I have occasionally seen readers, including my own, ask how to support their indie/self-published authors, which of course is a trend I would very much like to encourage. This is a list of everything I could come up with, which readers can do to support authors such as myself, other than the obvious “read/buy the books”.
It should be noted, nobody should feel obligated to do any (and certainly not all) on this list. Just by reading our books, you are already doing what every author hopes for. This is just for those inclined, as suits your personality, leisure time, financial situation etc. Never feel pressured; reading and all things related to it should always be an act of delight.
So be at ease, dear future henchman
Source: Illustration of me (right) with a typical reader (left)
Reviews is one of the most important factors when a potential reader is considering picking up a new book. Leaving a review on Amazon or Goodreads, or opening a thread on your preferred book discussion forum, makes a great difference. It is great even if you state things you do not like or felt hesitant about; it will guide other readers, who can determine if that matters to them, or they might even have been looking for a book that has exactly those traits. If you feel uncomfortable about posting reviews, just leaving a rating on these sites matters too.
In continuation of this, reviewers with a big audience, bloggers etc. obviously have a great impact too. But many of them are wary of picking up a self-published book because they cannot be sure it went through a rigorous editing process. If you have a book blogger or reviewer that you follow, reach out to them and ask them to make a review of a particular indie book; your suggestion might have more weight with the reviewer than if it comes from the author.
Besides reviews, word of mouth is what helps convince potential readers the most. Very often, you will see the same big author names in fantasy being mentioned. If you are active e.g. on fantasy book forums and see someone asking for a recommendation, and you feel that this or that indie book fits the criteria, recommending it can very often create a new reader. Even if that particular person was not convinced, you might have convinced someone else reading along. Also, the power of exposure applies; seeing the same book recommended over and over in various contexts will often persuade a reader to eventually giving it a shot. Of course, this does not only apply to forums; recommendations made in conversations, whether personal or online, will have the same effect.
Most authors have social media, typically Facebook and Twitter. Just following them makes the author look good, even if you do not feel comfortable sharing their posts and updates. If you do feel fine doing that, it will obviously help to promote that author to a much wider audience. In fact, the way that Facebook pages work, each update is only shown to a certain percentage of the followers. If those followers interact with the post, it is shown to more people, and if they interact, it is shown to more etc. It may not feel like much, but one like on Facebook adds a lot of extra exposure. Yes, this is that one case where clicking like on Facebook actually has any effect. Some authors (I do not, but others do) also have mailing lists you can join to be kept in the loop and help spread the word when your author has something to announce.
If you feel at ease doing so, contact the author and tell them you read their book. Any words of encouragement will be greatly appreciated and can really motivate them. Writing is solitary business, leaving authors inside their own heads for possibly hours each day. Getting a message from the outside that all those hours are not in vain will mean a lot.
Some authors, typically those of web serials or oddities like me, look towards Patreon rather than sales for financial support. If you can afford it, give that a look; most authors will offer some kind of rewards and incentives. If you are interested in joining a Patreon, but do not feel enticed by the rewards or that there is a subscription amount that fits your situation, let the author know! Chances are they can tweak something or add a reward layer. Many also accept straight up donations if you are not interested in joining Patreon. I cannot speak for other authors, but personally, all funds I receive one way or the other get funnelled back into my writing by paying for commissions of maps or illustrations, paying for server bandwidth and so on.
Lastly, if you have the funds, buying books as gifts to fantasy-inclined friends is another option to support financially. For example, apart from my Patreon campaigns, I also personally sell physical copies of my books (to those who contact me directly rather than waiting for Patreon to kick in), and I have been fortunate to sell a small number of books intended for others than the buyer.
Reasonably accurate representation of me whenever I get a new patron or sponsor
Source: Actually an illustration of that one time I ordered 5 chicken nuggets, got home, and found 6 in the bag
If you have read this far, thank you for considering supporting your indie authors. The book market is changing, for better or worse. By doing the above, you are exerting your own influence upon it, and to its betterment, I believe.