Monday, January 17, 2011

Things I learned by hosting a book drive

You may have caught wind of the worldwide bookdrive to benefit National Novel Writing Month that took place last October through December.

My region managed to gather roughly 2,200 books. After typing in all the ISBNs of the books recent enough to have them, about 600 were accepted to Better World Books, who will be selling our donated books on behalf of The Office of Letters and Light . A percentage of those sales will go to fund their writing programs, including NaNoWriMo. The rest of our books will be sold in a local book sale (happening in my garage) this spring. The proceeds will go toward our regional donation to OLL next NaNo season.

As the bookdriver for our region, I learned some interesting things about books, subjectivity and love.

1. Asking writers to give up their books, even for a good cause, is like asking them to pull their own teeth.

2. When picking books to donate, I discovered my bookshelves were subconsciously divided into three areas. Nostalgia (top shelf): books I keep for the memories. Love: books I will read over and over or are of a series I loyally follow. Storage (bottom shelf): books I will not read again, but I haven't found another home for.

3. There are books that many people buy and read because they are popular. I have a lot of them in my garage right now (a lot of the same books, I might add). Popular does not equal love.

4. I currently have 1,600 books in my garage just sitting there until spring that I can read. Awesome! Not that I have the time, but still...

5. Of those 1,600 books, about 10 looked interesting at first glance. That rather reminded me of this 'subjectivity' thing that we're always getting harped on about by agents and editors. The 'not right for me' phrase went through my head 1,590 times as I picked up each book to scan it. I wasn't skimming bookshelves, with only a spine to attract my attention. I had each book in my hand and had to turn it over (and, of course, spend a couple seconds skimming the blurb by habit) to locate the elusive ISBN number. I got a good look at every title and cover. Still, 1,590 books were not for me--sadly a good third of them were even genres I regularly read. And these are published books, with every tool available to grab my attention. Don't worry lonely novel submission, I love you.

6. I discovered that even if the book is free and sitting in my hands, I will very likely overlook a new author, interesting cover, snappy title and possibly awesome back cover blurb because I'm looking for names I know and trust to deliver a good story. Damn. That doesn't bode well for most of us, does it?

7. Book Regret. People will donate books and then realize they miss them and want them back. Awww. Love.

8. A room full of used books smells far more pleasing than a room filled with used clothes.

9. People leave things in books, including book marks. Lots and lots of bookmarks. Many of those were mid-book. Does this mean the reader never finshed reading? We'll never know. The most unusual thing I found was a photo of ice. It may have been an ice cave, it was hard to tell.

10. If you tell people about a book drive and remind them as often as politely possible (in person, by email, and by handing them flyers) for two and half months, some of them will follow through and deliver. However, there will always be one or two that pop up two weeks after the fact and announce they could get piles of books if they were given a few more weeks/months. Procrastination at its finest.

Thanks to all who donated! If you're looking for good books, check out Better World Books. They offer free shipping worldwide, have a huge selection, and support many non-profit literary organizations, including my favorite, NaNoWriMo. :)

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