You've found an author or an artist who you absolutely adore. You want to support them and express your gratitude. That's awesome! But there are ways to do it right, and ways to do it oh so wrong. I've compiled a list of dos and don'ts of connecting with an artist you love.
Buy their work! You love it...and yet you won't give them $10 for something they spent days, weeks, months perfecting? Your gratitude just comes off as suspect. Plus, how could you expect anyone to buy your work when you won't buy anyone else's? If you find yourself returning to their art again and again, then don't just verbal tip. It's not a good look.
Tell them thank you, and that you appreciate what they're doing. Give them praise. The life of solitary creation gets lonely and creators can get wrapped up in their own heads wondering if people are seeing or caring about their work.
Tell them how their art has positively affected you—BUT—don't go into the realm of extreme oversharing. Keep it positive, please.
Example of something okay to share: "Hearing your story about navigating your learning disability helped me feel validated and empowered; something I've struggled with, having a learning disability myself. What you're doing is great, please keep doing it!"
Example of something NOT okay to share: "Hearing your story about navigating PTSD really resonated with me. I also suffer from PTSD. When I was a child, my father was an abusive alcoholic who threw me down the stairs..." STOP—THIS IS UPSETTING!
Show up and show out! Seriously, one of the scariest parts of being an artist is having a book signing/reading, gallery showing, concert, play, etc. and facing the possibility that only a few (or zero) people show up! It is the worst feeling in the world to put your heart and soul into something and have no one show up to see your work. Go to their shows, their readings, and their performances.
Reach out to them with ultra personal stories just because their work is about their personal experiences. You are not friends with them. They don't know you. You wouldn't (I hope) approach a stranger on the street and start dumping your emotional trauma over your childhood abuse on them. They are a stranger! If you feel a personal connection to their work, great. But it stops there. It's upsetting to get 50 emails a week detailing graphic accounts of abuse (and yes, people do this).
Assume that supporting their art = an in, or that you'll get something in return. Again, they don't know you. Don't expect anything from them. Go in expressing your gratitude and support, and you might be surprised by the connections you end up forming.
Tell them what you would change (unless they explicitly ask that of you). It's rude. And also...the work you're consuming is a finished piece. They can't change it (unless it's a book by an indie author, but still), so saying "I think you should have done this instead" isn't helpful criticism.
Try to pawn your ideas off on them. Let them create what they want to create. If you have an idea, that's great! YOU execute it.
Ask for free stuff. You will make your favorite artist hate you if you make "jokey" comments about how they should give you a discount or free stuff for being a loyal fan. They're already underpaid!
Try to force them to be your bff. This goes with point two above. People have boundaries. If you happen to organically become friends, great! But don't support them hoping that they will befriend you. They don't owe you anything for liking them.
I hope these dos and don'ts are helpful for any of you who want to reach out to a creator you admire, but weren't sure how. Did I miss anything? Tell me below in the replies, or tweet me @estochen!