Really, World Book Night?
I’m staring at what amounts to a hand-slap FB message from one Carl Lennertz, Director of World Book Night, who’s telling me it’s a bad idea to give away books on World Book Night, even though…you know…that’s what World Book Night is about. Apparently, only WBN will be doing the free-book-giving that night, thank you very much, and it will only be the books on WBN’s list that will be given.
Well, sorry, Carl. I wasn’t aware that you owned the exclusive rights to give away books on April 23. I’ll now refer to the book promo as the Book Giveaway That Has Nothing At All To Do With World Book Night.
Apparently, the core confusion is whether any non-WBN book giveaway on WBN is sanctioned by WBN. But I didn’t say that, either; I just wished everyone a happy WBN and invited my Facebook fans to take part in a promotion offering free books and free T-shirts. I never once came out and said that the promotion was a WBN-sanctioned event; any cursory examination of the WBN website would render such a conclusion farcical, since WBN involves volunteers distributing free paper copies of books, whereas I don’t even offer a paper copy of my books. To be honest, I can’t really see the crossover. You’re out giving away paper copies of hoary literary standards, airport bookstore fare, and the occasional highly suspicious Book That Got Turned Into a Major Motion Picture and Wouldn’t We Like More Readers Before the Second Installment. I’m giving out e-book copies of an indie sequel. Your target audience is, so far as I can tell, people who will be genuinely surprised that such a thing as The Stand exists. My audience is largely voracious readers, mainly gifted girls, mostly reading on Kindles and Nooks. Where’s the confusion?
(Also, last I checked, I’ve got five thousand FB fans and change, and you’ve got eight thousand. Y’know what’s a fabulous concept in social media? Cross-promotion, where I make my followers aware of your thingamajig, and vice versa. And given our respective target audiences, I’m pretty sure you’re the net beneficiary of this one; I’m telling five thousand people about WBN, whereas I’m not sure there will be one sale I’ll get as a result of publicizing WBN for free. So there.)
But, moreover, although I’m a huge fan of the WBN’s core mission – everyone should read, and I applaud any effort to make that a reality in our time – my main objection is that every book WBN is giving away has had its day in the sun. (Or, ahem, is still very much in the sun.) The Stand is a great book, and one I’d wholeheartedly recommend anyone read, but if you’re a grown adult, you’re probably aware of the existence of The Stand, and you’ve made your decision to read or not to read it long ago. Offering you a free copy of it is unlikely to change your mind, just as offering you a free copy of virtually anything on the WBN list is unlikely to change your mind about that book, either.
Where’s the independent author and publisher presence in WBN? Short answer, it doesn’t exist, which means readers that have been turned off to reading have no chance to experience some of the great new indie fiction that’s beginning to take root in the bibliosphere. If someone’s going to get turned on to reading again, what are the odds it’s going to come as a result of being handed a free copy of I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings?
At its core, the real question WBN needs to answer is why people get turned off from books, and how we can get them turned back on again. If someone left off reading because they were dissatisfied with what was being offered, how in the world does offering them the same retread works get them excited again? And, in my own very small way, I wanted to be a part of that, by giving away some free books of my own. If I don’t have the right to join in an event like WBN, what’s the message for readers?
Enjoy The Stand. It was a bestseller once.
When I was in high school.