This weekend, someone who was planning on buying Stories wrote to me on twitter asking which format - hardcover or e-reader - to buy it in. He wanted to support my writing, and so he wanted to buy the version that would benefit me most.
In my head, my reaction was "Oh, lovely twitter man! You have now said nice things about my writing twice in one day. You are already supporting me!" But what I said was, "Either!"
Look, I know why he was asking. I've seen them too - the posts that seem to be popping up with increasing regularity on how to support writers whose work you like. And I'm not completely naive: I know that royalties can and often do vary across formats. I know that when and where the book is bought can matter, in terms of best seller lists. I've given the stern "I don't care if you don't want to read the whole series until it's done - if you don't buy book one there might never be a book three" lecture to my friends. I'm not going to pretend to false modesty here: I would love to make enough money from my writing that being a writer can be my only job. I would love to be on the best seller lists. These are goals I am writing towards.
It is not the responsibility of the people who read my writing to get me there.
They don't owe me anything. I owe them. I owe them my best writing, to make them want to pick up whatever I've written and read it in the first place. I owe them stories that will make them want to keep turning pages. I owe them my gratitude, because they have given their time and their money to something I have created.
What they definitely don't owe me is some attempt to navigate some arcane hierarchy of "buy this in this format at this type of store on this date and on this date only and then review it in these places as soon as possible or omg WOE will be unto me." Buying a book shouldn't be like taking the One Ring to Mordor.
So if you want to help me?
Don't steal what I've written. Physical copy or e-version. Just don't. Thank you.
Buy the book (or the story, or the magazine, or the podcast, or whatever form things come out in) if you can afford to. In whatever format you prefer. If you can't afford to buy, check out a copy from the library. Libraries are awesome. Borrow the book from a friend.
If you really like it, tell people. Tell your friend that also likes to read what you like. Take 140 characters and tell twitter. If you really, really like it, take the time to review it on your blog, or wherever else you put stuff on the internet. Don't worry about when, or where, or how. Because what you are doing by telling people is giving me a gift, and that is a lovely thing, kind and generous. I will love you if you do any of these things. I will love you even if you don't, because you took the time to read my story. Because you saw value in something I had created, and decided it was worth your support.