One of the main reasons I independently published my novel, Castle Danger, was the desire to help my favorite charity, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southern Minnesota (BBBS). A charitable connection may benefit the author by increasing book sales. Here’s the method that has worked for me:
Find a local charity about which you are passionate.
It helps if you also volunteer with that organization because you’ll gain credibility with the staff and donors. No faking allowed. If you aren’t sincere, then either find another charity, or don’t try this idea. Stay local so you can connect with the charitable community on a personal level.
Decide on a specific donation method, keep accurate records, and follow through.
Choose either a percentage of profits, or a fixed amount per sale, and commit to that figure. The amount should be manageable for your finances but enough to be appreciated by your charity. At my book launch celebration, I sold enough books, and received enough supplemental donations, to present a check for $100 to BBBS at the end of the event. Donation presentations make a great photo op to post on your blog or website.
Set up cross-promotions and co-sponsored events.
Because of my association with BBBS, I’ve been invited to sell and sign books at four BBBS events in the past year. I’ve had modest sales at these events but every sale has the potential to lead to word-of-mouth advertising that may generate future sales down the road. Charity events also expand your customer base to staff, volunteers, and donors who may not otherwise hear about your book.
When I speak at these events, or at my book signings, I always mention my charitable work as a Big Brother, and the fact that I donate money from book sales to BBBS. This often elicits immediate purchases from prospective customers who like to buy items that support worthwhile charities.
Utilize free publicity from your charity, but return the favor!
When I’m scheduled for one of their events, BBBS mentions me in press releases, their email newsletter, and on Facebook and Twitter posts. In turn, I promote them as much as I can on my website and social media. Remember to add a line or two to your author bio about your charity work, and that you donate profits from book sales. This makes a good selling point for buyers considering whether to buy your book, or a competitor’s book.
Use “Round Up” to eliminate making change and to increase donations.
The list price for my print book is $16.95 but, at events, I must charge sales tax. This pushes the price to $18.20. At signing events, I ask buyers to round up to $20.00, and tell them I will donate the extra $1.80 to BBBS. I’ve never had anyone ask for their change back from the twenty. Your charity gets an additional donation and you generate goodwill.
Put in in writing.
I hired a local printer to make large signs that mention my BBBS work, and promote the Round Up program. I display them at all my book signings and speaking events. If buyers see your commitment in writing, they’re more likely to buy your book.
Use volunteer work and joint appearances as material for social media posts.
Charity work and related events provide great material for blog posts, email newsletters, and social media communications. Since I regularly post photos and descriptions of the activities I do with my Little Brother, I can maintain regular interaction with social media followers who learn that I walk the walk as much as I talk the talk. That sends a positive message, which can increase sales.
If you’re not a natural entrepreneur, marketing is a challenge. But, you’ll find it easier to promote yourself if you have a reason other than money to sell your book. The fact that my favorite charity sees increased benefit from every book I sell motivates me to market my book on behalf of a greater good, as well as for personal profit. Independent bookstores especially appreciate hosting authors who are promoting a charity along with their books.
Donating book profits to charity won’t catapult your sales into the bestseller category but you’ll generate additional sales you otherwise wouldn’t have made. Working closely with a local charity has generated extra exposure for my book, and improved my author visibility in the community. It can work for you, too.
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Chris Norbury’s debut novel, Castle Danger, won a 2017 B.R.A.G. Medallion for excellence in independent publishing. He has written articles for the Boundary Waters Journal, is a contributing editor for brokerage-review.com, and is a regular contributor to thinkingoutsidetheboxe.com. Chris has been a volunteer Big Brother since 2000. Learn more about him at chrisnorbury.com.
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Thanks. BBBS in my area is fantastic and incredibly efficient and effective in its mission.
You’re doing it exactly right–connect with the charity first, then connect your book sales to them if they are amenable. That way, the won’t feel like you’re using them for your own benefit. Choosing a charity is a deeply personal decision, so don’t try and force a charity into your life and book sales unless you are 100% sure you’d help the charity via donations or volunteering even if you weren’t an author with a book to sell.
And you nailed the bottom line–marketing your book with a charity should be a win-win situation.
Best of luck,
Chris Norbury – Your Big Brother/Big Sister organization does amazing work. I applaud your work. I have been considering this sales method myself. Not necessarily to generate more money in my pocket from book sales, but to help my charity. I already do this with my art prints. Some people are more prone to donate if they get “something” in return (book/art print.) All my art print profits from my Tropical Print Gallery on Fineartamerica go to help Puerto Rico and the other islands hit by the recent hurricane. Even though I don’t profit from these sales, it does generate interest in my work. Everyone wins. Best wishes!