Last week, we started Black History Month by discussing seven books to add to your 2022 Black History reading list. Today we're following up with twelve ways you can support authors along your reading journey, as well as some bonus tips too! The process from idea to publication is arduous, often testing a writer's perseverance and grit. So there's nothing more encouraging for a storyteller than to receive love from their audience. Let's dive into it.
1. Buy and read books written by black authors
This is by far the most straightforward and crucial tip as it's the primary way authors create income. Sales volume determines how easily a signed author can get another book deal. In self-publishing, sales often support an author's living, drive production, and even whether an author can stay in business. New book sales (instead of used) drive the metrics used to calculate bestseller lists. So order an e-book, hardcopy, or paperback and use your dollars to cast a vote for your favorite author.
2. Purchase from black-owned bookstores
If you're going to buy physical books, you might as well double down and purchase from a black-owned bookstore. According to IndieBound, 67% of every dollar spent at local bookstores stays within that community. Buying these titles from a Black-owned bookstore supports readership and the black community. So visit a black-owned bookshop near you. If there aren't any local options, feel free to order online and have it shipped to your door.
3. Leave a review
After reading the book, leave an honest and thoughtful review. Reviews are great for establishing author credibility and help them win "Top-Rated" badges in their category, yet the true treasure is its effect on other readers. Customers on the fence about making a purchase read reviews to determine if they'll like the product.
The greater number of positive reviews a book has, the more confident a potential reader feels. Apple Books, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Goodreads are great places to leave a review. Remember to check out the author's direct website too. That's usually the best spot to see where the books are listed.
4. Recommend Black authors to your family and friends
After you've made your purchase, read the book, and left a review, the next step is to talk about it with your friends and family. Word of mouth establishes trust and allows people to ask you questions about your favorite part of the story or what surprised you. Whether you realize it or not, everyone has an audience! Share your thoughts about a Black author's books with your community in person and online through social media.
5. Follow their social media and interact
While you're sharing thoughts on social media, you might as well follow the author. Twitter is an excellent hub for artists and writers. Like their Facebook page and follow them on Instagram. Wherever you're active online, follow your favorite author there. Be sure to leave a comment too!
6. Add Black authors on Goodreads and favorite their work
This is an easy way to support authors because when you click "want to read," it bumps the title up on Goodread's search, thus increasing visibility. When multiple people mark an author's book, it shows up on the most anticipated and popular book list, which helps with marketing and brand awareness. Furthermore, Goodreads has an award ceremony, where readers vote for one of the top ten books across twenty categories!
7. Gift books written by black authors
Is there anyone with a birthday coming up? Maybe there's a holiday, anniversary, graduation, or perhaps you're just thinking of someone and want to express your thoughts tangibly. All of these are great opportunities to introduce a person to a new book. Ordering a signed copy of the book, when available, is a great way to take it up a notch. Even if the author's signature is not available, you can always include a personalized note to the recipient.
8. Pre-order their upcoming titles
When you purchase a book before its official publication date, it's called a pre-order. Pre-orders boost initial sales and also create buzz around their book. All the hype encourages stores to add the book to their recent release displays.
Unfortunately, traditional publishers have a lousy track record of under promoting books written by Black authors. Upon release, the resulting dip in sales becomes the justification for them to spend less promoting other black authors, or even worse, refuse to accept new Black authors altogether. This creates a negative feedback cycle, making it harder for Black representation in literature. By pre-ordering upcoming titles, you show publishers that you believe in the book's success before release and affirm with your dollars that they should believe in it too.
9. Request books by Black authors at establishments
Did you know that if you don't see a title offered at a library, you can request it? They will order the book and add it to their collection or seek it from the library database. Likewise, you can make requests at most bookstores, particularly independent bookstores. When you make requests, it'll show interest, and when they add it to the catalog, it creates an opportunity for other readers to discover the book.
10. Add Black Authors to Your Algorithm
TikTok and Instagram are great ways to discover new talent. You can see what creators discuss by following tags like #blackbooktok, #blackbookstagram, and #blackauthorsmatter. When you like and save posts featuring Black authors, Instagram and Tiktok tailor your discover feed to recommend more works by other black authors and creators.
This also works outside of social media. On Amazon, when you like a lot of titles written by Black authors and add them to your wishlist, Amazon recommends more authors that match the profiles of titles you loved. Let the algorithm do the heavy lifting for you.
11. Start a book club for a Black author's book
If you're part of a book club, pitch a new work by a Black author to be the next month's title. No need to worry if you're not a member of any book club; it's easy to start. Grab three or more people interested in reading, and agree to purchase multiple copies of the book to read together. Often authors or publishers create reader's guides to help guide discussions around their book. If a novel doesn't have one available, start an organic conversation and see where it goes.
12. Attend a launch party, book reading, or tour
Audience turnout is critical for brand sponsorship and author promotion, but beyond that, these social events foster community. Often launch parties are a great way to get an author's signature and ask the author questions, so be sure to invite a friend along with you.
Eventbrite and Meetup are two great platforms to learn about literary events happening in your area. Similarly, check out your local library listing. They'll often promote guest authors and events in their newsletter
Ways to go above and beyond:
- Join 2-3 Black authors' email lists and follow their blogs
- Donate a book written by a Black author to the Little Free Library
- Quote Black authors on social media
- Send fan mail and thank notes to authors for their work
- Donate books written by Black authors to shelters, prisons, and correctional facilities
- Donate to causes that support Black literacy
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