So two days ago, I helped run this workshop at Northwestern University for a class that is about developing programs for social justice issues. Basically, the Voices & Faces Project team goes in and discusses how we founded our organization and then charges the students with the task of coming up with their own creative initiatives to benefit the program and reshape how people look at rape.What was amazing about this particular workshop is that the professor decided to focus his students on something more specific. Namely: how to promote my book and develop a program for creating new dialogues about rape based off the themes in my book. I KNOW. It was HUGE.
|Prof Danny Cohen & V&F founder Anne Ream|
|V&F project member Katie Hnida|
The interesting thing is that it went a little differently than I expected because I talked so much (Oh Christa) that the students weren't given as long as they needed to come up with ideas for it.
But, several REALLY interesting things came up (please note my sample size was a class of 30):
1. None of these students went to book stores when they were in high school. (I know, saddest panda EVER). When they got books, their parents either bought them for them or they got them online. They bought books based on recommendations of friends/family members only. None read reviews, went on GR, or bought anything based on what "Amazon recommends".
2. When they talked about where teens spent their time online these days, most of them said Tumblr and Twitter. FB is considered a little old even though all of them are on it. (This is evidently what we get for letting our parents post pictures of their cats on FB. Teens are bailing:))
3. They all felt libraries and schools were the most effective way of getting books into the hands of teens besides word of mouth. And they actually had some REALLY interesting ideas for how to get my book into schools despite the plethora of F-words. (love college brains!)
Now, the really interesting thing:
4. One of the guys in the class said something like, "Maybe if you want guys to read this, you shouldn't make your alliance to the Voices and Faces Project so prominent. Like you shouldn't tell them about the program and then the book, because then they'll feel like they're being preached to and we get that ALL the time."
This actually caused me to pause and really have to think. In allying myself with a project that I care deeply for, am I sabotaging myself from potential readers picking up my book? Is my voice less effective in reaching people because I'm a survivor? Or because I was an advocate for so many years? Should I be placing less emphasis on my cause and more emphasis on the fact that the book is short and has lots of provocative scenes in it?
I called Jolene shortly after this class in a bit of a panic. And ever helpful, she said, "Maybe it just gets marketed differently for different people. It's not like it actually IS preaching, so maybe with boys, you mention there's a lot of swearing. And maybe with girls, you mention that it's sort of a love story. And maybe with librarians you mention the potential dialogue that can come out of it. And maybe with parents, you mention that you're donating half your money to a good cause. I'm generalizing, but you get the point. The nice thing about your book is that it does in fact do all those things. It just depends on who you talk to about it."
I don't know. I don't think one book can do/be ALL the things. But I'm a little lost about what to say about it now. I'm proud of my work with the Voices and Faces Project. I'm proud that this book came out of that writing workshop. But should I make less of a deal about it? Am I setting up the book to not be read because people think it's going to be preachy?
Would that impact your purchase one way or another?