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Writing: Charitable Causes As Motivation

Writing: Charitable Causes as Motivation

Blog editor Debbie Young explains how helping a favourite charity can be great motivation for self-published writers and indie authors, whatever their genre.

Cover of Debbie Young's "Coming To Terms With Type 1 Diabetes"Without wishing to sound as if I think I’m Superman, now and again I like to use my powers for good: to write something that benefits a charity. To mark World Diabetes Day today, I launched an e-book to raise funds for JDRF, the global charity funding research into a cure for Type 1 Diabetes, a serious condition which affects both my husband and our only child.

The Charitable Power of Self-Publishing

Cover of Silent Trauma by Judith BarrowOne of the many advantages of self-publishing is having the freedom to produce a book for the cause of your choice, even one that a trade publisher wouldn’t consider because it addresses a taboo subject or because it might attract litigation.

One such cause is the campaign for justice for the victims of the drug Stilboestrol, sold for years to  prevent miscarriage but leaving subsequent generations a legacy of horrific congenital disorders. Few sufferers are willing to talk openly about its effects, which include genital malfunction and deformity, so Judith Barrow, compelled by sympathy for their plight,  wrote the novel Silent Trauma, creating fictitious characters to tell their story.

Rick Redner and his wife Brenda took a factual approach to raise awareness of prostate cancer, co-writing an engagingly-titled memoir, I Left My Prostate in San Francisco. An one reviewer puts it, “this book is quite a brilliant way to educate people of what it is with all its implications”.

Cover of James Minter's bookPreviously a non-fiction writer, James Minter used humour in his novel The Unexpected Consequences of Iron Overload, self-published in aid of the Haemochromatosis Society, raising awareness of a condition resulting from too much iron in the blood. In a spoof thriller in the tradition of James Bond and George Smiley, the hero becomes magnetic, with entertaining consequences.

Each book is a good read in its own right, attracting plenty of 4* and 5* reviews, but it’s also satisfying for the author to be able to do something constructive about a serious medical condition.

Cover of Rick & Brenda Redner's bookThe Author-Publisher Calls the Shots

The author-publisher calls the shots not only for the content of a charitable book but also for its production and pricing.  I was able to produce my book for no cost at all, thanks to kind people who volunteered their services because they had friends and relations affected by its cause.  Novelist Joanne Phillips beta-read the book, the poet Shirley Wright proofread the final manuscript, and assisted publishing service SilverWood Books donated a professional cover design.

Even so, fixing the retail price was a tricky decision. I considered issuing the book free of charge, with a donation link embedded. In the end, I decided to charge a modest price (just enough to qualify for the 70% royalty level on Amazon) on the uncharacteristically pessimistic assumption that (a) nobody ever appreciates something they get for free and (b) a lot of readers might not read the e-book after they’d bought it, so wouldn’t find the link. But I did also add on the final page a hotlink to a special JDRF donation page, so that I will have the satisfaction of knowing exactly how much my book has raised.

Other Ways to Use Your Books for Charity

Of course, there’s no need to write a book especially for a charity. There are plenty of ways to use your existing books to benefit good causes:

  • offer them as raffle prizes, adding value by signing them
  • sell tickets to public readings of your work
  • donate new books to an appropriate charity (in the UK, ReadWell welcomes offers of new books for children in hospital)

Finally, my conscience compels me to mention the elephant in the room: having another book to your name will boost your visibility as an author on Amazon and elsewhere. Getting into the top 10 Kindle titles on “Disorders and Diseases” may never have been one of my writing ambitions, but as it’s happened, who am I to protest? It’s a win-win situation. My optimism has returned.

If you’ve written a book for a good cause or used your books to support a favourite charity, we’d love to hear about it – please feel free to add a brief case study via the Comments box.

