So, yes, I'm talking to YOU.
Let me assure you it's not as costly as you think. We don't need diamond-studded pens, journals of parchment vellum with genuine giraffe leather covers, and we really don't need a secluded cabin in the Rockies with pristine meadows and lakes around it, a well-stocked wine cellar, and a hot-tub (it would be nice, but we really don't NEED it.)
What we really need to keep us happy is the following (in no particular order):
1) Read our books. How simple is that? And yet, it means so much to know that someone actually reads the work on which we spent so much time and effort. If you want to send us into ecstasy, mention something about the book to us. Example: I was talking to a friend at work about an upcoming book event and how I had planned to serve pinon coffee (the protagonist's favorite kind of coffee) at the event. She lit up and said, "You should also serve banana bread and blueberry muffins, just like the sheriff makes in the book!" You should have seen ME light up!
2) Read our blogs. And tell us you do. Same friend mentioned that she follows my blog (yes, I know she's reading this!) and I was stunned and flattered. When you take the time to put down your thoughts and then post them up, there's always a twinge of "Is anyone reading this? Does anyone care?" I've said it before, writers can be some of the most insecure people in the world. So if you do follow your favorite writer's blog, let them know that their words and thoughts aren't merely floating around in cyberspace waiting for someone to notice them. Comment or tell them in person.
3) Attend their book-related events. Short of manuscript rejection, a writer fears nothing more than the possibility of hosting a book talk or signing to which no one shows up. I attended one last week and it was quite well-attended, for which I'm sure the writer (who traveled 200 miles to get there) was most appreciative. Even if you don't buy the book, being there and keeping us from talking to empty chairs means a lot. And you might get free coffee and banana bread, too!
My writers' group at my first book signing... and they didn't even get banana bread!
4) Understand that writing IS a job. If a friend who is a writer says they can't go to lunch or a movie or shopping because they have a deadline or they need to spend a few hours on their manuscript, don't take it personally. It's not a rejection of YOU. If you had to turn down a lunch date because you had to work, you would expect people to understand that. Well, to a writer, especially one under contract, especially one who is on a deadline, time is something that is in precious short supply. Believe me, I'd love to be able to take off on one of my days off and just have a fun day out, complete with lunch and a movie or shopping, but sometimes the work must come first. And a guilt trip doesn't help. I'm fortunate to have a spouse and friends who understand that!
5) Buy the book. Like the first item on the list, this one sounds easy. And knowing we have readers who like our work really is worth more to us than money. However, the hard, ugly truth is this: without book sales, there won't be other books. Publishing is a business. The business is not just to print books, but to sell those books. And if the books aren't selling, the publisher will not ask the writer to keep writing. So if you really, REALLY like the writer's work, make your Christmas shopping easy and buy your friends a book. Make it one of a kind and get it signed by the author (most will do this if you mail them the book with return postage.) And then next year, you can get them the next book in the series!