Monday, April 16, 2007

The Good Karma Networking Approach

Most writers—and this applies especially to children’s writers—are pretty good at paying it forward. Because of the nature of our business, we tend to be very aware of how serendipity and luck factor in to our success. Most of us have been helped in some way by some writer somewhere who shared a tip, wrote a great how-to book, taught a class, or made an introduction. And while the idea of networking gives me a bad case of the collywobbles, saying thank you to people who have touched my writing life in some way feels very doable. In fact, good manners demands it.

So when I find myself trapped in an elevator or standing in the buffet line with a conference speaker, I realize Fate is giving me a perfect opportunity to say thank you. I shove my aforementioned collywobbles aside and force myself to let them know how fascinating, helpful, or insightful I found their talk. They are usually glad to hear it. Sometimes, more small conversation may ensue, or it may not. But either way I have made the effort to express my appreciation. I have also not asked for anything back, which is my preferred method of networking. Actually, it's about the only way I can deal with it.

I try to use this same approach with any “marketing” I do with my books. I am full of genuine gratitude for every librarian or bookseller that has ever handed one of my books to a child. I have nothing but admiration for those parents who scour bookstore shelves and review sites, looking for books that will delight their young, emerging readers. And I am absolutely beholden to any reader, young or old, who invests a few hours of their life in my books.

So I look for ways to express that gratitude. I am pretty much a sucker for anyone who asks for book donations,* and very rarely worry that it’s a con. People who are con artists have much bigger fish to fry than trying to snag a copy of my midlist title. And even if their intentions aren’t sincere, I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. If they are willing to risk their personal integrity in pursuit of a free book, then I am more than willing to give them that free book. The rest is between them and their conscience. Plus, you just never know where or in whose hands that book will end up.

Not every author will agree with this approach, but I’ve been known to donate the majority of my author’s copies to libraries or schools around the country, as a form of karmic viral marketing. My goal is to attract readers, and I can’t do that if no one has ever heard of the book. And extra copies sitting on my home bookshelf aren’t really helping the cause.

So if you’re staring at your stack of author’s copies, feeling guilty because you haven’t used those to promote yourself effectively, consider donating them to school or public libraries around the country. More than ever, these vital institutions are strapped for funds, and it will be a way to get your name and title in front of those with buying power. Your kind gesture may just garner you a sale when your next book comes out. And if not, you at least know it’s being read, which is the whole point, really.

So think about it, anyway. It’s painless, it’s easy, and it makes you feel good afterwards.

*This confession may rise up and bite me on the backside if I suddenly end up on scammer's lists nationwide.


Anonymous said...

Great column Robin.
I'm so glad someone else is familiar with good literacy karma which is one of my favorite sayings! Every time I feel a little grumbly about my volunteer work I remind myself I'm putting good literacy karma out there, good reading vibes out there, and some child will benefit. I think sometimes the good literacy karma comes back full circle. A couple years ago I worked til the wee morning hours helping at a Harry Potter book release, then got up at the break of dawn to run our yearly summer Book Blast reading program. When I came home that day exhausted but happy I found my first lovely magazine contract in my mailbox. I chalked it up to good literacy karma (and the good publishing fairy--as I have a rather overactive imagination).

Seriously, though, as a reading teacher, I so appreciate authors like you who give of their time and resources to support libraries, schools and young readers (and struggling writers, too). Yeah for good literacy karma! It's good for the soul.
Rebecca Langston-George

R.L. LaFevers said...


Thanks so much for sharing your excellent example of literacy karma! It's just such a wonderful illustration of this principle at work.

And thank you for all you do to support young readers and their reading (in addition to your writing!) I know you have a very impressive volunteer load!

Anonymous said...

Great column! I was recently scolded by a writer friend (who had only the best of intentions) because instead of getting permission to sell them (possible, but long story) I gave away hundreds of my author copies of library bound books to local and regional libraries and schools this year who had budget struggles (I used to write series nonfiction for kids, so 15 copies of a 20 or 30 book series adds up to a lot of books!).

Anyway, after momentarily wondering if I had goofed I instead felt great. Those schools and libraries needed new books and (ala that old Shake n Bake ad) I helped!

Good karma is a good, good thing.

Mary Hershey said...

Thanks, Rebecca and Tanya for your great comments. I love "good literacy karma" Rebecca. :-> You have a lot of it coming! Thanks for coming to our signing last week. It meant a lot to us. That's such a great thing we can do for one another!

Tanya, I loved what you shared about giving away all the series books. Such a good investment on your part! Just think about all the books you've put in good hands. I grew up in libraries, so I really appreciate your generosity!

Robin, this is SUCH a great blog! Thanks for sharing it with all of us. Amen, sis-tuh!

Mary Hershey

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