Sunday, April 6, 2014

Little Free Libraries - a good cause, and possibly good PR

Little Free Library in Madison, WI

Author friends, here's an idea you might want to consider:  donate one (or more) of your books to the Little Free Library nearest you.  Not sure what this is, or whether there is one near you?  Read on.

Little Free Library in Baxter Springs, KS

The Little Free Library organization is a non-profit, tax-exempt organization whose mission is to promote a sense of community, reading for children, literacy for adults and libraries around the world.

A Little Free Library in Lithuania

The Little Free Libraries themselves are small structures, usually handcrafted, that contain a constantly rotating collection of books donated and shared by people.  The idea is, you donate a book, and you choose a book to take for yourself.  The libraries are purchased (or built) by individuals, communities, businesses, and nonprofits, and they can be found in front yards, parks, public gardens, outside businesses, and in many other publicly accessible places.

They need to be weatherproof (Patty Kosley, Traverse City, MI)

The designs can be quite sophisticated:

Melody Moore, Mazomanie, WI

Rick Schroeder, Atlanta, GA

 And if you're wondering how giving one of your books to such a library might be helpful in spreading the word about your work, take a look at the numbers:

According to Rick Brooks, one of the founders of the Little Free Library organization, a conservative estimate of the number of Little Free Libraries in the world as of January 15, 2014, is 15,000, in at least 56 countries.  On average, each library goes through at least 25 books per month, ; if no new libraries were added (not likely, as new ones spring up every day), at the current rate that would mean 4.5 million books exchanged in 2014.  The LFL Facebook pages have more than 46,000 "likes," more than two million people have searched the LFL map (see website, below), and at least 200,000 people have watched YouTube videos about LFLs.

With a solar panel (lights up at night)

My community, Madison, WI, is pretty much where the idea got started, and it has no fewer than 100 Little Free Libraries, located all over town.  My novel, A Thing Done, is tucked happily into the one pictured at the top of this post (unless someone has taken it by now), complete with my signature and a promotional bookmark. And the book I brought home with me was a historical novel I've been wanting to read for a long time, so I'd call that a win-win situation.

This one matches the house behind it (Whitnee LaChappelle, Redmond, WA)

To learn more about the organization, check out their website:

Repurposed refrigerator, Coalmont, British Columbia
It was a microwave in a previous life (Wisconsin Dells, WI)

The Little Free Library organization got started in 2010.  Todd Bol of Hudson, WI created the first one in memory of his mother in 2009, but the idea started to spread when Bol teamed up with Rick Brooks of Madison, WI in 2010.  In an email, Brooks tells me about how authors can contribute to this effort, and what's in it for them:
A growing number of authors and publishers are contributing promotional copies, most of them signed... The best way is for them to put their books in Little Libraries close to them, or to give them to friends who will put them in the Libraries.  If they have five or more copies, they can send them to our studio and office and we'll put the books in Little Free Library Originals we send out. ... The ideal, for us and for authors, is to provide Little Free Library a small number of copies along with promotional information about the book, the author and any details that we might be able to use on our blog or website. ... You'll be seeing mentions of authors and books that are using this approach in our blog and Facebook pages soon.

Emily Hamilton, Fort Dodge, IA

When you donate one of your books, it's a very different thing from having a book giveaway on a review blog, or on Goodreads, where the people who try to win a copy presumably are already interested in the book.  You're putting it out there among strangers - much like tucking a note into a bottle, corking it, and tossing it off the ship into the ocean.  You cannot possibly have any idea of what its fate will be, but you've done your part.  That in itself may result in introducing your book to someone - or several someones -  who might otherwise never come into contact with it. 

Mariah Hess, Davis, CA

So think about it.  Would your publisher send them a batch of books?  Could you spare one or two to drop off at Little Free Libraries somewhere near you?  Can you think of other ways that you could use this organization to share your book with others and perhaps get a bit of publicity at the same time?  I think it's worth a try.

Cindy Schurich, La Mesa, CA

Images in this post (except the picture at the top, which is my own) are used with permission of the Little Free Library organization.  Photographers, when their names are available, are credited in the captions.

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