Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Encouragement Does Not Equal Support (an IWSG post)

We have a very supportive household. Mostly, it's my wife's doing. She's the one that instituted it, at any rate, but I think it all came out of a discussion we had years ago about the lack of support I had when I was growing up and the abundance of support she had. So, back then, I couldn't really see the importance of support because I'd never had it.

We'll skip over the parts where I wasn't allowed to play sports or learn a musical instrument and go straight to high school. During my junior year, I talked a buddy into learning some Abbott and Costello skits with me for some thing or other we had to do at school. Initially, it was just "Who's on First?" but, we were so good, we got asked to perform at some function or other and did that, too. Which led to other performances and learning other skits (including my favorite, "Costello's Farm"). We had quite a number of performances during our junior and senior years. And my parents didn't come to a single one.

During college, I was in a drama group and we frequently performed in the area, and my parents never came to any of those performances, either. In fact, the only performances my parents ever came to were when the youth choir at my church sang at church because, well, they were already there and, actually, they often missed those, too.

So... We, my wife and I, made an actual decision, a conscious decision, to support our kids in their endeavors. Even when it's not easy. Even when giving them a little "Break a leg!"-do-a-great-job encouragement would be so much easier. So that means we go to things. We go to lots of things. We go to softball practices and softball games. We go to accordion lessons and accordion performances. We go to choir concerts. We go to plays and musicals. We go to improv shows. We spend money on tickets to a lot of these things. We make the effort to show our kids we're there for them, supporting them (and the organizations they're with), even when we'd rather say, "Okay, that's enough. We hope you do a great job tonight, but we're staying home." And trust me, when you have a week like this one where you're only home one night of the whole week because there are performances and games every other night, it can be tempting to skip the support and just go for the easy dose of encouragement.

And that's the thing: Encouragement is easy. It's the support that's hard to do.

Encouragement is nothing more than patting someone on the back and saying "good luck." It really doesn't take anything to do. There's no real effort involved. Now, don't get me wrong; encouragement can be nice: It feels good, but, really, it's completely insubstantial. It doesn't do anything real.

Support requires an effort. To put it in another context, support is more than just wishing fellow authors "best of luck" with their releases. Support is more than just cover reveals and blog hops. Support is more than just adding someone's book to your "to read" list on goodreads.

Actual support is buying the books of your author friends. And, sure, I get that not everyone can buy every book by every person just like we don't go to every performance of the same show (but we do go to at least one performance from each show); most of us just don't have the money for that. But I make an effort to pick up at least a "book" or two a month from someone I know (even if I know that I'm not going to have time to read it soon) and, really, with so many people using the $0.99 price point, it's hard to legitimately say you can't afford it (skip one Starbucks latte a month, and you can support three or four different authors!).

Actual support is reading the books that you've picked up from your friends. This is kind of a big one for me, right now, because I've been being tired for a while now of seeing on the blogs of indie authors the constant chatter about traditionally published books like Divergent and The Hunger Games. When you're an indie author but can only ever talk about traditionally published books -- and not just books but best sellers -- it really sends a wrong message. It's an unintentional message, but it's there all the same, and that message is "only traditionally published books are worth talking about." I make an effort to always have at least one indie book that I'm reading. [In fact, I just ordered a Kindle (my first portable device) to facilitate, specifically, reading indie books, because I haven't had time lately to do that while sitting at my computer.]

Actual support is, after having read someone's indie release, leaving a review. A real review. Not just a "yea! I loved this!" (which I've actually seen left when it's apparent the person didn't read the book at all (my favorite being "I went to high school with this guy and he wrote this book. It's good. You should read it."))
Just to say it, I review every book I read. I believe in supporting the authors.

This stuff has been bothering me for a while, the fact that there is kind of this constant talk about how "supportive" the blogging community is when what it actually is is encouraging. The blogging community is great at encouragement. There's no lack of "good luck!"s to be found. But actual support has proven to be few and far between. Since this is a "support" group, I thought I'd mention that encouragement does not equal support.


  1. You hit the nail right on the head. The blogging community is encouraging at best, but rarely supportive, at least, not for indie writers. Sure, encouragement to go the indie publishing route is plenty, and comes from the own ranks, from traditionally published or hybrid authors, and sometimes from readers, but actual support is rare.

    I'm not brilliant at it either, regardless of publishing choice. I leave reviews for every book I liked, but don't leave a review if I didn't, because I just can't type "hm, well, this book basically sucks because of this & this & this mistake and because the plot is godawful". I can't. I don't know if it's a good thing or a bad one, but I suppose buying the book ought to be better on its own than leaving poor reviews that might deter others from buying (and who might actually enjoy what I didn't).

