These days, there are a lot of ways to publish a book. The hard work of indie publishers, combined with self-publishing sites, have cleared the road to publication for a lot of talented authors, including those in marginalized communities, who otherwise wouldn’t be able to get the attention of the elite traditional publishers. But for every talented author who puts out a great book, there are a hundred other people using this opportunity to publish anything they want, good or not. Even the best books and indie authors can be lost in the sea of noise, never finding their audience, never getting the attention they deserve.
If you’ve ever met an indie author in person, odds are they are exhausted. They’ve probably been working on a whole suite of marketing efforts for months, using all their mental energy, their time, their money, their social connections, and their best ideas to get even just one more share, one more review, one more book order.
If you find a book or author you love, it’s important to do what you can to support them. In fact, if you want them to survive their marketing efforts long enough to publish more books, you have to support them.
Can’t afford to buy copies of their book to hand out to everyone you know? No problem. No matter what resources are available to you, there are lots of ways you can support indie authors.
Leave them a 5-star review (free)
This is one of the absolute best things you can do for an indie author, and it costs you zero dollars (and less than five minutes). Find their title on Amazon, Goodreads, Storygraph, etc., give them five stars, and leave a few words about why you like the book. Easy peasy.
Like/follow their social media accounts (free)
Every modern author should have a social media account, because it’s a stellar way to grow and communicate with their audience. Help them by liking, following, subscribing, and sharing that account they’ve worked so hard to create and maintain (even if it’s not a great account quite yet!).
Comment/share/save their social media posts (free)
Thanks to that little thing called the algorithm, the more interaction (likes and comments) a post gets on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc., the more that post is shared to new audiences. Follow indie authors, but more than that, leave comments and likes on their posts! It makes a big difference.
Add their book to your TBR (free)
Pre- and post-publication book buzz from readers on the internet is one of the strongest forms of book marketing possible. Sites like Goodreads or—our favorite—Storygraph are specifically made for readers to track and share the books they’re most excited about. If you add a book to your “Want to Read” list or leave it a positive review, other readers will see and take note of that praise.
Post about their book on your own socials. (free)
You have friends on your social media accounts who don’t know the indie author you love so much. Posting about that author to your network is like free advertising to people they may have never been able to reach otherwise. The vast reading communities on Instagram and TikTok are proof that readers love to hear recommendations from other readers. Even if you have a small network, your post will reach at least one person, and that means everything to an indie author.
Lend their book to a friend. (free ish)
No matter how the times change, the strongest, most-trusted book recommendations is still a book loan from a friend. Share your copy of the book with other readers who will love it. And when they love it too, ask them to leave a 5-star review or do any of these other suggestions too! Again, if you want your favorite author to keep writing, you gotta help their audience grow!
Ask for their book for your birthday/holiday gift. (free to you)
If you can’t buy the book yourself, add it to your birthday or holiday wish list. That way you get a copy of the book you love, and the author gets another book sale. It’s a win-win!
Attend an author event (some are even virtual!). (often free)
When an indie author makes the effort to be a part of a book signing, talk, or reading, whether in person or virtually, it takes a lot of planning, investment, and nerves. Writers are often introverts who force themselves to be social for the sake of their book, so having a supportive fan like you in the audience means the world to them. Many events these days are virtual, and most are free, so the cost to you is minimal.
Recommend the book for your next book club read. (free ish)
Recommending a book to a friend is a great way to promote it, but recommending it to an entire group of friends who will literally purchase and read that book together? Now that’s supporting an indie author in a big way.
Write the author a nice message. (free)
Indie authors are tired and overwhelmed and constantly doubt their book’s worth. Send them a message of support and gratitude for making a piece of art that affected your life in some positive way. It will mean more to them than you can know.
Buy their books. (paid)
Authors often offer limited-time-only discounts on their book so more affordable people have the opportunity to purchase it. It can cost a lot of money to market their book, so of course they’d like to make that money back, but the most important thing is to get their book to those who will love and appreciate it.
If you can afford to buy their book, do it. Do it do it do it. Do it! And do your best to get it straight from them or their publisher, instead of through Amazon or other third-party sites. If you can afford to buy it from them at full price, girl, ya gotta. Whatever level of affordability makes sense to you, go for it. You can’t begin to imagine what a single book order means to an indie author (unless you’re an author yourself).
The point is to do what you can in whatever way you can. It may be easier these days to publish a book, but it is not easy to be an author. If someone sacrifices their time and money to write a book that makes your life better, repay them by doing at least three things to support them. You won’t regret it!
written by Mary-Peyton Crook
1.72 trillion. That’s how many photos are taken every year! That’s 4.7 billion a day! 95 million of those photos are posted to Instagram per day, and we share 1.3 billion photos daily on Instagram alone. Is your head spinning from these numbers? Because mine sure is! In this vast sea of imagery, how do we get the pictures you take noticed and shared? There is no golden answer for this, but with these tips I am about to share with you, you will be on the right path.
