Rob likes to complain that I am a hard person to buy presents for--and he's right. I just don't want a lot of stuff--and the things I do want, I have to earn myself: a book contract with a big publisher, an agent, for Infinite Space, Infinite God to sell out. No one can give those to me. There are a few things, however, that could help me achieve those goals.
I think they might work for other writers, too, so here's my version of a Writer's Wish List. (And guess what? Most of them don't need dusting or have complex instructions written by someone with limited command of English! What could be better?)
--Buy ad space for the person's book in a magazine, convention magazine, fanzine or on-line venue that caters to their readership. (You may need to get the person's help in making the ad, but it's still a great gift!) Ads can run anywhere from $20 to $2000, depending on the venue. Sometimes more expensive is not better, either.
--One of the many guides to agents or publishers out there is always a good gift, but better yet--look up a half-dozen leads yourself and give your author the website link and requirements. One of the hardest things for me is researching the agents or markets. If you've read your author's rough draft or heard the story often enough, you might be able to point them in the right direction.
--Hire the services of a good editor. Every manuscript can use a good polish by someone with a keen eye and experience. Caution: make sure the editor is reputable (have they edited books that went on to sell with traditional publishers?) and make sure your writer will consider this a help and not an insult.
--Membership in a writer's association: You may have to ask your writer friend about this one, to find out which one he likes or qualifies for. Again, these can be very cheap (The Catholic Writer's Guild is only $24 a year) or up into the hundreds.
--A domain name. There are several places that let you create websites for free, but it's always better to have your own domain name. This can be as simple as authorname.com
--A conference. Offer to pay their fee to a writer's conference. Again, these can vary greatly, and of course, there is the expense of travel, hotel, food, etc., but it can be done.
--Set up a book signing. If your author has a book out and is nearby, offer to do the legwork to arrange a booksigning for them. It's really not hard--call the store, get them to agree and order some books, and show up with pen in hand and a notebook for taking names to start a fan list. If it's a stay-home parent, offer to watch the kids for 3 hours so they can do this.
--Arrange a Virtual Book Tour for them. Go to my Virtual Book Tour Primer for more information.
--Offer your services. Authors need to do more than just write stories. They need to research, contact editors, send out queries, track expenses, keep files, compile lists of contacts, fans, bookstores, markets, etc. If you are the organizational type, offer to take some of those piles of papers, post-it notes and typo-filled e-mails to oneself and put them in a database or file or whatever form your author can use. (Come to my house first, and I'll show you what I mean! Really, no charge!)
So if your author has enough pens, notebooks, writing manuals, and programs, consider one of these ideas. You'll do more than make their season bright--you'll help them make their career brighter.