Whether you realize it or not, being an indie author -- or indie creative in general-- is hard work! It's not easy to get ahead, and it can be pretty discouraging at times. That said, most people don't know how exactly to help or encourage indies. That's why I'm here! I'm going to cover 4 categories of Independent Creatives in this post: Indie Authors, Indie Designers/ photographers/artists, Indie Bloggers/online business owners, and young creatives. So let's jump right in!
Purchase Books. Ok, this one is kind of a no-brainer. But seriously, do a nice turn and buy a copy of the author's books. I'm all for book sales and freebies, believe me, but at the same time, let's not forget the value of things. Not only did someone pour in hours of their time, lots of love, and probably tears, most indie authors have to invest some quantity of money so you could have the book. As an indie author, though, the only payback we get in return is a percentage of the selling price. Whether they own their own business and their printer takes a percentage of their selling price, or they go through a vanity press (which costs a lot), authors never really get the number you see as purchasing price.
Let's put this into perspective. Say an ebook is $2.99. Instead of complaining about three dollars, realize that most likely, the author is only getting around two of those three dollars. Now think about what it takes to write a book: Hours and hours of writing time, hours more of editing, perhaps hundreds of dollars spent for cover design, proofreading services, the hefty cost of an ISBN number (the barcode on the back), and plenty more hidden costs-- ebook formatting, copyright fees, book launch giveaway costs, etc, etc. That's just to publish a book and doesn't even take into consideration the costs of keeping a blog running, purchasing necessary programs or equipment, and so on. So think of buying an indie author's book as an investment-- a couple of dollars or maybe $10-- to help out an indie immensely. Money is definitely not everything, but when you buy an indie author's books, it can at least help provide them with the needed funds to publish the next one.
Leave Reviews. Whether it's on Amazon or Goodreads or both, reviews can mean everything. Not only is it encouraging and exciting to read as an author, but it can really help potential readers know whether they should get the book or not. We all check reviews, and the more there are, the better. People trust readers like you to give them an honest opinion, and if you enjoyed a book, consider it sharing some love and write up a quick review. It's not hard. A simple star rating and stating what you liked about the book works. It doesn't have to be gushy, and it doesn't have to be long. But the more reviews there are, the more it helps potential readers and therefore helps the indie.
As a side note: Amazon rankings rely heavily on reviews. That means if there are only a couple of reviews, the book might not even rank in Amazon's huge marketplace, which means that potential readers won't even see it. That means that often, reviews = not only more credibility to possible new readers, but also more visibility to help them find the book in the first place.
Follow Blogs or Social Media. Your favorite indie author has a blog? Go sign up for their email list! YouTube channel? Subscribe! Facebook, Instagram, Twitter? If you're on the platform, go follow them, or like their page, or whatever. Basically when you do this you're saying "I support you", which is really encouraging. Besides that, though, you'll have a better chance of keeping up with them and their upcoming books, new releases, and maybe even lots of fun extras like behind the scenes or giveaways or free stories. The truth is, it takes a lot of work to keep up a blog or a social media feed, so it's nice to know people care. And if you want to go even a step further, be active about commenting and liking their posts and videos.
Share with Friends. If you liked a book, tell your friends or share about it with someone you think would enjoy it too. We do it with movies, songs, articles, restaurants, businesses...so let's do it with books too. You might end up recommending someone their new favorite author, and they might forever be grateful to you! Another idea is that if you really enjoyed the book, post about it yourself on social media. This not only shows your support and lets your friends know about a great book, but it helps increase visibility for the author.
Let the Author Know You Liked the Book. In the days of the internet, there's really no excuse for not doing this. If you liked the book, tell them! You probably appreciate it when folks let you know they enjoyed something you created. It's uplifting and sometimes gives that extra boost they need to keep on creating. When people neglect to let the author know they enjoyed the book, the author is left unsure of the reception, and it can get really discouraging. Sometimes, it's so discouraging feeling invisible, that the author might feel like giving up altogether. Be an encourager.
