What is World Book Night?
I’ll describe here how it works in the UK, as that’s where I’m based, but the scheme also runs in the USA and Germany, and it’s gradually spreading further afield.
World Book Night’s prime goal is to celebrate books and reading, turning reluctant readers into avid ones, with obvious benefits for publishers and writers everywhere. But it is not at all a hard-nosed, commercial operation. It’s a generous-spirited, humanitarian campaign which is about much more than a profit motive. As stated on its website, “It’s about people, communities and connections, about reaching out to others and touching lives in the simplest of ways, through the sharing of stories.” Its stated aims are:
- To raise the profile of reading through a mass engagement project which works at a grass roots level to inspire those who don’t regularly read to do so
- To place books into the hands of those who don’t regularly read
- To raise the profile of reading for pleasure through a series of celebratory events
- To improve literacy in the UK and Ireland
- To bring communities together
Each year, a cross-section of 20 books is chosen by an independent panel to appeal to all kinds of readers, primarily adults, but some of the titles are also appropriate for younger readers. Special paperback editions are printed, branded “World Book Night”, including an explanation of the scheme and words of encouragement to both giver and receiver. Designated book givers personally distribute 20 copies each within their local community.
How To Be A Book Giver
To be chosen as one of the 20,000 book givers, individuals must complete an application form some months in advance, stating how, where and why they will distribute their books. Volunteers may choose which book they are allocated, ideally one that they have read and which has personally touched them, and for which they feel they can be a great ambassador. Successful applicants collect their box of books from one of the bookshops and libraries who have agreed to act as local distribution points (helpfully raising their profile within their community too).
I’ve been lucky enough to be a designated book giver for the three years that the scheme has been running. The first year, I chose Nigel Slater’s autobiography, Toast; last year I had Dodie Smith’s I Capture The Castle; this year I have Alexander McCall Smith’s The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency. The children’s reading charity where I work part-time, Readathon, is giving away Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. (Institutions as well as individuals may apply to be book givers.)
Giving the books away is an honour and a privilege. I feel like Father Christmas, and I know from the feedback I’ve had that the people I’ve chosen to give to have really appreciated and enjoyed the experience. “Too good to be true” is frequently heard from givers and receivers alike – but true World Book Night most certainly is.
On the scheme’s official website, there are moving tales of how receiving a free book like this has changed recipients’ lives, not only encouraging them to read books, but also boosting their self-esteem and their faith in the wider world. For many, it may be the only book they own, or the first book they’ve read after years of thinking that reading was not for them. Whatever their circumstances, their World Book Night book will be special.
So What’s In It for Indies?
With each annual list of World Book Night books comprising classics and best-sellers, it is unlikely that a self-published or indie book is going to be included – but that’s not the only way that this event helps authors. A large number of related events takes place throughout the country, and you are very welcome to get involved in these – or, indeed, you can create your own. Two years ago, another local book giver and I held our own World Book Night evening in the village hall. It was an informal, free event to which everyone was invited to discuss books and to collect their own free copy of one of the books. We also gave leftover copies to carefully selected people the next morning at a fundraising breakfast held there.
Getting involved in local events like this enables you to raise your profile as someone who loves, reads and writes books. Inevitably, such activity raises the profile – and sales – of your book. Here are some ideas of what you can do:
- attend a World Book Night event at your local library or bookshop to network with local booklovers (take a few copies of your book with you so you can make opportunitistic sales!)
- give a reading from one of your books at a World Book Night event
- give a few copies away as loss leaders
- hold a raffle for a signed copy of your book in aid of World Book Night
- run a special promotion for one day only, to mark World Book Night, in keeping with the generous spirit of the occasion
- get in touch with your local radio station or newspaper to put yourself forward as an interviewee, speaking both as a book giver and a writer
- write a blog post celebrating World Book Night – see what I did there? 😉
Whether or not you choose to do any of those things, I warmly recommend you become involved with the scheme, simply because it is an enormously uplifting, life-affirming movement. Taking part will remind even the most discouraged writer of the enormous power of books to change lives for the better. It renew your energy and enthusiasm to continue writing.
For more information, do take time to read through the World Book Night website, especially the case studies, and look out for extensive media coverage on the day too. If you’re interested in being designated a book giver next year, sign up to their mailing list and they’ll invite you to apply in the autumn for World Book Night 2014, when the time comes.
If you’re already involved with World Book Night, I’d love to hear about your experiences! Do leave a comment!
If you liked this post, it’s worth reading my other posts about World Book Day and World Book Night, and about how getting involved in other book-related events can help indie and self-published authors sell more books:
World Book Day for Self-Published Authors (on the ALLi website)
World Book Day for Indie Authors (on the Off The Shelf website)
My (slightly over-excited!) blog post about being chosen as a book giver for the first ever World Book Night (on the Off The Shelf website)
Improve Your Book Sales by Attending Other Authors’ Events (on the Off The Shelf website)