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Book Give Away (Quaker Style)

It’s coming up on a month since the release of The Wisdom to Know the Difference, and things have been going well. I felt very loved and supported by the great attendance at the Big Blue Marble and Borders, excited by the chance to have so many articles and interviews published, humbled by the amazing people in my Pendle Hill workshop last weekend, and ready to lay in bed and read my twelve-year-old’s favorite vampire novel by the time I got home Sunday. I’m coming out of the stupor now (Thursday) and assessing what I need to do next. And what I need to do next is give some books away!

Despite the very touching things that people are saying to me about how the book is affecting them (and the popularity of the If You Love a Writer blog post), no one has reviewed it yet on Amazon, Powell’s, Goodreads, LibraryThing, or any of the other sites where people usually post book reviews. Likewise, while many Quakers seem to know about the book, I’ve been slow to get it into the hands of Quaker bloggers. Partly this is because I’m trying to figure out a Quaker approach to doing a book give away. Many authors do a book raffle where readers request a book, and the author pulls three names out of a hat. Others studiously study the Technorati rankings of various bloggers, and only offer a free book to those with a large audience. On LibraryThing, potential reviewers are encouraged to post a review somewhere in exchange for a book, and the people at LibraryThing select the recipients by a list of criteria that includes, random chance, expressed interest, and “other factors not revealed or not yet determined.” There is no obligation, of course, to write a positive review. 

So, what would be a Quaker approach to the book give away? Well, we historically don’t engage in raffles (a topic that comes up every year or so at our children’s Quaker school). Although I’m confident that this would not debase anyone’s moral character—one of the concerns explained in Thomas Clarkson’s 1806 view of gambling–I’m also aware that I’ve already flaunted the Quaker tradition of not using honorifics, with “His Holiness the Dalai Lama” in bold on the front cover and a few people identified by their titles on the inside. While no one in my liberal, unprogrammed Quaker circles has given me grief about this, I’m curious what Friends more broadly think about it. (For those who don’t know what I’m talking about, Quakers historically haven’t used titles that put one person on a pedestal, such as “Your Honor” in court. In the seventeenth century, Quakers went to prison to uphold this principle.) Today, I try to honor the principle of treating everyone with equal respect, though in a multi-cultural and multi-religious context where intentions are easily misunderstood, I lean toward thinking that addressing people the way they prefer to be addressed is more egalitarian than just abandoning all titles.

In any case, one of my goals with the book give away is to get more Quakers from different branches reviewing my book, as well as people from other communities. So I’m thinking a discernment process, rather than a raffle. Here’s my plan: If you want a free copy of the book and think you’ll most likely be able to review it sometime in the next few months, leave a comment here saying so and some way for me to get in touch with you. If you have a blog or website, give a sentence or two describing your primary audience (FUM Quakers, people in recovery, women writers, etc.) and what your blog is about (free publicity!). If you don’t have a blog but want to review it on GoodReads or some other site, that’s fine, too. (If you don't have a blog and want to send your contact info privately, use the contact form on this site.) After two weeks, I will look at the submissions and pick five people to get free books that represent the most diverse array of audiences and “other factors not revealed or not yet determined,” which means I might just pray over it and see if any guidance comes. Let the fun begin!

Reader Comments (10)

What a great way to have a quakerly book giveaway! Oh, and is it a "raffle" if no money changes hands (i.e. putting names in a hat)? Just wondering:-)

Now, I would love a copy of the book - and can review it on GoodReads and post it on our Abington Friends School Alumni & Friends group! I do have a new blog called "The Heart of Diversity" whose audience is varied:-)

Sorry I couldn't make it to Blue Marble or Borders! But I did spread the word:-)

October 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJ B H

A discernment give-away--that's a new one! Super. Full disclaimer that Eileen let me jump the queue (thanks!) and I have a copy sitting besides me. I got a good taste from the Blue Marble reading, about half of which I got to hear (running after the four year old the other half). I started writing a review in my head on the way to pick up some takeout dinner last night. If those mutterings are any indication there will be a fair amount of introspection in my post, which seems perfectly fitting for a book on the Serenity Prayer!

