So, I have been in the publishing business with Eifrig Publishing for over ten years. I have published over 100 books. But it is one of the most difficult arenas for a small businesses to be profitable in, as there is so much control and dominance by the big guys. I have often been asked why I am still doing it. It doesn’t pay the bills. It keeps me up late most nights working and worrying. But then this week, conversations I had with a couple of my authors and folks I met at a few of my events have helped me reassess what this endeavor is really all about.
At the Christmas in Lemont event I organized this past weekend, I spoke with a chap about an organization he is involved with, GREATMINDS. He was interested in the wonderful educational content many of my books provide, as this org helps kids achieve equity through literacy. When I was reading up on it, part of their mission statement really resonated with me: “We believe that every child is capable of greatness.”
THAT, right there, is IT:
The belief that every child, regardless of any conditions of existence, born into wealth or poverty, on the run and seeking shelter or living in luxury, undernourished or overfed, in excellent health or with physical or mental struggles, regardless of the color of their skin or religion or identity, that EVERY CHILD has a potential to do great things, to help solve the enigmas of our time, to find cures and stop climate change, or to be a good friend or good parent, to contribute to our communities, to uplift and help those around us thrive, to bring joy to their families and friends. Not only do they have the potential, but we NEED them to be living up to their potential so we can find solutions to so many of the world's problems. We need their resilience, their diverse perspectives, and alternative ways of thinking to create positive change in the world.
Every child is capable of greatness. They just need opportunities to learn, to have adults in their lives who show them they are worthy, so that they can believe deep down that they matter and can reach their own greatness.
With so much negativity at the moment (and being sick for a month), I was starting to feel a bit disheartened and almost hopeless—that the evil in the world was gaining the overhand; that people apparently could not see the dignity and value of others and instead would leave children to die in cages or let perish trying to get to safe havens; that gun rights seem more important than human rights; that cancer and illness is the reality for too many and I can’t do anything to help my friends dealing with it. But then out of that hopelessness sometimes comes a gem of positivity.
Yesterday I got to participate in a book reading at the Park Forest Preschool, a free school where my daughter went when we first moved back to State College, as I could never have afforded daycare. I have always been so grateful to all the folks who make that possible and who help so many kids find their path to greatness (like my daughter has!). Yesterday, the kids received copies of one of my favorite books, Stardust Child, by Joann Leonard, who used to volunteer at the school years ago. The story tells of how we are all made from the atoms created from stars that exploded millions of years ago. We, and everything around us, are all energy and motion and are all made of the very same thing. The 3- and 4-year-olds seemed to get it! And they delighted in their free books that the super talented illustrator, Bill Schroder, read to them and signed. It was a wonderful day. And when I shared the photos and videos Joann, who is now out in California, she let me know that they brought her tears of joy, as well.
Last week I started a social media campaign announcing free eBooks that we are giving away daily all December. So many copies have already been downloaded, and I know there are many kids now who will get to enjoy some of our wonderful titles, who would not have, had we not given them away. It feels pretty darn good to give. It feels a heck of a lot better than selling, to be honest, when most of the sales end up being at conditions that bring no one profit (except to amazon or B&N) and knowing that only families with discretionary income can afford them.
I think I will be giving books away every day from now on. It is good for my health and happiness, and I know they might help some kids find their path to greatness.
I am planning the eBook giveaways for next week, and I had a long conversation with the author of Bunny Bath, Heather Herzog. We donated 250 books to the Mt. Nittany Medical Centre last year so every new baby there got a book to take home. I got to meet a sweet now-18-month-old recipient this weekend who stopped at my stand at the Christmas market and showed me his favorite page: “It’s Mama Bunny!” Hmmm…felt like that donation made a difference too!
For every book I sold at the market, I also donated a copy…A pile of books went to Centre Safe to be added to the holiday gifts going to the mothers and children there seeking safety from domestic violence. Several copies of Brad Yates' A GARDEN OF EMOTIONS on EFT Tapping were given to psych students and young teachers to share with their classrooms.
Other books went to the Park Forest Preschool. With each gift, I felt even more positive and full of hope.
Last night, that positivity returned again in the form of a facebook conversation about the state of the world with one of my other favorite authors, Lisa Gammon Olson, who writes the Tales from American HerStory books, when she boldly wrote, “I think we are on the cusp of a more enlightened planet...I DO feel it!”
Right there and then, I did feel it. Like, maybe everything we do DOES make a difference.
So, what does this all mean? Yeah, I know I cannot only give our books away, but I do feel like the more we give, the more giving will be possible. That somehow by putting this goodness out into the universe, it will come back and help me keep on giving. I know for sure that for 13 years I have been creating wonderful content with my authors, but that I have done a crummy job of getting their books into the hands of kids. So I am done trying to sell books to stores, competing with the giants that make it so hard to succeed, trying to force a sale and then end up with 60 cents of profit to split with my authors. If I am going to work so hard, I might as well work on getting the books directly into the hands of kids as they embark on their paths to greatness.
For the past year, I have been trying to figure out how to not be focused on making sales but still stay afloat. For starters, I am going to keep on giving away eBooks.* It shares the content at no immediate cost, and lots of kids can enjoy the books. I will continue to offer them in the almost free digital library, magicblox, so kids can enjoy them online. And I will continue to send out books to groups and organizations doing good work with underserved kids through the non-profit, Random Acts of Reading. I am also collaborating with non-profits, like Tommy Two Shoes Literacy Project, that connects businesses with classrooms so every kids can go home with a free book. This is where I will be sending my energy from now on. I am done trying to make a sale. I am going to put the books out there with all the positive energy they are filled with, and see what greatness we can achieve!
And never forget the words of Margaret Mead:
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.”
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