  2. Your parents were mean.
    Sorry, encouragement didn't fit on the badge. And if we changed the name, it would mess up people like Gary.
    I think support is also spreading the news about others' books.
    I remember reading on some top marketing person's site that the number one thing a person can do to support an author, above all else, is buy the book. While I am the slowest reader in the world, I can at least do that much, and I usually buy a dozen or so a month. And it's a mix, as I've found just as many good self-published books as traditionally published books.

  3. You did what I did, Andrew. You parented the opposite of what my mom did. Glad you rose above it so your kids could benefit from what you learned.

    To Veronica's point, I have a problem buying books, reading them and if it's not my niche, I don't review them with a mediocre review. I'd rather not review them at all. I recently reviewed a short story that was simply too short. I stated I felt that way but that's about as "harsh" as I get. I know everyone's taste in books is different but I don't want my review to hurt the author's sales.

    Some people have a way with words that are much better than mine. They can say a book isn't their cup of tea without being a turnoff to a potential reader. I don't want to be that person that causes an author a sale. I'd rather buy a book, read it, review it if I like or remain silent if I don't.

    Then, there's always the fact that it takes me three or four months to read a book.

    co-host IWSG

  4. I do buy books but not too many because I really can't afford it. My pension goes up $2 and my rent goes up $20. I end up getting a lot of free Kindle books and using my library. I have written the odd review on Kindle but I am not very good at it but I don't say this is my friend or anything.

    What a rotten bunch you parents were. Mine always came to school plays or sports days. It really doesn't take that much effort for them to do although these days kids do so much it must really be difficult.

  5. Putting your money where your mouth is is a good idea.

  6. Very good point.

    Too bad about your situation growing up. It's good that you're giving your own kids what you didn't receive. I've always gotten a lot of support and encouragement from my family as well as friends. It's comforting for sure.

    I agree about the purchasing books as support. Since going into "forced" retirement 5 years ago money has become so tight that I don't buy anything. When I was working I bought plenty of books, but that was also before I started blogging in a community of authors who had books they wanted to sell. If I were still working at my last job I doubt whether I'd have the time for blogging. I still haven't read a lot of the books that I bought years ago in my working days.

    I do try to be supportive by giving reviews when someone sends me a book to read or I download a free book, but again I'm still not reading as much as I like to be able to read.

    Which reminds me, I still owe you a review that I had mentioned some time ago. Hopefully I'll be getting to doing reviews again soon. I really slacked off on Amazon. I haven't done anything there since before Christmas I believe.

    But yeah, the encouragement is nice to get, the support is more genuine. An author can't pay bills with his ego alone.

    An A to Z Co-Host
    Tossing It Out

  7. I had a home environment close to yours - neither encouragement nor support. As a consequence, I go out of my way to encourage my family, friends, and acquaintances. As for "support," since Egypt has no Paypal and Amazon won't even allow downloading free books to Africa, I enter giveaways or accepts ARCs and review them. But after doing that for the past year, I've realized it's such a time suck, and I'm so far behind on my own writing, I'm going to have to step back a bit. Encouragement will have to be enough...

  8. You're right, as you usually are.

    I think the appeal of traditionally published books is like indie movies versus blockbusters; sometimes they really ARE good books, and we hear about them more than we hear about indie books, so we tend to read them more than indie books. I don't see that there's much wrong with that. I like indie movies, but I still see more mainstream Hollywood stuff than independent short films.

    More important is that people should really, really, promote indie authors. Even if buying books is expensive -- I have a book budget, and I don't like to have too many books in the waiting pile -- you can support authors in other ways: mentioning their book is good, of course, and you do a lot of mentions of others.

    Reviewing their book is a MUST. A lot of sites I'd like to promote my book on require 10 reviews or more. I see people reviewing a book on a blog but they don't copy that review to Amazon, and that's a really simple thing to do.

    But overall, I think what you're seeing is what I started noticing: authors reading your blog don't help your sales. They're too busy helping their own sales.

    You know what I think might work best and be most supportive? The thing you started, where you put another author's story into your book, too. I liked that for Temporary Anne, and I'm going to do it for my next book, too.

  9. I also had not very supportive parents as well. Sadly it wasn't that they didn't support anyone it was that they didn't support me because they didn't like my choice and love of writing and drama. I believe they thought they could drag it out of me or that it was a phase. It wasn't and while I wish I had more supportive parents, encouragement from my friends did help as well as support from others even total strangers. Congrats on you and your wife supporting your kids. Trust me, it's appreciated and never forgotten.

