Patronage: the support, encouragement, privilege, or financial aid that an organization or individual bestows to another. (Or, as Samuel Johnson put it less helpfully: “one who looks with unconcern on a man struggling for life in the water, and, when he has reached ground, encumbers him with help.”)
The Statute of Anne, 1710, (the first real copyright act) begins, “Whereas Printers, Booksellers, and other Persons, have of late frequently taken the Liberty of Printing… Books, and other Writings, without the Consent of the Authors… to their very great Detriment, and too often to the Ruin of them and their Families.” A lament that might have been written yesterday about the thorny issue of piracy – albeit in less flowery terms.
Prior to the invention of copyright, the wealthy were the patrons of authors. In return for having a book dedicated to them, a character named after them, or a story-line written that supported their political leanings, that they would hand over cash. Sometimes large sums of it.
But ALL readers have the opportunity to play a role – and a crucial one at that – in supporting the careers of their favourite writers.
It is THIS simple: if you enjoy something you read, tell your friends, your family and colleagues – hell, tell the woman standing in the queue next to you at the bus stop. Write a review on Amazon, Goodreads or your site of choice. Blog about it. Or, if you don’t have much time on your hands, tweet about it or post something on Facebook. (I recently tweeted, ‘Currently reading’ with the name of the book and had more retweets than anything I had put a lot of thought into.) Spread the word. In whatever way you can.