Please note: The Writing Life Blog is taking a few weeks off and will return to twice weekly updates on Tuesday, July 14th. Why? Novel deadline...
If you're in a book club, suggest a friend's book that you know and/or organize a "meet the author" event with several book clubs and have the author Skype in or meet folks in person. Keep in mind that this is often "unpaid work" the author offers, so make the time worthwhile by having a good crowd, offering a meal, preparing the group with background on the author, or tapping into the group members' skill sets (ex. if someone in the book club works for a newspaper, see if they can get the author's book reviewed or listed in an article somehow). This takes time and if you're in a book club but pressed for time, there's still one simple thing you can do: remind each member of your book club to write Amazon and Goodreads reviews of the work. This helps tremendously!
If you buy used books, especially via Amazon, then consider that you can balance the karmic scales (buying books is good, and Amazon is practical, but authors get no money from used book sales) by writing a review of the book on Amazon and Goodreads in the very least. This helps "pay it forward" in more ways than you can imagine.
Share what you are reading with others in clever ways, such as posting a fave sentence as a status update on Facebook, using the "I just bought this book" icon when you make online purchases (which often links your activity purchase to your social media accounts, spreading the word), or Tweeting "at" the author with a thanks or a fan note. This can make someone's day, expose the author to an audience she or she may otherwise never have reached, and--above all else--uplift the "social media chatter" from pet pics and complains to something more inspiring, such as a beautiful sentence from a character.
Read the book in public places, with the cover visible and a smile of literary satisfaction painted across your face. :-)
Buy books as gifts and buy from multiple places. Not everyone can afford first edition hardbacks in new condition, and that's fine. But when you do purchase, review those books and vary where you make purchases--some online, some from indy booksellers, and some from the author him/herself if that is also an option. If you already have a copy of your fave book and you see the author at an event, so what? Buy another copy. Chances are good that within the next few months, you'll find a holiday or occasion to give this book to someone as a gift and brighten their day.
Ask for the book at your local library, even just by calling them on the phone and asking them if they can get it in stock so you can check it out. Whether or not you end up actually checking it out is beside the point (because hopefully you already have your own copy), but just know that if every library in the country stocked 1 copy of an author's book, that book would be listed as a "bestseller." No joke.
Attend events for free and bring a friend or date with you, when possible. These events are hard on authors. They're delightful and helpful, too, but they're unpaid work and writers are often spending money out-of-pocket just to get to an event. Even if you can't afford to buy a copy of the book, you can be a warm body in the room, you can ask 1 question, and you can bring a friend. All of this is free, enjoyable, and absolutely in the spirit of literary citizenship.
All that being said, check out this counterpoint to the literary citizenship model, which looks at the origin of the need in the first place.