  10. I hear you Andrew, and your point is totally valid. (And wow, your parents really let you down...glad that you're not letting that affect your parenting - I hear you about being gone all those nights in a row...I only have one of my kids who's a doer, and that keeps us busy enough)
    I've bought over a 100 books to support author friends. I still have that many to read. My problem is that "reading time" rarely happens. I'm so busy running around trying to keep blogging and writing and running events that taking the time for the "luxury" of indulging in just reading for pleasure isn't something I allow myself very often.

    This post has changed my perspective now, though. I can now assign that time, "Support author friends" rather than "Goof off and just read for fun" and then in my twisted, type A, gotta keep the to-do list going, I'll feel better. Not that it should take making ME feel better to help out those I truly care for.

    Thanks for the wake-up call.
    Tina @ Life is Good
    On the Open Road! @ Join us for the 4th Annual Post-Challenge Road Trip!

  11. I'm sorry about your rough situation growing up. I had a supportive childhood, and I try to do the same for my children. It's actually because of those children that it takes me so long to read books.

    Most of what I've read lately has been indie.

    A good story is a good story to me, so I won't discriminate against one for the sake of the other.

  12. I didn't get much (if any) support or encouragement when I was a child, teen, or young adult. So when I started to get both before and after publishing my debut, it shocked me.

    I do encourage every blogger and author I know, and I try to support them in anyway I can even if that means hosting them on my blog to spread the word about their book. I also pick up their books when I can, but it's hard for me since I can truthfully say I normally can't afford even the cheapest price of 99 cents. I try to review their books as quickly as I can, except my TBR list just keeps growing. I'm currently trying to play catch up.

  13. Support is important, but you shouldn't downsell the importance of heartfelt encouragement. Sometimes, having someone say "I believe in you" can mean the world. But yes, you need support to grow, and I think this is an important message for people to read.

  14. Veronica: I've talked plenty about my views on reviews and leaving them even if they're bad, so I won't go into that here. Even if you don't leave reviews, though, buying the book is a great way to show support.

    Alex C: I agree with the buying the book part. That's why I have so many. I'm sure at least some of them I will never read.

    Elsie: Okay, so here's the thing about leaving the review, even a mediocre of bad review: People can see that people are reading the book that way. People are more likely to buy a book with one negative review (as long as it's a review and tells why the person didn't like the book and isn't just a "this sucked!") than no reviews.

    Jo: It's pretty difficult when there's something every night. It's especially difficult when more than one kid has something at the same time.

    Pat: Exactly!

    Lee: Trust me; I completely understand on the money issue. That's why I only buy a couple a month. We do what we can, which is the important thing. Of course, that only works if you are doing what you can, so I never talk about how other people should do something that I'm not actually doing.

    And, hey, any review is always appreciated!

    Lexa: It's true; reading and reviewing eats up a lot of time, which is why I have not been doing much computer reading, lately. And also why I'm finally getting a Kindle. I do MUCH more reading when I'm a way from home than any other time.

    Briane: I do like that thing I'm doing. I really hope it proves to be a benefit. I also like that you're doing it, too.

  15. I actually feel a little guilty when I win books from people. I obviously can't buy everyone's books when I'm friends with probably a hundred writers, but I buy what I can. I believe in encouragement too. Never had much of that growing up, so a positive word can fuel me for a week. :)

  16. I do buy books by author friends, and I try to read them.

    I rarely leave reviews, because in some cases I'm scared of giving offense by writing my true opinion.

    I do make sure I host my author friends on my blog, tweet out their books and share them on other social media.

    I need to do more, however.

  17. Sheena: Well, I'm not sure it's appreciated, yet, but I'm hoping that one day it will be.

    Tina: Hey, I get that entirely. I've been trying to assign myself reading as a task for a while, but I've been so behind on stuff, I never get to it. The e-reading, that is, which I have to do -at- my computer. And is why I finally ordered a Kindle.

    Loni: I know how kids affect reading. Oh, yes, I do.

    Karen: That is a great way to support the people that you know and want to support!

    Chrys: I really do understand not being able to afford $0.99. That's when reviewing the books you can pick up for free becomes important.

    Jeanne: It's true; having someone say "I believe in you" can be important; however, "I believe in you" followed by an unsaid "but I'm not buying your book" undermines the words.

