Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Philanthropy for authors

Do you give?  I mean as part of your author platform? Is philanthropy - that is, giving back, a key component to your book promotion strategy?

If not, you might want to rethink it. Not only because helping others is inherently powerful and feels really good, though those are reasons enough. Not only because when you give, you open doors for others to give - you create a kind of ripple effect by example, making the world, in one tiny way, a more caring place, though those are reasons enough too.  Not only because, when you use your business to do good works in the world you create a sense of achievement and inner satisfaction that even great sales can't provide - a sense of your work actually meaning something in the broader context of the world, though once more, that alone would be reason enough.  You should also include philanthropy in your platform because it's good for your business.

Here are a few reasons why philanthropy will help you sell more books:
  • Because your platform will have grown from just selling books to supporting a charity or cause, you will increase your visibility. If you pick a charity that has some connection with the theme of your writing, you can make use of the charity to promote your work. Take a photo with them as you hand over a large, mocked-up check (followed of course by a real one) and use it in your promotions.  Provide them with free material (books, bookmarks, handouts) which will further expose your work.  Get out there and be seen supporting the charity.  You will become known for being a good person (which you will be!) and can take advantage of that by creating positive press.
  • It will differentiate you from your non-charitable competitors - some people call this "cause-marketing". According to Inc magazine, some 79% of Americans will switch to your brand if you are associated with a good cause. You can read that as buying your book over a similar book that isn't allied with a cause. If your good works stimulate your competitors to jump on the philanthropy bandwagon, then you've done double-good. Don't hestiate to take the credit for doing it first!  
  • Depending on the charity you choose to support, you're also helping to create a future market by supporting your community, literacy, the world.  If you support literacy for example, as I do, you're creating a world of readers who may ultimate form your book buying public. You're growing a more literate world.  That's the world into which you market.
So how do you do it?  Easy, just find a charity that aligns with your upcoming (or already out) books, and give them a porportion of sales.  Or hold an event for them.  Or volunteer your time.  Or donate books. Or donate to your fellow author's charity of choice (see below for mine :-). It really couldn't be simpler, and you may find, as I have, that once you begin, it's kind of addictive. The giving process releases endorphins that make you feel good and it becomes easier and easier to share your bounty (however small) with others. The more you share, the more that seems to come back to you, thereby creating more wealth that you can share more widely. Some people might call that good karma. For me, it's just good sense.



Magdalena Ball runs The Compulsive Reader and is the author of a number of poetry books and novels. She has pledged 50% of the sales of her most recent novel, Black Cow, to the literacy charity Pencils of Promise, an organisation building 50 schools around the world. 
 



7 comments:

  1. Thanks for your thought-provoking suggestions, Magdalena.

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  2. Very good article. I find myself giving more than I ever make selling but it may not be benefiting my writing yet. My prayer book for cancer patients has been given away to those in need and then what profit I make goes to cancer research for children. Sometimes my giving may not always be in the right frame of heart if I am giving it to gain. THanks for the thoughts.

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    1. Of course Terrie - we can't do a NPV or rate or return on philanthropy, as the rewards are often intangible (knowing that my writing is actually having a positive impact on those that aren't as fortunate as I am is one of those thing). But then even marketing books is a subtle thing - it's often hard to gauge the specific impact of publicity campaigns.

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  3. Maggie, I agree. Giving or paying-it-forward is an important aspect of writing and life. I try to give back to the writing community by sharing information, but haven't thought of using my sites or books for causes outside of writing.

    It's something I'll be mulling over.

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  4. Karen, I mulled over it for a long time before I found something that fit what I wanted to support (Pencils of Promise).

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  5. Maggie, What a great thing and it's a great reminder to writers of another way to give back. Thanks.

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  6. Working for an seo company, we already have our page ranked high for us. We worked on it, so there's no need for it. But what's good about giving is that, you meet people you don't know have helped you in or you have helped in one way or another. There are people who contribute to a donation drive then later in the day approach you and express their heartfelt gratitude when they chance upon your site. It's a happy return of gratitude - a rarity these days.

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