While no one is ever going to find a formula to guarantee your book those all important word of mouth recommendations, there are things that you can do to give readers the best possible chance of discovering it. One of these that has stood the test of time is to use BookCrossing.
BookCrossing is a brilliantly simple concept, initiated by Ron Hornbaker in the USA in 2001. You simply take a book you’ve enjoyed, register it on the scheme's website to get a unique ID code, and then leave it somewhere – like a park bench or a railway station – for other readers to find, with a little note inside that reads something like this:
I've registered this book at BookCrossing.com so I can track its journey through this world. Please go to www.BookCrossing.com/123-456789 to let me know you found it, then read it and/or pass it on for someone else to enjoy. Thank you!
This could be a handwritten note, one of BookCrossing's own labels [downloadable for free from its website), or a label you’ve designed yourself.
If the finder of the book decides to play, you can track your book’s progress around the world. BookCrossing currently has almost 1.9 million registered users in 132 countries. Over 9 million books have been registered on the site, which also has forums for readers to discuss the books they’ve enjoyed.
Not Just About Giving Books Away
Novelist Linda Gillard considers the support of Bookcrossers to be one of the key factors that helped her books take off:
“When I heard about BookCrossing in 2006, I hadn't long been published. I contacted one of their most enthusiastic members to ask if I could donate some books, and she invited me to teach writing workshops at BookCrossing UnConventions. I learned that BookCrossing wasn't all about free books. Bookcrossers buy a lot of books, but even more valuably from a writer's point of view, they talk books – morning, noon and night.
“They taught me a lot about how readers think and how they can help authors. They also crystallised my thoughts about wanting to focus on readers rather than sales. I realised what really mattered to me was sharing my stories. And that's what really matters to BookCrossers too – sharing stories.”
When I joined Bookcrossing, I made a point of releasing copies of my friends’ indie and small-press books where they might be discovered by new readers. One of the books I released turned up in Hong Kong. Another made it to a beach in Mombasa, Kenya. One, that I am particularly proud of, travelled from the pop-up library at Occupy London to the Boston Occupy camp.
A Timely Celebration in Gibraltar
So imagine my delight when I discovered that the day of Triskele Books‘ summer launch coincided with the Fifth Annual Bookcrossing Day in Gibraltar. By chance, we had a friend in Gibraltar who was willing to release books for us.
We designed our own commemorative Bookcrossing labels, packaged up the books for Gibraltar, and last weekend they were duly released. If you keep an eye on the Triskele Facebook page, we’ll let you know how it went.
Why don’t you give it a go? Register your own or your friends’ books and release a few copies. Consider adding BookCrossing to the ‘what to do next’ suggestions at the end of the book. Or do what Linda did and try donating books directly to Bookcrossing groups.
BookCrossing's website is at www.bookcrossing.com