Please welcome Ashley LaMar, founder and manager of Closed the Cover. Today Ashley has a great post about how she uses book blogging to give back to charities that support literacy. Welcome, Ashley!
When I first started book blogging (in 2010 under a different blog name) I didn’t have any eReader device so I could only accept paperback ARC’s and novels for review. It didn’t take long before my home was overrun with books! I knew a lot of bloggers would run giveaways for the books they had read but I wanted to do something else. I ultimately connected with a few local organizations (Friends of the Library, the prison library in the neighboring county, and youth programs) and developed a donation list. I donated specific genres to each place as my piles became too large to manage (prison libraries won’t accept books with violence, crime, sex or language and obviously youth programs have equally strict requirements). The system worked out great and I felt good about what I was doing. I was reading ARC’s and other novels, reviewing them and promoting them online then sharing the literary love with organizations that needed books. It was a win-win…until my husband bought me an iPad and I converted from my old site to Closed the Cover.
Once I was able to read eBooks the requests for eBook ARC’s started to outnumber the physical books. I didn’t mind but I felt guilty that I was no longer able to be charitable and donate books to places that I had built relationships with over the last year. I struggled with a way to fix the situation when one day an idea hit me “Wham!” right in the face. For years I have been a strong supporter of a literacy charity called, “Room to Read”; I could ramble incessantly about them and how incredible they are but instead I’ll just encourage you to check them out at http://www.roomtoread.org/. I ultimately decided on a new set of book review submission rules: physical copies of books are accepted for review at no charge however authors, publishers, publicists, must understand that the book will most likely be donated to charity after review and eBook copies are accepted for review but require a minimum of a $5 donation to the literacy charity, Room to Read. My thought process was that either way books were being shared, authors were gaining reviews and publicity, and charities and organizations were being supported. I was a wee bit apprehensive when I first implemented the new policies; concerned that authors may be offended or irritated by the request for a donation. It has been my policy for over two years now and I have not heard a single complaint from anyone. I have received a lot of eBook submissions, raised over $700 ($400 so far in 2013), and heard a lot of positive feedback from people who support the idea.
As Closed the Cover gained more followers, increased in traffic, and expanded services I started to see a (small) profit earned from the blog site. The advertising started to raise a little bit of money (only coins per month really), Amazon affiliate purchases began to rise, my Amazon bookstore began to reflect purchases and authors were hiring me to promote their virtual tours. Once again, my guilt began to rise. I started to question how ethical it was for me to ask authors, publishers and publicists to donate to Room to Read in exchange for submitting an eBook when I was earning money (albeit very little) through other avenues and not contributing myself. It simply wasn’t the right way to operate so I changed my policies again. I have now started to donate 15% of all money raised by Closed the Cover and CTC Virtual Book Tours to Room to Read. Every year I choose a new Room to Read program (build a library, build a school, fund the Girls’ Education program, publish books in a small village’s native language, etc) to support. This year, in 2013, I chose to support the Girls’ Education program. According to Room to Read $250 will fully fund the education expenses of one girl for one year. Our goal was to raise $500 to fully fund a year of education for two girls. We have already raised $400 and are definitely on pace to hit our annual goal. It’s an incredible feeling!
Thanks, Ashley! I just came across another charity run by Dolly Parton called Imagination Library, which mails books to children every month. If you know of any other charities that support literacy, share them in the comments!