Got Books?

How many books do you have on your night table? On your bookshelf? Chances are pretty good that the total is more than 20.  Did you know that in the middle ages people used to travel for days to a library with a major holding of 20 books?

It’s crazy to think of that, but back when the monks did the “publishing” it took one monk 20 years to create one Bible.  If you think about each book taking that long, well, you can understand how exciting 20 different books in one location could be.

Yesterday I had the pleasure of presenting yet another one of my girl scout  “So What’s the Story?” workshops to a group of teens.  This time our group met in Hellertown, PA and had 79 participants. I shared the history of the book, my massive pile of rejection letters, and read from my novel WHAT I MEANT… And at the end of it all I signed copies of my novel for each girl that was there.  But, most importantly, each girl there also donated books from their own collections and together we designed inspirational bookmarks that would go in those volumes.

And the really great thing about all this is that now I get to give those books to my local shelters!  Through these workshops over the past 2 years, the teens I’ve met with and I have probably put more than 2,000 books in the hands of children who are homeless.  The gratitude I’ve gotten from the shelters is phenomenal, and I’ve been told that for many of these kids, these books have been the only ones they have ever owned.

I can’t think of a more simple way to help someone, and I’m so touched that our book drives have continued to make such a difference to children and teens throughout our area.  So I’m putting out this challenge to everyone in cyberspace.  Got books, whether for adults or kids?  Ones you’ve outgrown or that you don’t plan on rereading?  Then why not donate them to your own local shelters?  Google the shelters in your area and find out what their hours are for donations, and then you too can pass on the knowledge and joy and hope that every book can represent.

Next week I’m looking forward to visiting Frankford High School in Philadelphia with fellow authors Jonathan Maberry, Solomon Jones, Don Lafferty and Keith Strunk.  We’ll be chatting with students and also bringing the school district a tremendous stash of donated books from ourselves and from our fellow authors in The Liars Club. It’s a part of the school district’s Read for your Life literacy drive, and it creates yet another opportunity for you…if you live in the Philadelphia area, you too can donate books to these needy classrooms.  Check out this link for what they’re looking for and where to send your books.

Right now I’m looking at boxes and boxes of donated books filling my family room. Picture books and early readers and novels and non-fiction. Beautiful titles. And I know that by the end of this week, scores of kids who really need them will have these books in their own hands to treasure.

I can’t imagine having a library with only 20 books.  And I certainly never want to think of what it’d be like to never own a book of my own.  So spread the joy, folks, donate your books, and because of YOU  many other people will be proud book owners too.

My One Marketing Tip

On the Liars Club site, a series of answers to burning questions about writing and publishing continues today with Burning Question #2: What one marketing tip would you share with a new author? Each day, a different Liar will offer a response.  I’m cross-posting here, but check out http:liarsclubphilly.com daily for all the author’s responses!  Here’s my answer:

Workshops. Invent and do workshops. That’s my big red-hot tip.

See, folks just don’t come out to signings at bookstores like they used to. They’re busy. They forget. They have to make a lasagna. Whatever. And there are several gajillion books coming out every second, so you need a way to stand out, and to get folks away from their lasagna to you for at least a while.

My first novel WHAT I MEANT… is for the teen market.  Picture book and middle reader authors have it easier, because elementary schools have the bucks to bring authors in to speak and to sell.  Those folks can get anywhere from $500 to a few grand to spend an afternoon with the kids, and the PTA foots the bill, and the parents send in checks to pay for the books, and it’s all good. But when you’re a YA author? Not so much. Middle schools and high schools usually don’t budget for appearances. Authors of adult fiction and non-fiction face the same dilemma.

Which brings me back to workshops.  I knew my market: teens.  And I knew that teens were notoriously busy.  And that they have all these crazy obligations with school, and trying to impress colleges and whatnot. So I needed to find a way to fit into their lives. To give them something they could use and enjoy…plus sell my books too.

Since I’m also a Girl Scout leader, I knew that teen scouts need to earn a certain number of badges for their Silver and their Gold awards. I also knew that these badges could take several months to complete. And there’s this reading badge. Hm…

So I’ve developed my So What’s the Story? workshop that earns scouts the badge in just 2 hours. I made sure it was fun and interesting, and that I’d give participants a taste of my book through a series of mini readings that corresponded with activities we had to do. Each scout gets a copy of my novel, and at the end, I sign them.  It’s been a huge hit, and sometimes I get writer’s cramp from signing as many as 100 books at a shot! To date, I’ve easily sold over 1,000 books this way, and I’ve also cultivated relationships with over 1,000 teen readers.

I encourage any author to think hard about the audience of his or her book. And what does that audience NEED?  Sometimes entertainment is what your audience craves.  If you write memoirs, can you teach senior citizens how to write their own? Is your heroine a huge pasta fan? How about a cooking lesson/book reading package, with your book included in the package price?  Be inventive and creative.

Sometimes your audience needs to fulfill certain requirements.  Have an inspiring story? Corporations hire motivational speakers. Have an unusual skill that is highlighted in your writing? Different associations require continuing education credits from professionals in order for them to keep their licenses. Even Landscape Architects must do this. Teachers too.  Can you find out the requirements of these continuing ed credits, and work with an association to meet their needs through your specially tailored workshop? And can you include a copy of your book in the fee?

Of course you can!  Your audience gets what they need. You sell your books.

Win-win all around.