How to support a writer's career


Originally published at:

Since the earliest days of my novel-writing career, readers have written to me to thank me for my books and to ask how they can best support me and other writers whose work they enjoy. Nearly 15 years later, I have a pretty comprehensive answer for them!


Looks good, I went to the site to buy some of your books but apparently you have to lay out the cash before you find out the available formats. Since Amazon doesn’t support my platform I have to be careful to avoid their Kindle format (which has cost me a bundle since I found out too late that B&N doesn’t allow downloads.)

I’m pretty sure this is just a startup issue, but yeah docs would be nice.


My ebook store delivers the books as MOBI and EPUB.


Thank you! You have another customer.


ApprenticeAlf makes some handy plugins for stripping DRM from ebooks for use with Calibre. :wink:


I solve that problem by just not buying stuff with DRM. I don’t see a reason why I should go to the extra trouble of protecting them from the consequence of making their product less valuable. Do I miss some good books? Sure. But life is short, and there are still more than I have time to read.

Barnes and Noble, on the other hand, purport to have non-DRM books that I can download. Which is why I bought a bunch from them last month, only to find out that they may not be DRMed but also cannot be downloaded. Read online or do without, and my reading is mostly done away from network access. Fool me once etc.


“Bestsellers are more likely to be reviewed by major outlets. . . .” On the other hand, reviews in major outlets are not the result of bestseller status, since the reviewers see ARCs–advance reader copies–in order for reviews to appear near the release date. And the timely availability of ARCs is up to the publisher, not the reviewer, which means that it is the publisher who decides, ahead of any critical reception, whether a book is going to get the push necessary to be a quick success. Similarly, it is the publisher who sets the promotion budget that determines the kind and degree of visibility the book will have on and immediately after release. No budget=no book tour, no full-page ads, no author interviews (other than whatever writers can gin up on their own).

And for a book that misses the major-review window (in Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, NYT, and a very few others) because ARCs didn’t go out at all or at the right time, all that’s left is the populist/consumer channel: Goodreads, Amazon, and other word-of-mouth. Those might drive a book sufficiently for it to sell through, but only a cockeyed optimist would depend on that.

Which is not to say that reader support is useless–only that the machineries of success are driven by the publisher. Advice to writers: get a ferocious agent who will push the publisher to back your book–and be prepared to hustle thereafter.


Your one visit to a western Canadian city is a ticketed event. Why no book signings at an indie bookseller?


Last time I looked, the New York Public Library didn’t have your recent book in any form. (Or anything else I wanted.) I must continue to get my reading material off trash piles (some good stuff there!), the bins outside Strand, and Project Gutenberg. Anyway, great art is timeless, right? It’ll come around eventually.


I’m making two visits, one tomorrow (Winnipeg) and one in ten days or so (Vancouver). Both are sponsored by indie bookstores, which use tickets to make sure that they recoup because of the experience of having people show up with deeply discounted books from Amazon or Indigo.


B&N would like you to think that, but if you locate an old copy of their discontinued desktop software for windows 7 & before, you can download your purchases with no problem. Nook for PC, and Nook Study both still work and let you obtain copies of your purchases.


I’d be very interested in how your sales on this are affected, if at all, by having no CC version of the book. Sounds like it hasn’t much affected them at all.


I’ll be getting a review out in a small student paper later this week. For the first days of a better nation.


Is buying Walkaway in digital format as good for your career as buying the hardcover? And if so, will you sign my iPad? :writing_hand:t3::joy: Serious question as I buy more digital books than paper copies.


I would just like to add, as a librarian who has been enmeshed in collection development for many years, librarians of all types have less and less time to do title-by-title collection development. Gone are the days where librarians carefully evaluate each title added to their collection based on careful review of reviews. This is by no means to suggest that such title-by-title selection doesn’t occur (certainly through multiple patron requests to add a title), but many libraries subscribe to large aggregate e-book collections by virtue of state consortial deals or conduct collection development through book jobbers and approval plans. Therefore, all the other items on this list become more paramount, if you wish your title to enter the life cycle for your book to appear in your local public or academic library.


I feel that the rise of the Kindle murdered CC-licensed books as a marketing tool for the dead tree version. Doctorow’s first recent venture into paid, non-CC fiction was in the form of a threquel in the Little Brother series: Lawful Interception.

Funnily enough, the pirate copy of Homeland was out-downloaded by the CC-version.


Maybe we’re passed peak-CC content then and massive corporations killed it. Yay! Brave new world. I always used to use cory’s name as an author who walked it like he talked it, gave his stuff away for free yet still sold enough to become a bestseller. I’m sad i can’t do that now and feel like this gives more ammunition to the anti-piracy rhetoric.


Piracy may have killed CC. Book piracy really took off after a few pirate sites made it easy to pirate, almost as easy as buying the damn book.

I know a few authors who give away earlier books in series to drive sales: Eric Flint, Tom Barber, Ian Robb Wright… There are probably ly more free books on Amazon now than there ever were CC content.

I’ve been slowly hard at work on producing a CC shared universe series. Fear not: this is not the end of free remixable content, but a beginning.


This is very interesting but I’m curious about tips on how to obliterate a writer’s career? Asking for a friend.


Perhaps buy them a good video game system and the most highly rated games and/or something like Skyrim or Witcher 3.