    L.G.: I actively avoid a lot of the contests to win free books, because I'd rather just buy the book if I'm wanting to support the author.

    D Biswas: I do understand about the fear of offending the author, and I've written about that stuff before so won't go into most of it, BUT
    1. If an author is going to do something like get all offended at you and unfriend you (which has happened to me) over an honest review, the problem, there, is with the author.
    2. It's better for the indie community at large for honest reviews to be out there.

  18. I buy a lot more books than I know I can read/review. I hope the purchase itself is support enough sometimes.

  19. I tend to be more like Veronica/Elsie: "I suppose buying the book ought to be better on its own than leaving poor reviews that might deter others from buying (and who might actually enjoy what I didn't)." But I read your response and saw that a not-so-nice review at least indicates that the book was read. Sigh. I need to make more time for this, but I've got a big list of things I need to make more time for. I've bought indies for the Kindle my mom got me, especially from bloggers I know, but the Kindle has turned somewhat into a reading-game tool for my 5-year-old and the past year has been tough in terms of extra reading time. I've only managed to do one blog post about an indie book I loved (Robert Kent's All Together Now). And I've had a bunch of assigned books that I'm supposed to read/support, and those have taken the precedence over my personal reading choices at times. Ah, excuses, I'm full of them, aren't I? Like you, I have a backlog of novels sitting there that I simply haven't read yet. I've bought them, so I tell myself that's at least something. But maybe that's not really supportive at all without the follow-through. Darn it.

    On a more personal note, I'm so sorry you didn't get the support you needed/deserved during childhood and adolescence. That's just not fair, and I'm so glad to see you're breaking the cycle with your own kids. I hear you on the event circuit, though. We're full-up over hear as well.

  20. My parents would have gotten along great with yours. They didn't want to read anything I wrote and they didn't go to anything either. I've tried to be a much more supportive parent to my kids.

    And on the note of trying...I do need to be better about leaving reviews. Thanks for the nudge.

  21. Forgot to say: congrats on the Kindle. It will change your life forever! In a good way. Besides, where would I put all 100+ of those books I've bought from author friends? House already cluttered...traveling with my entire library at my disposal is a very convenient thing.
    Tina @ Life is Good
    On the Open Road! @ Join us for the 4th Annual Post-Challenge Road Trip!

  22. There's no lack of opportunities to support other indies. I've also been making a point to support the indie artists/musicians I know, and folks putting their labor and love into crafts (jewelry, cross-stitching, etc) on Etsy. It's a brave new world for more than just the writers. :)

  23. Donna: A purchase is a great thing and is a lot more meaningful than just a "good luck!"

    Jessica: Time is always the issue with this kind of thing, and the things that don't have to be done "right now!" are always the things that get pushed aside.

    Jean: As far as writing went, I actually didn't want my parents reading anything I wrote. But that's another story.

    Tina: We'll see how it goes. It's not here, yet.

    J.R.: There are some artists I would like to support; unfortunately, art is pretty much outside of my price range, at the moment.

  24. You're right, support is hard. But if I had a choice by doing a review or offering feedback in a beta read, I'd pick beta read. At least then the writer can take action. (If they want to)

    And doing a review is fine until the trolls find out your friends with the author. Then a higher deity is the only thing that will save you.

    I've been to Goodreads and watched as perfectly good authors dropped their pens giving up their dreams because it looked like a selling gimmick instead of an honest opinion.

    Watch your back out there. :-)

    Anna from Shout with Emaginette

  25. emaginette: Trolls will be trolls and will find anything to be a troll about.
    What I'm talking about with reviews is actual reviews where the reviewer talks about the book so that it can be seen that s/he read it. Not the kind of friend review that is a rating and an "I loved this! Everyone should read it!"

  26. Andrew, I linked to this post on my other blog, http://damyantiwrites.wordpress.com and it is beginning to generate a discussion. Would you like to take part?

  27. Another great post. I'm sorry about your upbringing. I can't tell you how hard it was for me to accept the fact that my parents didn't come to my graduation at UC Berkeley because 'something in the air wasn't right'. It meant that NONE of my family was allowed to go. My GF flew down from Canada to see me walk the stage, but... yeah.

    I agree completely about the support thing. Sometimes, I buy books I have no intention of reading (because they aren't a genre I enjoy), purely because I want to support my friends... but yeah.

  28. D Biswas: It's interesting how different the comments were there than here.

    Alex H: I didn't even bother to walk for my graduation, because there wasn't a point. No one was going to come see. I didn't know you graduated from Berkeley (or I forgot), so did my wife.