I know a lot of folks who appreciate the arts and would love to show support, but who don’t have a boatload of money for extras. Some of them don’t even have a thimbleful of money for extras. For those in this situation, let me offer some tips on how you can help out writers you know and/or admire.
If you have some money to spend on books, but not much, prioritize. Choose to spend your book money only on publications by local writers, or only on publications by writers you know personally, or choose one writer you can feel really good about supporting and buy her/his books new. Fill the rest of your reading list at the public library, or buy used. I manage to budget enough money to buy about half a dozen books a year new. Most of these are written buy people I know, some of them self-published. I also buy all of the Dresden Files books by Jim Butcher. He’s localish, living in the same state, and he came to speak to my writing group once before he made it to The New York Times bestseller list. He seemed like a genuinely nice guy who wanted to help other writers. And I like the books.
If you have no book money in your budget, you can still help a writer in need by checking out her/his book from the library. The more a book is checked out, the more copies get ordered, and the more likely it is to be replaced if lost or damaged. If you can’t find the book in your library, ask about placing a request to purchase. Public libraries encourage patrons to communicate about what books they want. If the selector knows a book will be read, he/she is likely to buy it.
If the writer you want to help out is someone near and dear, and you don’t mind going above and beyond, there are even more actions you can take. Call your nearest bookstore and ask if they have the title, even if you don’t plan to purchase it. That way you’re helping raise public awareness about the existence of the book. If the bookstore employee asks whether you’d like to place a special order, you can always say “Not right now. I’ll check a couple of other places first.” If the bookstore does have the title, and you have time to kill, you can go in and browse, incidentally leaving the volume prominently displayed when you’re done skimming it.
And once you’ve done all of these things, don’t feel bad about reminding that certain special writer in your life about the purpose of the acknowledgments page. You might get in a mention in the next book.