5 Ways to Support Books and Authors During the Coronavirus

The book business needs your help

First things first

For the month of April (at least) I’m donating 50% of revenue from subscriptions to Lo & Behold to nonprofits that support the book industry: half will go to the Book Industry Charitable Foundation to support booksellers, and half to the Authors League Fund to support authors. You can subscribe for $5/month or $50/year, or give a gift subscription.

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I was planning a different subject for today’s newsletter, but yesterday I decided I needed to do something else: I need to do something. If you’re anything like me, you probably feel this way too.

My life’s work is writing. My corner of the world is the book industry. And frankly, I’m worried about it. The book business has always operated on razor-thin margins, and the economic disaster that’s striking now is going to have dire consequences for all of us in it—from authors to publishers to booksellers to libraries.

Books aren’t ventilators or PPE. Authors and booksellers aren’t doctors and nurses. But the art of storytelling is still vital for humanity. Novels, poems, memoirs, poetry, essays—written art reveals the human condition in wonderfully intimate ways. You can still hear Emily Dickinson in your head when you read her poems. You can listen to Jane Austen speak across the centuries when you open one of her novels. When you read one of my books, that’s my voice in your ear, telling you a story I’ve spent years working on. Stories are entertainment, yes, but they’re also connection and empathy, and the longer we practice social distancing, the more it becomes clear that connection and empathy are essential.

So this issue of Lo & Behold is about how we can support the book industry during this difficult time. There are a ton of ideas and lists and resources available online—so many that they can become overwhelming. That’s why I’m keeping it simple with five ways you can support books and authors during the coronavirus pandemic.

1. Buy books online at independent bookstores.

If you’re able to buy books, order them online or over the phone from independent bookstores. Although many have had to close, many are also still open online and are shipping books to your home for free or at a substantial discount. Buying gift cards are great too, because they’re like an interest-free loan given directly to the bookstore. To find an indie bookstore to order from, use this list of open bookstores compiled by book maven Kate Welsh.

2. If you listen to audiobooks, buy them from Libro.fm.

Libro.fm is essentially an Audible alternative, and every time you buy an audiobook from Libro, they give a portion of the proceeds to your local independent bookstore. They offer subscription plans, or you can buy audiobooks one at a time.

3. Consider shopping at Bookshop.org.

Bookshop.org is a brand-new alternative to Amazon that supports independent bookstores; a portion of every book purchase goes to indies. They ship directly to your house and often offer print books at a discount. Many indie bookstores have storefronts on Bookshop, and you can search for a local bookstore using their Find a Bookstore page. Or, you can just use Bookshop like Amazon and search for the book you want and order it.

I also have an affiliate store on Bookshop where you can find my books as well as my recommended reads (YA and adult books I’ve loved with lesbian, bi, and/or queer female main characters). Full disclosure: If you shop from my Bookshop page, I will get a 10% commission, and indie bookstores will also get 10%.

4. If you read ebooks, please continue to buy them!

Authors receive royalties from ebook sales, so if you read ebooks, please do buy them. I personally use Apple Books (formerly iBooks) to buy my ebooks, but you can also use Kobo or Google Play, and Bookshop is starting to sell some ebooks as well. While Amazon is not my book retailer of choice, buying a Kindle ebook (or an Audible audiobook) still helps authors, who will undoubtedly see massive slumps in sales (and income) due to bookstore closures.

However, please beware of book piracy masquerading as coronavirus-related “emergency” access to ebooks. Recently, the Internet Archive launched a “National Emergency Library” of ebooks in the wake of the coronavirus, but although IA is the source of the legitimate Wayback Machine (a digital archive of the entire internet), its “National Emergency Library” is simply book piracy. Read this NPR article for details.

Ebooks are great, and I read them too, but make sure to get them legally either by buying them or checking them out from your public library (see #5). Book piracy steals money from authors, publishers, and booksellers, and will only make this economic disaster worse.

5. Check out ebooks and audiobooks from your public library without leaving home.

You don’t need to spend money to support books and authors! Did you know your public library probably offers ebooks and audiobooks that you can download at home onto your phone, tablet, or ereader? Even though library buildings are closed in many places, they’re still open online. Bonus: the more demand there is for ebooks and audiobooks, the more copies libraries will buy.

If you’ve never checked out an ebook from your library before but you already have a library card, go to the library’s website and search for their instructions on checking out ebooks. You’ll probably need to download an app like Libby, Hoopla, or OverDrive and set it up with your library card. If you don’t have a library card, go to your library’s website anyway, because often you can get a digital library card without going to the library in person.


One More Way to Support Books and Authors

As I mentioned at the top, for the month of April (at least—I’ll revisit in May) I’m donating 50% of my revenue from subscriptions to Lo & Behold to nonprofits that support the book industry: half will go to the Book Industry Charitable Foundation to support booksellers, and half to the Authors League Fund to support authors. You can subscribe for $5/month (you can cancel after the subscription fee goes through if you wish—totally fine!) or $50/year. You can also give a gift subscription.

Give a gift subscription

Thank you for reading my newsletter, my books, and for reading, period. Take care of yourselves.


My Writing Diary

For the last two weeks I’ve been struggling to get my writing groove back. Being creative in a pandemic is hard, so I’ve been easing myself in by doing something related that I love: research! And as of this morning, I’ve instituted a new schedule for myself: no social media before noon. I really hope it starts paying off. More soon …


Malinda Lo is the critically acclaimed author of several young adult novels, including Ash, a lesbian retelling of Cinderella. Find out more at her website or follow her on twitter or instagram.