I’m trying to get people to read my books. There are lots of businesses on the Internet who are willing to take my money in return for advertisements of every description, but in my experience, the only thing that really works is word of mouth.
How do I get my name in more people’s mouths? Aside from doing the best work I can do and not giving up, I don’t really know.
A lot of people suggested doing Goodreads giveaways, which I did. Here’s a post on how that went. Conclusion of that effort: I spent $46.08 to get my book in the hands of 5 people around the globe.
I found that to be a bit unsatisfying. Those people don’t know me from — as my Dad might say — Adam’s house cat. What if I could find a way to give my book away to people who live right here in my beloved Atlanta?
Enter the Little Free Libraries
As much as I want to be David Sedaris, traveling the globe giving readings and wearing khaki pants, that life is currently out of my reach, though I do have the pants. Nearly any book festival will allow me to buy my way in, but the prices are high. As an independent author, I am to some book festivals as a lone male pervert is to a swinger’s party. Others are glad to have me.
In the 2009, Todd Bol of Hudson, Wisconsin, built a model of a one room schoolhouse as a tribute to his mother, a former school teacher who loved reading. He called it a Little Free Library and filled it with books. People loved it, and the idea spread. By January of 2014, the total number of registered Little Free Libraries in the world was conservatively estimated to be nearly 15,000, with thousands more being built. More about the LFL’s history here: http://littlefreelibrary.org/ourhistory/
Here’s what one looks like:
Of course, an idea as cool as this one is sure to be hated by jerks who wish to stamp out literacy, fun, and probably smiling as well. Here’s a Newsweek article on how “uncultured killjoys” despise the idea of LFLs.
On the Little Free Library site, I found a map of registered libraries right here in my city. So I thought, why not spend the day going around to a couple of them? I could put my book in. Maybe someone will read it. Maybe I’ll find something I want to read.
I pitched it to my girlfriend Sweetie like this. Worst case scenario: we spend Valentine’s Day walking around the city doing book stuff. She loved the idea.
The Little Free Library Book Tour
After a hearty breakfast, Sweetie and I packed the items below into a backpack.
Sweetie didn’t seem to think we needed three pens, but you just can’t have too many good pens. What if I need to write a lot of things down?
Next, we drove to the nearest train station and bought two one-day passes for MARTA. Cost: 2 x $9 = $18.
The first stop was less than a mile from a station, and contained a lot of great books. I have a habit of saying “do sex.” At a romantic moment in a movie, I will turn to Sweetie and say “He wants to do sex to her.” I picked up that turn of phrase from “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time” by Mark Haddon, a truly great book.
And what should we find at our first stop but that very one? Seeing that, I felt immeasurably embiggened.
Here’s how we left the first LFL:
We walked back to the train station, rode it for a few stops, then hopped a bus to put us within sauntering distance of our second stop. On the way, we spotted this gorgeous Panamera S. I calculated I need to sell 22,922 books to be able to afford one.
Soon we found the second LFL, which contained some more great books: Mark Twain, Dan Brown, and Harry Potter? Score!
At our third library, we discovered a trove of Janet Evanovich, not to mention a copy of Pasternak’s “Doctor Zhivago,” which won a Nobel for Literature in 1958. Hopefully some of that gravitas will rub off on “Dangerous Dan.”
After stopping in a local bike shop to say hello to some friends, we got a suggestion to stop by the LFL outside Little’s Grocery. So, we did. That book got claimed by our friend Justin in under an hour.
Here you can see the Little’s LFL as we left it Saturday evening, and as our friend Nick found it the next morning. A lot can change in a day with these public libraries.
Last, we stopped by the LFL outside Dancing Goats coffee in Decatur. As you can see, I left a copy of “Dangerous Dan” to snuggle with a copy of Twilight. I’m immune to YA fiction, though, so I’m not worried about catching anything.
All in all, it was a fun day. Lots of people tweeted and followed along the hashtag I made up, #LFLBT. I don’t know yet what the far-reaching impact will be, if any, but it was a lot more fun than just firing books off into the mail.