Guest Blog on Cause Marketing and Books

FOR THE CAUSE:  Guest blogged today (4/25/2013)  at

For the Cause: Indie Publishing and Affinity Marketing

One of the hardest things for me to do as an independently published author (a.k.a. “self-published”) is to hawk my own books. Yes, I know that every author, even those published by traditional presses, must market, market, market, buzz, buzz, buzz, and toddle around on platform shoes, but it’s much easier for me to make an ask for the benefit of others.

I’ve served on the boards of various social and charitable organizations and chaired a bunch of fundraising committees. I practice law in the advertising and sponsorship space, where cause marketing has become a popular tool for developing a meaningful relationship with customers—in our case, readers. So I guess it should have occurred to me—and it finally did—that I could align my book sales with a cause I cared deeply about.

When I connected my new novel, Warming Up to The Night Ministry, it became easier for me to promote my book and helped me reach a broader audience. The connection gave people a reason to read a book by an author they’ve never heard of—and it gave me something to sell them besides my own ego gratification. Call it affinity marketing.

Of course I believe in my story, and I believe that people will enjoy reading it—some have said, graciously, that they can’t put it down. But I also know there are lots of books out there like that, and readers have lots of choices, many of them good.

But now, when they buy Warming Up, 10% of my proceeds (that’s my gross, not net) are donated to The Night Ministry, which serves Chicago’s homeless and in particular, homeless youth. This new novel from She Writes Press is the story of a singer who doesn’t sing and a sculptor who doesn’t sculpt and how both their lives are changed by a chance encounter with a homeless kid named Kix. I didn’t write the book to explore or exploit the issue of homelessness, but when the manuscript was done, and the kid had played such an important role in giving my characters the courage to confront their own creativity, the tie-in with The Night Ministry was natural.

Together we sponsored my launch party, TNM inviting donors and potential donors, and me inviting not just my most loyal readers and supporters, but also those I knew to be interested in social causes.

One hundred and ten folks said “yes,” and on the day of, despite four inches of steady rain, eighty-eight showed up for wine and cheese, a very short presentation by TNM and a short reading and book signing by me. We sold 72 books that day! And I was invited to do another reading at the bookstore, Women & Children First, which had handled sales for us. I also collected a number of checks for The Night Ministry. Win, win, win!

I continue to promote TNM on my book cover and in my readings; TNM has promoted Warming Up in invitations, newsletters and follow-on thank you’s.

What makes this work for me and can work for you is that:

1. I truly care about the cause

2. The connection isn’t forced, but makes sense in terms of the novel’s subject matter

3. The book is not polemic, that is, it was written for itself as a story, and not to or for the cause.

There is a genuine connection between the people who support organizations which help the homeless and my readers, and a synergy in the marketing which has been another deep satisfaction, for me, in independent publishing.

Readers – have you attached your work to a cause? Tell us about it with your comment below. If you’re looking for a charity in your book’s subject area, you might begin at Charity Navigator. They provide financial and transparency details on charities and now have data for all 1.6 million IRS registered non- profits on their site!


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