There's a lot of talk out there about how to be a good writer. A lot. And writing tips are great for other writers, and they give decent insight into how a particular author works and thinks.
But what about the other end of the book? Readers arguably make 99% of the publishing process and, y'know, about 100% of the readership. In the modern world of changing business models and wide spread Internet access, what sets you apart as an all round funky reader? A reader among reader. A meta-reader, if you will.
Let's have a go.
1. Buy the book.
Legally, that is. Or get it from a library it. Or borrow it off a friend. Just don't pirate it. Don't be that guy. Don't complain about the cost before you know how much went into reading it (around a year is a good guess), editing and approving it for publication (another year) and finally distributing and selling it. It's not an author along in their room. It's agents and editors and cover designers and printers and a lot more people than you'd normally be OK complaining to about something that costs £6.99.
And what if it's a self-published ebook? Then it's a labour of love for one or two people max and you should feel even less inclined to nick it.
2. Share it.
Do you blog? Give it a shout out. Despite modern marketing and its dark power, word-of-mouth remains the most effective and most sought after way to give books great press. If you don't blog, you can still tell people. This is where being a passive reader separates from being an awesome reading advocate. You can recommend local libraries purchase books, you know. Ditto school libraries. You can buy copies and set them free with programs like BookCrossing (http://www.bookcrossing.com/), which is a fun thing to do either way.
3. Tell the author.
Do they blog? Leave a comment. Are they on Twitter? Give 'em a tweet. Will they see it? Probably. Will they respond? Maybe. Depends how busy they are writing books. But telling an author you loved what they wrote is a Good Thing and worth more to them than you might realise. And you can still write actual letters if you fancy - sent them to the publisher with the author's name and they'll get forwarded.
4. Tell the editor.
Not something a lot of people think of - but believe me, you'll make a friend. Editors work for months - sometimes years - on a book and they're just as invested as the author. The growth of Twitter especially has broken down the walls between readers and publishing professionals. Publishing companies' websites will have the information of who worked on which books. Sent them a tweet. This makes you an awesome reader like few other things.
5. Review it.
GoodReaders (http://www.goodreads.com/), Amazon.co.uk/com, Yahoo ... the number of dedicated review sites or retailers that allow public reviews is growing, and people do read them. Even if this book wasn't what you wanted, review it. Share why you didn't like it - was it sold as something it wasn't? Was their content you thought was a bit off? But stick to the content. Don't attack the author and don't be vindictive in your criticism. Just be a person.
Finally, are there things you shouldn't do? I'll say.
...leave reviews and negative feedback if you haven't read the whole book. Come on, now.
...bombard someone with multiple comments and posts and then get annoyed if you don't get insta-responses.Twitter and blogs are public, yes, but they can be treated the same way as a town hall discussion. Writers are people too and honestly, sometimes they don't have time for your nonsense.
...try to break into their life. A writer / agent / editor's personal Facebook or LinkedIn account is just that. Adding them is creepy and won't work. A public Facebook page, absolutely. Anything else? Probably not.
What's a good final rule to sum up all of this?
Read books for fun, and don't be a dick.
Seems like a pretty good motto for life, actually.
Happy reading, all.