Support Them. Remember back up at point one, where I talked a little bit about money not being everything, and if you buy the book you're essentially helping them with the funds for the next one to be published (in a direct or roundabout way)? Well, as you may have guessed from the list of expenses I mentioned that most likely, a brand new indie author isn't going to make enough from sales to cover all that. They're still trying to get their footing in the book world, and it can be easy to get bogged down in finances. The plain facts are that publishing can get really expensive. Even when you go as cheap as you possibly can by trying to do everything yourself, you're still going to have to pay for random pesky things like book ISBN numbers and copyrights and stuff. And when you factor in cover design, interior and ebook formatting, editing, proofreading, marketing expenses, etc... it can get pretty steep for an indie even when they stick to the lowest pricings on stuff and does as much as they can themself. Just being honest here: you tend to put in more money than you ever get out of it, at first. So if you want to keep getting books from your favorite indie authors, don't be afraid to pitch in and help. Use their services, donate to their project funding, or cover the cost of something once in a while.
Be Ready to Try New Indie Authors. Stumbled across an author you're unfamiliar with? Don't be afraid to try them. Yes, there are a lot of indie authors that might not suit your tastes, and there are definitely indies who aren't professional and can be difficult to read. But if you're hearing good things about an indie author from some reliable sources, or reviews on the book's Amazon page are looking pretty good-- go for it! We readers do it in bookstores all the time-- so go ahead and pick up a new indie author.
If You See Mistakes... Tell them nicely, but tell them. We want to know so we can fix things if need be, but be kind about it. Indie authors don't have a huge team to look out for errors, so we're doing the best we can in various circumstances. After all that hard work, we certainly don't want typos or inconsistencies, but once it's released we're starting to take a breather again, so-- just remember common courtesy, and point out any mistakes with a kind heart. It can be discouraging if the only thing we hear back is that we let a mistake get by, so try to be positive and encouraging as well. Give some good with the bad-- because the truth is, people are far quicker to let us know when something is wrong, then let us know when something is right.
Use their Services. The biggest thing is always going to be: use their services! Whether they have design services, photoshoot packages, or art to purchase, if you like their style, support them by using their work.
Follow their Blog or Social Media. Much like with the indie authors, if your indie designer or artist has an online portfolio or is involved on social media, give them a follow and keep up-to-date with what they're doing! Like their posts, comment on things, and get involved.
Share! If you like what they do, share it with your friends or even on your social media. But remember, don't just take a piece of art of a photo and post it without credit! Be sure to tag them or link to their website so that they can be discovered by others. If you've used one of their services, why not give them a shout-out and tell others what you liked about the process?
Be willing to work with them. The fact is, they're learning and growing in their craft, and they may not have had many customer interactions yet. Be easy to work with and communicate well, so that you can help them understand what exactly it is that you want. And as the process goes, treat them as a professional, but also be gracious as they are learning the ins and outs of business.
Be Positive. If any line of work gets dumped with criticisms, it's creative work. We don't need you analyzing our work with a critical eye nonstop. We appreciate constructive criticism, but we also can really use positive encouragement, too. Remember, constructive criticism isn't always negative! If all you can say is: "That looks weird", or "I don't get it." chances are, you probably shouldn't say it at all. If you look at a lot of designers/photographers/artist's posts, for instance, a good many comments are from random people who think they ought to just publicly announce that they don't understand where the artist is coming from. It's not necessary, and it rarely helps the creative.
Take them seriously. Art is one area of life that throughout history has been put down. Often when someone says they want to go into sciences, people encourage them, while the same people diminish the dreams and goals of the artistic people in the group. The starving artist is a myth and a mindset, and the reality is that the arts are just as much of a business in this day and age. Don't put down (even unconsciously) young creatives in this area. They don't need people trying to "give them reality" because we often already know reality, and in art, it's the dreams that fuel any forward momentum. Instead, encourage them! Give them the opportunity to show what they can do. Provide them with resources, or let them know you believe in them.
Indie Bloggers/Online Business Owners
Follow their Blogs and Social Media. Are you seeing a pattern? But this one is especially important because bloggers' entire income comes from their blog or social media, and online businesses also rely heavily on online platforms to market their products. Not only is actively following and interacting with your indie blogger or business owner going to give you the chance to encourage them by supporting their work, but it will also potentially help bring them more income because, in the blogger/online world, views and interaction often = income.
Don't use AdBlock on their Websites. This one doesn't affect everybody, but for the ones that it does, pausing your adblock on their websites can affect their income significantly. Many bloggers receive some of their income from ads being shown on their website-- and usually, these are small and off to the side and don't even bother the viewer. When people block them, that means they're blocking one area of revenue.