My blog is the Quaker Ranter. It's about five years old now. It was one of the first "Quaker blogs" but I've always strayed toward anything of interesting and it's consequently picked up a range of audiences (the most popular post of all time is about baby naming). Most of my "serious" posts are observations on Friends, which attracts readership from across the Quaker spectrum. I don't post very frequently these days as I'm busy with work life and maintaining the QuakerQuaker blogging community site.

October 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMartin Kelley


well I would love a copy having bought one and already given it away to someone who saw it on my coffee table. And I will review if for goodreads..

Huffington Post has a new section for books in conjunction with New York Review of books. I already suggested it to them for revewing..

October 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLee

Hi Eileen. I must say this is well timed for me. I fell asleep last night with one final thought: Must Buy Eileen's Book! So my question is: What would help you more? Shall I buy a copy (hopefully from an independent bookstore/website) and review it on Amazon or somewhere? Or shall I wait to see if Spirit discerns that I should get a free copy? I don't have a blog or website. I don't know the best way to help publicize your work, but I am assuming I would have a positive review of it. I am also a writer and was a theatre critic in NYC once upon a time, as well as an editor/publisher, so I coud actually do a pretty good job. Just don't know where best to use my voice on your behalf. Whatever you advise, I am happy to do. Best of luck with your discernment process--I admire your approach! -- Amy

October 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAmy Ward Brimmer

Hi Eileen,

I would love to get a free copy of your book and I would be happy to post a review of it on my blog, A Passionate and Determined Quest for Adequacy. I mostly write about God and my experiences in my Quaker meetings and traveling among Friends. I'd say the majority of my readers are friends and family, but friends include liberal, evangelical, and convergent Friends. I am glad to hear things are going so well with your new book and I look forward to reading it.


October 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAshley W

I'm not a Quaker, but your idea is cool. Didn't know the whole deal on titles and honorifics. I don't have a problem with them if they are earned. Interesting history to it though.

October 16, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBarbara

Hi Eileen,
how can I get info about having you visit my library? I'm thinking maybe in January? Please let me know the proper procedure.

October 16, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRachee

Thanks, all, for your comments! I also received a bunch of private ones through the contact page, so I will indeed have some discerning to do. As for Amy's questions, any way people want to help spread the word is appreciated. I gave a list of suggestions in the If You Love a Writer blog post referenced in this post. Obviously if people can afford to buy the book instead of waiting for a free one, that's good for me. Anyone can review any book on whatever website they prefer. It's pretty easy to sign up for an account. When I last checked I didn't have reviews on any of them. If you don't like the giants like Amazon, there's also GoodReads, and LibraryThing.

As for Rachee's question, if anyone wants me to come speak somewhere, please contact me through the contact page so we can send direct emails to each other.

Thanks all!

October 19, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterEileen

I've been reading your blog for quite some time now, I think I've comment before but it was quite a long time ago. I think I tend to hold back because I'm not a Quaker (I had to stop for a chuckle because I just had to fix my typo when I wrote "quacker" - I may indeed be a quacker!). Also, I am not a very religious person and have many skeptical feelings when it comes to organized religion but have always tried to be a good person. With that said, the Serenity Prayer has always been a guiding force for me....great advice. I do have a blog but I'm pretty sure my audience is just my husband and one other blogger so my review would be better posted on another site. You can read some of the posts on my blog to get an idea of what I'm about. The most recent ones are mostly positive but I have struggled with being careful not to turn my blog into a whiney blog. I'm mostly a positive person and want my blog to reflect that, however, as with anyone I like to vent when I'm upset about something and have a fair amount of posts that reflect that. So, I hope I've given you an idea of who I am and you can decide if I should get a copy of your book. Have a great day...

October 25, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterelise

It's a pity more people aren't looking for journalists in Northern Ireland! Maybe I should point them to this blog. Thanks for taking the time to write it.

January 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBelstaff Jacket

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