheer numbers, literally millions, of books flooding the market now, some by authors who haven't bothered to learn to be good writers or good editors, makes it hard for the potential buyer to find the writers who have worked for many years to hone their craft. Everything we, as fans of good writing in whatever genre, can do to make our favorite authors successful ensures that in the volatile atmosphere of publishing today these favorite novelists will survive and thrive—and continue providing us with our favorite addiction, their good books.
Do you know of other strategies we fans can do to help ensure the success of the book and authors we love?
Linda Rodriguez's Plotting the Character-Driven Novel, based on her popular workshop, and The World Is One Place: Native American Poets Visit the Middle East, an anthology she co-edited, are her newest books. Every Family Doubt, her fourth mystery novel featuring Cherokee campus police chief, Skeet Bannion, will appear in autumn, 2017. Her three earlier Skeet novels—Every Hidden Fear, Every Broken Trust, and Every Last Secret—and her books of poetry—Skin Hunger and Heart's Migration—have received critical recognition and awards, such as St. Martin's Press/Malice Domestic Best First Novel, International Latino Book Award, Latina Book Club Best Book of 2014, Midwest Voices & Visions, Elvira Cordero Cisneros Award, Thorpe Menn Award, and Ragdale and Macondo fellowships. Her short story, “The Good Neighbor,” published in the anthology, Kansas City Noir, has been optioned for film.
Rodriguez is chair of the AWP Indigenous Writer’s Caucus, past president of Border Crimes chapter of Sisters in Crime, founding board member of Latino Writers Collective and The Writers Place, and a member of International Thriller Writers, Wordcraft Circle of Native American Writers and Storytellers, and Kansas City Cherokee Community. Visit her at http://lindarodriguezwrites.blogspot.com