30 Books for 30 Years

Tuesday, October 11, 2016
Chet Gecko at Family Reading Festival
Recently I read an article about awe. Awe...that oversized emotion we feel when we meet something amazing, something unexplainable, something so unexpected it leaves us speechless. For the past two weeks I have been living in a state of awe. Awe introduced to me by writers.

It all started with my day job at a local newspaper. Our newspaper's coverage area is dozens of small towns. The nearest bookstore is in the next county -- 45 miles away. Shrinking school and library budgets have made author visits as rare as Yeti sightings. So each November the newspaper organizes Family Reading Festival to promote reading with our local students. Basically, we take over the shopping mall for a day of author readings, book signings, crafts and activity sheets, giveaways, even a book character come to life...anything that has to do with literacy.  Authors, schools and local children's organizations join together to make this chaotic, exciting and enriching day possible.

This year is the 30th annual Family Reading Festival and I started thinking that it would be great to do something special -- give away 30 books. With my boss's OK, I decided to try for 30 book donations. I started by mining my contact list for children's writers and publishers that I had come in contact with through WOW, my writer's group, writer's conferences, blogging and reviewing books. I worried that people wouldn't remember me, would think this small event not worth the expense of a book or just not have time.

I was wrong. Not only have the authors I contacted responded generously they have also contacted fellow writers and told them about the event. Each day at work a new package arrives for me. The 30 books for 30 years giveaway is becoming a reality.

Initially, I felt guilty that the contributing authors weren't getting enough "bang for their buck (or book)". After all, only 300+ families attend Family Reading Festival. But then I began seeing what they are truly getting as a thank you for their generosity. In addition to their book being displayed at the festival, there will be newspaper ads mentioning them, a page added to our website thanking them for their donation, emails to local schools telling them about the giveaways, posts on the newspaper's book blog as well as mentions on their social media.

Perhaps it is because we are so small that we are making such a big splash for these authors. So when you are deciding where to promote your book don't overlook smaller events. Instead of being lost in a crowd of many donations you will be remembered -- both by those planning and those attending that small event.

Authors, how do you decide where to donate books? Do you think small events are as helpful as larger events?

Jodi M. Webb is writer living in Pennsylvania who also is a WOW blog tour manager. When she isn't begging children's authors to donate books to Family Reading Festival, you can find her blogging about books at Building Bookshelves


Sioux Roslawski said...

Jodi--I think you have to think with a microscope instead of a telescope. Think of one person who might enjoy your donated book. Your donation matters to that one person...

I tend to donate books formally when an event invites me to an event. I've also given away books to my (college) students.

I'm glad your small but mighty event is doing well. (And 300+ families is impressive, in my opinion.)

Jennifer Delozier said...

As a fellow Pennsylvanian, I think your festival sounds awesome. It likely benefits the malls as well, since many of them, such as my local Nittany Mall, are not doing so well these days. As a new author, I never turn down anything unless I can't get away from my day job to participate. I've done a spelling bee for charity through out Mid-State Literacy Council, talks at book clubs and tiny, rural libraries, and a lecture at PSU. I donate books all the time, and it has never backfired on me except for 1 radio station who wanted a copy and then never followed up to schedule a show or giveaway (despite prompting!) Big, small - there's no such thing as bad publicity, right? Besides, it's FUN!

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