Now, I know what you all are thinking: But I want to make sure I don't see any bad advertisements! Let's clear up a few things. First, I'm not against adblocks. I agree, there's a good reason to have them. However, most of the time, your bad advertisements are going to pop up on sites that are perhaps a bit shadier themselves. Secondly, the ads you see are based on what you're looking at or searching for online, so it's easy for the internet to mess up what kinds of ads they give you if they caught a hold of a one-time search or something. There's a way to customize your ads though, so you only see certain types of ads. You can go into your settings (for instance, google settings) and there's a whole section on advertisements. You can choose to only receive certain types of ads, and it will stay consistent with that. In that way, even if you allow ads on certain websites or blogs, you will only be seeing ads within categories that you approved. (For instance, I only see ads anymore for things like vitamins, essential oils, traveling, clothes, and food).
Going off of this: If you don't have an adblock in place, and you see a less than desirable ad pop up on someone's website, please don't get offended and write the blogger with a complaint. They have no control over the ads-- they are customized to your experience. If you haven't set in place some settings for the ads you see, it's not the blogger's fault.
Be Happy to Support Them. Whether this means leaving a positive and encouraging comment, or not complaining when they offer a product to sell instead of for free, this means a lot to a blogger. Most bloggers love their audience and are happy to create tons of free content (blog posts, free printables, and so on), so getting some positive feedback for all their hard work is incredibly encouraging. It can take hours upon hours of work to produce quality blog posts, freebies, or keep websites up and running, so it's nice to know that people are thankful for that. Also, when a blogger or online business owner begins to sell products or perhaps produces a product that costs more than their previous ones, please don't get upset, and please consider purchasing it if you are interested in it. The truth of the matter is, indies simply can't just offer everything for free or only a couple dollars. If the value is more, sometimes we need to charge more. It can be very discouraging to put a lot of work into a product, only to receive complaints on the price. So if you want to help an indie business owner, be positive and support their business!
Share Their Products and Blog Posts. If you liked something, why don't you share it? Sending links to friends, posting on your own social media, or directing others to their store or blog is a huge encouragement and also help to indie bloggers and business owners. Be sure to always include a link back to the blogger, and share away!
Don't Put Them Down. This is by far the biggest thing I could say for how to help Young Creatives. First, though, let me address the obvious: Young Creatives usually aren't in the "indie" category yet, and they certainly aren't owning businesses or necessarily marketing on social media, etc. So this list is going to be a little different. The one thing I always say to those looking to encourage a Young Creative is don't put them down. This means that instead, you should be encouraging and supportive of their dreams and interests. You don't need to be the wrecking ball that comes in and proclaims that "it probably won't happen", or "you need to be a lot better than that", or "but you know that can't be your real job". Even if they don't end up in the creative field they express an interest in, what reason is there to put down a young person and their dreams? Creativity ought to be encouraged because even if they don't end up in an artistic area of work someday, that creative spirit they developed as a child will stay with them and play positive roles in their life for as long as they live.
Give Them the Tools They Need. Most of the time, young creatives don't need a whole lot to get started being creative. And they certainly don't need fancy or expensive equipment. So if you want to encourage your young creative, why not supply them with some tools to pursue their interest? If they want to be an author or poet, give them pens and notebooks and fiction to read and books about writing. Give them bookbinding tape or folders, or ways to learn how to type properly. If they're into art, supply them with paints and brushes, or chalk, or colored papers, or sketching pencils. If they love photography, get them started with a beginner's camera and a rechargeable battery. Let your creative make plays, record music and songs, doodle in notebooks, print photos, and read to their hearts' content.
Help Expand Their Minds. Along with providing tools, help your young creative's minds expand by promoting learning experiences. Send them an article or clipping from a magazine or book about whatever it is they love and say "thought of you". There is nothing like hearing as a young creative that you were thought of in connection with your passion! Curate books or inspirational quotes. Talk to them about the greats in their favorite area of creativity. If you can, provide them with opportunities to go to related museums, book fairs, libraries, or galleries.
Share their Work. Share their work, and be proud of it yourself. The visibility and encouragement will always help a young creative, and often prompts them to do more creating. It's also a good chance to allow others to be an encouragement as well. Just be sure that when sharing their work, it is a positive moment, and not an opportunity to laugh at their expense. Remember they are young and learning, and often don't understand the jokes that arise from something they poured their heart into.
So there are my top ways to help and encourage indie creatives! Do you have any to add to the list? Comment them below!