This Post Has 29 Comments
  1. I am having orthopedic injured on hip and knees and spinal cord on back. I can’t sit correctly and I can’t walk since 2008. Unfortunately Gambia main hospital discharge me since 2009 and doctors says Gambia didn’t got orthopedic facility to treat and I should do oversea othopedic treatment but my mother couldn’t afford. I been orthopedic with pain day and night and not been under any medication or treatment for almost nine years now. My bones are getting smaller but despite all the pain I found a way to control everything from anything and control them all and using them to survive in orthopedic that will lead me to recover from the injured. I am still in pain with injured but I didn’t used painkillers because I could control my pain in many ways this and many more things I been discovering on my survival with depression. Am writing everything on book because I want to show the world how your life became when you became chronic patients. Please I need your help to publish my book when I finish my book it’s currently 50.453 words please

  2. I have written a book of poetry on dementia. 18 meaningful verses that bring this disease to light . It’s to help people understand the disease in Many ways. Some are short, some are longer it’s a beautiful way of letting people read, to see the different things that happen ,and be aware ofwith dementia patients. If any one is interested in purchasing a copy please see popsy’s little book of poems on Facebook.

  3. I’ve written a romance novel to help raise funds for the Australia Cambodia Foundation (The Lie Cycle). The hardest part is marketing. Unless you;re prepared to pay a fortune for print, it’s very difficult (I’m in Australia, so the population is tiny too). I have to sell 750 copies of the eBook for it to be published in print at no charge to me or the charity.

    So, although my intentions were good, the further work involved in marketing (free marketing, at that) is a greater challenge than writing a 95,000 word novel.

  4. I have written a book entitled “Walking in sand” about my journey with Parkinson’s disease. I have sold a few via the Amazon UK site.

    I am thinking of doing a “free” promotion and suggesting people donate to a just giving page. Not sure how to advertise this? ie use the amazon page to show the link? any thoughts? http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00NAFIMUW

    1. Hi Garth, well done for writing the book. I have another author friend who writes poetry books to raise awareness and funds for Parkinson’s Disease charities – check out Bobbie Coelho on Amazon for more info. She’s also in the UK so you might like to connect. A few suggestions: include at the start and finish of your book an appeal for donations to your justgiving page. That way even if someone buys the book at full price they might still donate. Expand your Twitter bio to show your connection with Parkinsons and use a hashtag whenever your tweeting about it. It’s acceptable to tweet every so often to invite people to support the charity by buying your book, but don’t let those tweets be more than 10% of your total tweets or you’ll lose followers. Then build up your Twitter followers by following anyone you can find who tweets about Parkinsons or has an appropriate hashtag in their bio.

      If you run a free promotion on Kindle, make sure you get it listed on any sites you can find that promote free downloads, so that you’re actively driving traffic there.

      Have you done all that you can to promote the book in other ways? e.g. local paper and radio, news stories about it on the Parkinsons charity sites. Search the ALLi website under the “Reaching Readers” category to see if there’s anything you’ve missed that you might like to try. You might also find my indie author book promotion guide helpful, “Sell Your Books!”, now available at all good bookshops and online ereader sites. Good luck with your very worthy cause. If you’d like to contact me directly to chat further, please visit my website http://www.otsbp.com where I blog about book promotion, or my author website http://www.authordebbieyoung.com. Funnily enough I’m just about to launch the paperback of my diabetes book to help me reach more readers than by ebook alone. That might be something you’d like to consider doing too.

      Anyone wanting to follow Garth and support his cause will find him on Twitter at @GarthRavenhill, by the way.

  5. I am currently working on my third book, which will be a collection of poetry to raise awareness and funds for the fight against human trafficking. This article was helpful and encouraging to see that there are other authors out there doing similar work!

    Do you have any advice for someone publishing such a book using CreateSpace? I’m still in the early stages, but what are some ways I could promote the book, looking for new authors and interest? Thank you so much!

    1. Sarah, if I were you I would first try to promote the book via the charity/charities for whom you are raising funds/awareness – they most likely have established networks of supporters who would be interested in your book. Also try reaching out to your local community and media as they will be interested in your local angle. My book might help you – “Sell Your Books”, available as an e-book and as a paperback, was written specifically for those who have written a book and aren’t sure where to start with marketing it. More info here: http://offtheshelfbookpromotions.wordpress.com/sell-your-books/

  6. I am currently preparing to release my novel about a teenage girl dealing with leukemia. I am hoping to get advice on how to launch the novel so that a percentage of books sold will go to a cancer organization for children with cancer. My question is, how do I go about doing this? It is an important topic for me as my daughter, father and mother all dealt with fighting cancer, as well as myself. Any advice or tips is welcomed and appreciated.