Tip 1: Wipe off your camera lens!
Chances are you are using a smartphone for your pictures and your phone has been handled quite a bit. It’s very easy to smudge your lens, and cleaning it before taking photos will guarantee that your photos will not appear foggy.
Tip 2: Remember the rule of thirds.
As Adobe puts it, “The rule of thirds is a composition guideline that places your subject in the left or right third of an image, leaving the other two thirds more open. While there are other forms of composition, the rule of thirds generally leads to compelling and well-composed shots.” Recognizing and utilizing this rule becomes easier the more photos you take, but until then, enable the "grid" on your smartphone camera to make this easier to follow.
Tip 3: Before you take your photos, tap on your subject.
This will let your camera know the focal point of your photo and ensure a sharper image.
Tip 4: Check your lighting.
If you are using natural lighting or a light ring, be sure to check where your shadows are being cast. If you are taking pictures outside, the “golden hour” is ideal. This is the hour before sunset, and you can get some pretty great pictures using this natural light source.
Tip 5: Take multiple photos from different angles.
By doing this you will give yourself different options when selecting your photo to post. Straight on images don’t always work and can lack character depending on the subject. Be adventurous with this, if it doesn’t work out, just delete it.
Tip 6: Negative space is a good thing.
According to Adobe, “Negative space photography is related to minimalist photography. It emphasizes not just the subject, but the empty space around the subject. The viewer's eyes may be drawn to a central figure, but they can't help noticing the large section of emptiness that surrounds and defines that figure.”
One mistake people commonly make is to zoom in on their subject so it takes up most of the space in the photo. But this can be jarring and unappealing to the viewer. By using negative space, you call more attention to the subject of your photo.
With these tips you will be off to a great start. Now let your creativity free and have fun! Happy photo-shooting!
written by Michael Hardison
There’s a 99.9% chance you’ve seen one while driving or walking around. A precious little house on a stick with a door you can open and BOOM—inside, it’s full of books. What a beautiful world we live in. But do you know what these tiny book havens are, or where they come from?
These boxes of bookish goodness are called Little Free Libraries. Most of them are registered with the Little Free Library 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization; you can tell which are registered by the plaques they bear featuring their ID number. But even those that aren’t registered are still lovingly referred to as Little Free Libraries, because we are not here to gatekeep book access.
How did Little Free Library start?
The very first official Little Free Library was created in Hudson, Wisconsin, in 2009. A very cool dude named Todd Bol built a miniature model of a one-room schoolhouse and then filled it with books to honor his mother, who was a teacher and a lifelong booklover, and mounted it on a post in his front yard. His friends and family loved it so much that he happily made more to share with them.
The next step for Little Free Library was Rick Brooks, who was an outreach program manager at the University of Wisconsin. Together, Bol and Brooks decided to make Little Free Libraries their next endeavor. Andrew Carnegie once committed to creating 2,508 libraries; to honor him, Bol and Brooks committed to creating 2,508 Little Free Libraries by the end of 2013, a deadline they beat by a year and a half in August 2012. In 2015, they were awarded the Library of Congress Literacy Award. In 2020, they were awarded the World Literacy Award from the World Literacy Foundation.
Todd Bol tragically passed away in 2018 from pancreatic cancer. According to the organization’s site, “He remained dedicated to Little Free Library’s mission in his last days, saying, ‘I really believe in a Little Free Library on every block and a book in every hand. I believe people can fix their neighborhoods, fix their communities, develop systems of sharing, learn from each other, and see that they have a better place on this planet to live.’”
This year, 2022, Little Free Library hit the 150,000 library mark, which is truly incredible. And this number doesn’t even include the unregistered libraries!
What’s the point of Little Free Libraries?
Today, Little Free Libraries are about two things: community and book access. The main point of Little Free Libraries is to provide books freely to communities, especially those communities where getting books can be a challenge, particularly for children. According to the LFL website, 2 out of 3 children living in low-income communities own zero books. Little Free Libraries are a great way to change that. Anyone can start a Little Free Library anywhere (on their own property, anyway). But on top of that, LFL has their Impact Library Program, an initiative that strives to install and maintain Little Free Libraries in book deserts in the US and Canada.
Who can start a Little Free Library?
Anyone who owns land that the public might walk past can start a Little Free Library! A LFL does have to be on your personal property, and it has to be somewhere people can easily access it from public property. This is why most of the LFLs you see will be in someone’s front yard or by a business’s front door, right up against the sidewalk.
