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On Monday, I posted a list of 10 Book-Marketing/Self-Promotion Techniques Which Annoy Potential Readers.

High on my personal list was the old, ‘*Buy my book and I’ll donate a percentage of the profits to charity’ method. I didn't do a very good job of explaining why I think that could be seen as a bad thing, either in my original post or in the clarification I first wrote here, so I've edited them both to reflect (what I hope is) a better, clearer argument. 

Here's how 2: ‘Buy my book this week and help save an orphaned kitten!’ now reads:

'I'm not talking about donating stories for charity anthologies, donating books; time; merchandise for auction, or any number of generous things writers do to help a worthy cause. Those are simply good deeds and not marketing techniques at all.

I'm talking specifically about when an author announces a special offer eg: 'For every book he/she sells this week, the author pledges to donate some money to [INSERT: name of worthy charity here*].
If you're doing it as part of a larger community effort, or to help out a local church, school etc. or if your personal story (or the one in your book) is somehow related to the cause in question, no reasonable person could have a problem.

However - and this is where I think writers need to take care - there's an invisible line between using your work to help a good cause, and using a good cause to sell more books. If you cross that line, or give the impression you crossed it, folks will notice, and not in a good way.'

Speaking of charitable writers, do you know of a current auction, story donation anthology, or other writing-related effort to raise money for a good cause?  If so, feel free to link to it in a comment below. I'll cut and paste them into the main entry throughout the next week.

Southern Fried Weirdness: Reconstruction By way of Kam (aka nineteen68)

[All profits from this anthology will be donated to The American Red Cross to benefit disaster relief efforts.]

By way of M. G. Ellington (aka xjenavivex)
[All proceeds from the sale of this bundle will go to Colin's favourite charity, Above and Beyond.]

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( 13 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 15th, 2012 04:39 pm (UTC)
OK well this is not that current but one that comes to mind is the anthology Southern Fried Weirdness: Reconstruction that came out after the tornadoes in the south in 2011. All proceeds donated to the American Red Cross for disaster relief efforts.

As for the alternate strategy of "buy my book & I'll donate some of the proceeds to a worthy cause". I don't think it's necessarily bad. The author is donating part of their proceeds and that's a good thing; I assume they don't write books just for charity. It's just important to remember that most of the proceeds are not actually going to the cause. Because what is the author donating, 10 or 15% in most cases? That's not nothing, of course, but it's not as effective as donating directly to the cause. It's the same with all those campaigns that want you to buy candy or soup or whatever product to help cure Disease A or B. Yes, they are using the cause to motivate people to spend $, most of which benefits their businesses & a portion of which goes to charity. I guess I don't have a problem with that, if I was going to buy the item anyway.
Aug. 15th, 2012 05:40 pm (UTC)
Thanks for sharing, Kam :)
Aug. 15th, 2012 06:05 pm (UTC)
Along the lines of what I said to Jon (see below)
there's the proverbial world of difference between
the author whose books are selling
being charitable
and the author whose books aren't selling
striking a charitable pose.
Aug. 15th, 2012 04:55 pm (UTC)
There is the proverbial world of difference
between using one's work to further a good cause,
and using a good cause to further one's work.
Aug. 15th, 2012 05:41 pm (UTC)
Abso-bloomin-lutely ;)
Aug. 15th, 2012 05:49 pm (UTC)
But if any of your readers wishes to be charitable,
they could send $25 to the Red Cross,
and ask their local library to purchase my books.
Aug. 15th, 2012 06:27 pm (UTC)
And at the risk of saying too much,
let's consider the case of one of my books,
The Bohemian Girl and Other Stories.

Since it's a collection of stories about transsexual characters,
it did occur to me that I could do a promotional tie-in
with the Day of Remembrance,
with a dollar or two per copy sold contributed to that cause.

But that seemed crass, to me,
and contrary to the spirit of the stories themselves.

Further, I wanted the book to stand or fall on its own merits.

it didn't so much fall
as stagger horridly before plunging headlong,
but I can't imagine I'd feel any better
if a few hundred copies had sold,
and I were left wondering if they were simply
cannon crackers at a pity party.
(Deleted comment)
Aug. 17th, 2012 03:13 pm (UTC)
My pleasure, MG. I'll repost this entry on Sunday, for folks who missed it :)
(Deleted comment)
Aug. 18th, 2012 11:01 pm (UTC)
I don't see why, since I'm all for charity anthologies, auctions etc. as a means to help a good cause (see above) :P
(Deleted comment)
Aug. 19th, 2012 06:30 am (UTC)
I apologize, Jaime. Clearly, I should have explained things better in the original post. Let me see if I can do a better job now.

Donating stories (or poetry) for use in a charity anthology is a fine way to help a good cause. Like I said, I'm all for it. The same goes for auctioning books, time etc. (which I've done my own self). However, and this is where I think we have a misunderstanding, those things aren't marketing techniques, they're good deeds.

My post was about sales methods some folks employ when trying to market their work. The 'particular method' I refer to in the sentence you quoted, is when an author announces something along the lines of 'This week, if you buy my book, I'll donate a percentage of the profits to [insert name of charity here].'

However noble the actual intent, old cynics (or at least, this old cynic) can't help wondering if the goal behind the action has more to do with getting a blip in sales than it does helping a worthy cause.

In any case, as Jodi rightly says, the charity still benefits.

I hope that clears things up.

(Deleted comment)
Aug. 18th, 2012 11:32 pm (UTC)
If the perceived intent creates a negative impression of that author, I'd say it matters a lot, since that author risks losing potential future customers. Of course, they may also gain some who only buy the book because it helps the charity.

For me, it comes down to the difference between using your work to help a worthy cause, which I'm 100% in favor of, and appearing to use a good cause to help your work. Others feel differently, and/or have a different idea of what they consider acceptable.

Like most things, it comes down to personal choice. I'm old and cynical, and this is a personal pet peeve of mine. Since my original post was about marketing techniques which can create a negative reaction from potential readers, I included it.

(Deleted comment)
Aug. 19th, 2012 04:58 am (UTC)

'Because 99% of authors, I would never look at and say, "Wow, this person is just trying to get in my good graces, donating profits to this charity." '

Me neither. When folks donate or auction books, stories (including fund-raising anthologies), and/or time for a worthy cause, it gives me a warm fuzzy glow, but something about the 'Buy my book this week and I'll give a percentage of the proceeeds to charity,' approach brings out my inner cynic.

In any event, as you rightly say, the charity benefits either way :)
( 13 comments — Leave a comment )

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