Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Giving Back

So, this week, when I looked at where the visitors to my blog had come from, I saw most of the usual. Facebook, Goodreads, AbsoluteWrite, Google. I also saw a new page. Those are always fun to check out. Let's see, who has linked to my blog?

Elizabeth Spann Craig. Huh. Never heard of her before, let's check it out. 

Wow, that's a lot of links. It's really an honor to be listed among them. That's not the first site that's linked back to a specific post that I've done though, and hopefully it won't be the last; but I really have to thank Mrs. Craig, as well as the others who dig through the massive lists of blog posts which go up every day and filter out the ones they find helping and inspiring.

Contrary to what some believe. The business of writing is not a zero-sum game. Authors are not in competition with each other the same way other types of businesses are. The purchase of book A does not mean the customer isn't going to purchase books B,C,D,E, and F. The most competition that really exists is when a reader can only purchase one book at a specific time, decides between two books, and then forgets about the book they didn't choose. That's more of a failure in marketing as much as competition though, as the author or publisher stops pushing the work to keep it fresh in people's minds.

In actuality, every book sold, whether online or in a store, ebook or physical, big name or just starting, helps the entire industry. Every book sold either creates a reader or encourages someone to read more. So every well written book is helping out every other one to some degree.

Authors can also do so much more to help each other and society than simply writing more books which encourage people to read.

There are people like Mrs. Craig, who spend their time passing along helpful information to current and aspiring writers. In addition, there are dozens of other ways authors can help the public and other writers, to promote the qualities of literacy and community, in addition to getting their names out there.

So, how can you give back to fellow writers and your local community?

All are happy in their new homes!

  • Volunteer with a local organization. Once a week I spend four hours working with PAWSBINK, helping cats and kittens find homes. Animal rescue organizations always need volunteers, along with food banks and other welfare organizations.
  • Bring your expertise to a local writing group. Mine meets once a month, but as a (somewhat) established writer, they are all grateful to have my input on their own bits and pieces. It also give me the opportunity to share works I'm uncertain of and there are always people that know more on a specific subject or two that you can learn from. 
  • Check out online writing and reading forums, like Goodreads.com or the forums at AbsoluteWrite.com. There are always aspiring authors with questions that you can help with. 
  • Do things like Mrs. Craig does, and use social media to pass along blogs, articles, and reports that contain useful information. That includes things like earnings reports, calls for submission, and tips on writing, publishing, and marketing. 
  • Check with your local libraries to see if they have programs you can assist with. Some have writer's groups where you can share your experience and expertise. Some have sessions where you can volunteer to read out loud. They may even allow a "Meet a real author" session in order to bring in some attention. 
  • If you have kids, or know some teachers or faculty members, check with their schools. They may appreciate a published author coming in for a Q&A session or to discuss the importance of proper language with the students in English classes. 
  • Look up book clubs in your area. If you have a few copies to spare, offer them a few in order to kick-start a group read of your book. Join in so people can ask the author questions as they read. If you can't find a book club or reading group in your area, talk to your friends or the local library about starting one. 
Now, just remember, this is as much about getting your name out there as it is helping out others, but don't senselessly bombard people, and don't cram your book cards down their throats. Nobody likes a pushy salesman. For example, there are slow days at PAWS where I volunteer. So I brought a copy of my book in and left it there with a little sticky note for anyone to take and read. The next week it spurred a conversation with the other people in the adoption center about my being a writer and everyone was happy to take a book card after some discussion. 

Of course, these are just some ideas. You may have other opportunities unique to where you live. As always, if you think of something to add to the list, feel free to do so in the comments. In the meantime, let's all help each other out and spread the words of reading and literacy. 

~ Shaun

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