Let me start by saying that I have absolutely no official connection with Room to Read, nor am I a spokesperson for them. My support for Room to Read is because I like what they are doing and as a writer, I believe in libraries. But all told, that doesn't scratch the surface of why I am trying to raise funds for them. Like most good things in my life, it really wasn't my idea .
When I first met John Wood, founder of Room to Read and author of the book Leaving Microsoft to Change the World I'd already made my first contribution, though indirectly, to the organization. And it all started with NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). I completed my first NaNovel in 2004, just before starting with a new team at Microsoft. The new team were all writers working on Windows Mobile documentation and help. I thought that this was the perfect group to get involved in writing novels, so in September 2005 I started pushing for my co-workers to get involved in the November novelfest. Only one took me up on it. My friend Jason, agreed to join me, but with one caveat: We had to use what we wrote for some good cause. Exactly what that cause would be was left up in the air, but we both won NaNoWriMo that year and also met Nina, who enthusiastically joined in our commitment. What evolved was a project that would change the way I thought about publishing and social commitment. We published an anthology of our NaNovels in 2006--raw as they were--and used them as a fund-raiser during the Microsoft Giving Campaign in October. Chris Batey came to campus to help raise the awareness, and all told (with matching funds) we raised over $5,000 that we donated to the Office of Letters and Light. You may recall that was when the OLL was donating half of their proceeds over the amount needed for operating expenses to Room to Read. Our donation that year built a library.
The next year we were joined by a dozen other Microsoft writers, among whom on our team was Gary. We held a selection process for the three novels to be included in our anthology, published the book in time for the next Giving Campaign and raised nearly another $5,000 which we donated directly to Room to Read. Jason also came up with the idea of auctioning off naming rights for characters in our upcoming novels and raised nearly another $1,000 with that effort. That year (2007) I wrote Steven George & The Dragon in November with the idea that it would be used again to raise funds for Room to Read.
But things changed in the course of the next few months. Jason and Gary left Microsoft and the three of us became partners in the boutique publishing company Long Tale Press. We had huge amounts of work to do to get our business off the ground while still working day jobs to support ourselves. The Microsoft NaNoWriMos couldn't quite pull together the effort to do another "After Hours" anthology, and I was the Windows Mobile lead for the Giving Campaign which left even less time to promote my own charitable projects. And in January of 2009, I also left Microsoft.
It has taken almost two years for me to get my head around publishing my own book again. This time with the experience I've gained through Long Tale Press and changes in the industry that make independent publishing the most attractive proposition its been since Thoreau. So when I decided to return to Stn George, it was a conviction that I would fulfill my commitment to use the book to raise funds for Room to Read.
So why not donate all the money to my cause instead of just half the gross profits from presales? Economics plays a big role in this decision--both the economic environment of the publishing industry and my personal pocketbook. I'm supporting myself now through my writing (mostly contracts), so I have to make my writing time pay. I don't have the resources I had at Microsoft to solicit funds for printing or the Giving Campaign to get matching funds from. So, in order to keep writing and publishing, I settled on half.
But it is important that this come from sales before the book is released on March 25. That's where the economics of the publishing industry come into play. I will buy a special print run of books to distribute to advance purchasers. By doing that, I'll get the books for about $5 each. (Since the final layout isn't finished, I don't know the final cost per copy yet.) That means I will theoretically get about $10 per book in gross profit, less the 2.1% that Paypal will charge for handling the transaction. So, the donation per book will be in the vicinity of $5 per book. Once the book goes on sale through standard channels like Amazon on March 25, my gross profit will be less than $4 per book. So the amount of any donation would only be about $2 per book. That's why I'm pushing to get 100 pre-release sales of Steven George & The Dragon.Thank you for your support!