    Thank you kindly,
    Sarah C

    1. Hi Sarah, I’m hoping I can help you from my own experience of writing a book about dealing with Type 1 Diabetes, which affects both my husband and our young daughter. There’s more about my book “Coming To Terms With Type 1 Diabetes” here on my website: http://authordebbieyoung.com/non-fiction/type-1-diabetes/ and there’s a contact form on the website so you can contact me directly so that we can chat in more detail. I have to say writing the book has been hugely therapeutic for me as well as being a fundraiser into research for a cure, and I wish you the very best for your book. I’m sure you’ll find, as I did, that it is a really fulfilling and helpful thing to do. Best wishes, Debbie Young

  7. My first book titled ‘Through A Mother’s Eyes’ was self-published and a percentage of all sales goes to aid my charity of choice the Women’s and Children’s Hospital Foundation, here in Adelaide, South Australia. A local photographer also kindly donated their images for my book.
    I have found this extremely rewarding on so many levels.

  8. Yes, producing books to support a charity or cause is a very worthwhile idea. I’ve just been involved in producing a collection of short stories and poems by members of our loca writers group and two established authors in our area, Carlo Gebler and Seamas Mac Annaidh, in aid of the local animal sanctuary. The book is called Tails of the Unexpected by Fermanagh Writers. We will launch it this week so marketing starts now. It will be interesting to see whether the books sells faster than our previous one due to its charitable purpose.

  9. Wow! Kudos and many compliments to these writers and their books, highlighting various causes. I think these books sound like a very entertaining but very effective way to get information out to readers.

    In a slightly different vein, there is an author site ,”Indies Unlimited”, that assists with restocking libraries with books – libraries that have been destroyed in natural disasters such as Hurricane Sandy. The common thread is that in both cases, we are all Indie authors helping others, and I am proud to be part of such a mindset.

    I really enjoyed this post!

    1. Thanks for commenting, Dianne, and I’m glad you enjoyed the post! That library restocking service sounds like an easy, fulfilling way for indie writers to help others – do have a URL for it please? I just tried to google it but failed, sorry!

  10. My latest novel Ulterior Motives is set in the Philippines, so after hearing about Typhoon Haiyan I decided to donate the royalties from sales of the novel this week to the Red Cross relief Fund. It was a spur of the moment decision though and I haven’t had much chance to promote it other than on my blog, twitter and facebook so I’m considering extending the offer. If anyone has any suggestions as to how make this kind of offer more effective, I’d appreciate hearing from them.

      1. Hi Debbie, I would be very grateful if you could do a post for me on your blog. I’m going to extend the offer on online sales (both print and ebook) until midnight Wednesday 27 November. If you need any further info, could you email me please.

        Thanks
        Mel

        1. Hi Mel, I’ve just added this to my new Facebook group for my ebook reading friends, which I think is more appropriate than my blog (and I’m short of time to write a blog post this week anyway!) The Facebook group address is https://www.facebook.com/groups/DebbieYoungKindleFun/ and it’s an open group. Any of my FB friends are welcome to join it for news of my (very selective!) personal recommendations of free or cut-price Kindle books. And of course I welcome FB friend requests from any member of ALLi 🙂

  11. On the back of my book I am hosting a fundraising event on the afternoon of 23rd November, 2013. The aim of this event is to raise funds as well as the profile of the local charity PHAB (Physical Handicapped and Able Bodied) which my daughter is a member of.

    My introductory talk is entitled: ‘Communicating, Connecting & Manifesting’

    There will be a number of authors attending amongst them Diana Vickery who will be signing her ‘Swankypants’ childrens books.

    Should anyone wish to attend please get in touch.

  12. This is something many writers are going to be thinking about at the moment in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan. There was a wonderful response from the creative community to both Haiti and the Boxing Day tsunami

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Debbie Young

Debbie Young writes warm, funny feel-good fiction, including the Sophie Sayers Village Mysteries series, which begins with the bestselling "Best Murder in Show". As ALLi's Author Advice Center Manager, she also writes guidebooks for authors. Founder and director of the Hawkesbury Upton Literature Festival, she is a frequent speaker at other literary events. Find out more about Debbie's writing life on her author website www.authordebbieyoung.com.

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