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  • Sophie Russell

Being a Responsible Reader

So, I’m a bit late to the blog today, because I had occupational therapy for my arm. It’s not going well, I had to take pain medicine, and this is going to be a rambly post.

To address my down mood last week, I’m feeling better-ish. I’m still disappointed that so many people voted for hate. But… Biden won the election, Trump is trying to stage a coup, we’re getting hit with a hurricane (in FL) in November (outside of hurricane season), and 2020 is still unleashing hell.

Now that that’s out of the way, I want to talk strategy.

Not writing, not promo, not marketing, because I seriously don’t have enough experience in any of that stuff. I’m talking about reading.

A lot of MM authors are indie authors, they sell through Amazon, upload to Kindle Unlimited, and—if so inclined—make audiobooks for Audible or other retailers. They try to make a living that way.

The thing about Kindle Unlimited (KU) is that authors get paid per page read. Usually, it’s half a penny or less per page. If you have thirty books out (like the fantabulous Lucy Lennox), making a living is more achievable. Most authors earn a bulk of their income via KU.

When it comes to ebook and paperback sales, authors only get a portion of the cost (35% or 70%, depending on what you’re eligible for).

When it comes to audiobooks, it’s even less.

Here’s the deal, I may, technically, be an author now, but I’ve been a reader for a whole lot longer. I’ve been subscribed to KU for about four years, and I’ve been reading MM romance for the last year.

I think we can all agree that authors get a pretty raw deal when it comes to royalties. Something they pour heart, soul, time, and money into only yields them about $1.75 (ish) per copy. Getting started this way is difficult, making a living is difficult, and it takes time.

I developed a strategy to support writers the best way I can, and I wanted to share it with you. When writers are supported, they are able to write more, and we, dear friends, are able to read more.

1. If I enjoy a book, I leave a review. Reviews can bump up the visibility of an author’s work, make them eligible for things, and give them a different way to promote. I almost always leave a review. The only times I don’t are when a.) it’s a conflict of interest—so if I beta read or had a hand in how it turned out; b.) I DNF’d it; or c.) I didn’t like it at all. It’s rare for one of those things to be the case, and I want to support my authors.

2. I usually read on KU first. If I know the author isn’t able to make a living solely by writing, I read on KU first, rather than preorder. If I know an author is doing okay, I’ll go ahead and preorder, which helps their ranking.

3. If I’m going to reread the book, I buy it after reading it on KU. Rereads don’t count on KU, unfortunately. If you’ve already read a book, reading it again doesn’t pay the author. If I go to reread a book, I buy it. It doesn’t happen very frequently—and I know that I’m privileged in being able to do this—but it helps the authors get more in the way of royalties.

4. If I can’t buy the book for whatever reason, I make sure to mention the author and their work in other spaces, recommend it, tag the author, and/or talk about how much I loved it. This promotes visibility for authors.

5. If I really love a book, I will invest in audiobooks. I don’t have many, but the ones I do have I love and listen to while I’m falling asleep. I never return audiobooks anymore. I’ve only returned two. They were MF and had scenes that triggered my PTSD. I didn’t finish them, I just returned them. Then, I discovered MM, which solved the problem, and I haven’t returned an audiobook since. Even if I don’t care for it, I won’t return it. But that doesn’t happen, because I read it on KU, buy it in ebook form, and then pursue audio. After listening to the sample.

6. I interact with the authors I love, so that they know they’re appreciated and that their work is valued. Particularly newer authors, authors not quite able to support themselves, and authors who are trying out something new (moving to audio, a new genre, etc.). I also participate in their games and posts and parties, because it takes more work than you think to find/create unique games, find fellow authors, host the giveaway, interact, etc.

I share all of this, because I feel like we need a discussion on what it is to be a responsible reader. Indie authors are responsible for everything. Writing the book, first round edits, finding beta readers, second round edits, finding an editor, third (or more) round edits, sourcing or designing a cover, writing the blurb, promoting their release, hosting events, doing giveaways, marketing, advertising, learning more, website(s), blog(s), newsletters, interacting with readers, networking with authors, doing research, writing the next thing, etc. And that’s not even all of it.

It’s time consuming, exhausting, frustrating at times, but ultimately rewarding. Unfortunately, it’s not always financially rewarding. Most authors have full time work, families, kids, responsibilities, and/or all of the above, and it’s A LOT.

Being a responsible reader is supporting your authors, particularly when you know they’re struggling a bit. I try to do everything I listed above. It’s not always possible, but I do try. Hell, I’ll even buy a copy of a book that I won (if I absolutely love it). I know that not everyone can do that. There are some who can only do KU, and that’s totally understandable. You can still be a responsible reader! Post reviews, interact with your authors, let other people know how much you enjoyed reading their work.

Now, as to why I’m sharing this: I’m a new author and I certainly can’t make a living off what I’m doing, but I’m at this point where I’m still new enough that I consider myself a reader before I’m an author, but I have a glimpse into what it’s like from the author’s side of things. My feet are in both worlds. They likely always will be, but a time will come when I view myself more as an author than a reader. I wanted to take this time (whilst I’m still new) to let you know about how I strategize reading and interacting to benefit of both the author and me, because it leads to a stronger, more vibrant community.

In a world where people choose hate, where pain can be intolerable, where 2020 is fucking us all without any lube, I think we need to work at the ground level in our own communities to shape them to be the best they can be. Mutual respect, inclusivity, and appreciation are some of the best things you can bring to a community. I’ve thought—at length—how to do that in the MM Romance Community as a reader. As I gain experience, I’m going to think about how to do that as an author, and I’ll likely share that, as well. I hope that you, dear friends, will think about how you can lay groundwork in whatever communities you’re in to make them better, safer, stronger, and more vibrant.

My pain pill is seriously kicking in, so sorry if this makes no sense. I did my best.

Love to you all,

Soph

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