Little Free Library owners are called “stewards.” This language, rather than calling them “owners,” is meant to indicate the long-term commitment of opening a LFL. You can’t just install one and then never think of it again. LFL stewards are librarians, caretakers. It’s their job to make sure the LFL stays safe and clean and full of books!
How can I find a Little Free Library?
The funnest way (in some people’s opinion) to find a LFL is to drive or walk around and happen upon one. This is part of the charm of the LFLs—they pop up when you’re not expecting them.
But if you’re a planner, there is a way to seek out LFLs near you. Little Free Library has an amazing app that features a map where you can find all the registered LFLs near you! As a reminder, there are plenty of unregistered LFLs as well, so this map is not comprehensive, but it’s a great place to start if you’re unsure where your local LFLs are, or if you’re traveling and seeking out new LFLs as you’re sightseeing.
This LFL isn’t full of books. What’s up with that?
There are some small house-looking constructions, especially in cities and low-income areas, that don’t have books inside, but instead have food and other necessities. These are community food pantries run by amazing people to support their local communities. If you open up a LFL and find canned goods and other food items inside, be glad you’re in such an amazing community, and move on in your search.
Sometimes, you might open up a LFL to find that it’s totally empty. No books, no nothing. This usually happens when a LFL steward has moved away from their home that had the LFL, moved from the business where they built the LFL, or for some other reason isn’t able to care for the library. The best thing you can do if you find an empty LFL is to fill it! Go home, grab some books you no longer need, hop in your car, and go fill that bad boy up. You might even consider bringing wipes or other materials to clean the library up a bit and make it appealing to the community!
How can I engage?
The best way to support your local Little Free Library is to take a book, leave a book. When you have a book you don’t need or want anymore, take it to your local LFL, and perhaps peek inside to see if there’s anything of interest to you in there. The more that books are coming and going from these LFLs, the more people will want to visit again and again to see what’s new. Some LFLs even have social media accounts where you can follow to support them. You can make a post when you visit to share that LFL with your networks.
Little Free Libraries are amazing little oases of books that came from a wonderful initiative to make books more accessible to children who need them. We’re lucky that we all get to participate in taking a book, leaving a book, reading a book, and sharing a book. So if you’re wondering how to spend your afternoon, download the LFL app, see where the libraries are near you, and set out on a bookish adventure!
written by Christina Kann
Sci-fi / Fantasy—they’re grouped together all the time, and for good reason. The genres overlap in many aspects and are both categorized as speculative fiction. So, what exactly makes them similar, and what distinguishes one from the other? And why should you even care?
Science fiction explores how science might impact a society or individuals, oftentimes in the future. Sci-fi presents a world that doesn’t exist but could exist with technological advancement—classic examples are Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury and Frankenstein by Mary Shelley.
Fantasy, on the other hand, contends with the supernatural, the magical, with settings in different worlds that could not exist—see The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien and A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin.
Both include super fun sub-genres. Here are some examples in a very non-comprehensive list:
Writing a science fiction or a fantasy novel will require creativity and imagination to be sure, but you’ll also need to follow some rules. Oftentimes people think of science fiction as logic based and differentiate fantasy by chalking the genre up to a magical nonsense land where the rules don’t apply because . . . well, magic! We don’t recommend taking this approach.
Like science fiction, fantasy also requires a set of rules that the reader can follow so that the story remains satisfying and impactful.
Science fiction and fantasy both deal with worlds that are unlike our own. The differences come into play when building those worlds.
Common (not required) characteristics of science fiction:
Common (not required) characteristics of fantasy:
Why does any of this matter? Well, if you’re writing a sci-fi or a fantasy novel, it’s important to know the elements characteristic of each genre. You wouldn’t want to leave readers scratching their heads by including a wizard, a selkie, and a hobbit in your sci-fi novel, right? It’s important to be familiar with the genre you’re writing in so that you can be aware of the conventions of that genre. There are certain elements of each genre that readers come to expect, and we wouldn’t want to disappoint!
So, when does defining your genre become important? When querying your book, publishers will want you to be able to be able to sum up your book succinctly and clearly, and oftentimes genre can be a great first step in doing this. The reason publishers tend to care about this categorization is, ultimately, the genre will determine certain elements of marketing and how your book gets into the hands of readers. If you’re unable to clearly define your genre, categorizing your book in industry databases becomes more difficult, which could inhibit readers from finding it.
Whether you’re writing the next great sci-fi or fantasy novel, keep your reader in mind, and do whatever you can to make your book as accessible to them as possible.
written by Grace Ball
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