To cross or not to cross? That is the question for today. Bookcrossing.com has become one of the more popular “sharing” sites for books.
According to thier website, bookcrossing is defined as follows:
n. the practice of leaving a book in a public place to be picked up and read by others, who then do likewise.
(added to the Concise Oxford English Dictionary in August 2004)
They actively promote a program called ‘The Three R’s.”
The “3 Rs” of BookCrossing…
- Read a good book (you already know how to do that)
- Register it here (along with your journal comments), get a unique BCID (BookCrossing ID number), and label the book
- Release it for someone else to read (give it to a friend, leave it on a park bench, donate it to charity, “forget” it in a coffee shop, etc.), and get notified by email each time someone comes here and records a journal entry for that book. And if you make Release Notes on the book, others can Go Hunting for it and try to find it!
Many authors and publishers fear losing royalties if too many readers practice this. They imagine a world where hundreds of readers are passing along one copy of their book, instead of each of those individuals going to a store and buying a copy.
As a self-published author, I know the key to success is to build strong word-of-mouth, and what better way to do so then through giving away free copies of your book? I personally have registered and released a dozen copies of my novel The Thief Maker into the wild, and encourage friends, family, and readers to do the same. I have also donated copies to local libraries and used book stores. The idea that this type of practice robs us of royalties is ridiculous. For me, it’s about finding readers and connecting with their minds, not their wallets. Plus, it spreads good karma, as Bookcrossing says…and who knows…some of those who find the free copies you release and like the idea or like the book might encourage others to go out and buy it.
Releasing a book into the wild does involve a little bit of strategy on your part. Leaving a book behind at a Barnes & Noble cafe table is probably a better idea than releasing a book on a park bench in the dead of winter. You have to get into the mind of a potential reader. Where might readers be congregating, and where might a “lost book” catch someone’s attention?
The one catch to Bookcrossing.com is that the person who finds the book has to register on the site to be able to leave an entry stating they found the book, and some people might not bother doing that. This means people could be reading and passing along the book without your knowledge. It makes it difficult to measure the true success of such a practice. So far, there’s only been one confirmed “catch” of The Thief Maker. I personally like the “mystery” aspect of the process and enjoy imagining others finding the books and simply never registering.
What other ways can you spread word-of-mouth and build “the karma of literature?” Are there other sites like Bookcrossing.com that promote similar practices? Are there other revolutionary ideas out there that could help writers find an audience? Feel free to respond and share!
David H. Schleicher, author of The Thief Maker