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an international network of Quaker booksellers - authors - publishers concerned with the ministry of the written word

The 2012 QUIP Report - Reaching Out

by Sherryll-Jeanne Harris, Reporter for QUIP, Vancouver Island Monthly Meeting

As always, there was a spine tingling moment. Charles Martin, co-clerk of Quakers United in Publishing (QUIP), pulled an old book from a Pendle Hill bookshelf. To his utter amazement, buried between its pages, was a letter written by his great-great grandfather, William Burgess, and published in the Friends’ Intelligencer, November 30, 1900. The following excerpt that Charles read aloud was meaningful to all of us attending the 2012 QUIP conference.

“Slight differences of opinion on doctrine, or conventional forms and customs, which by many seem to be considered as dogmas of the church and essential to salvation, are not allowed to interfere with that friendly intercourse which toleration invokes and true charity demands.”

Quaker authors, publishers, editors, bloggers, booksellers, Publication and Communication committee representatives from Meetings, sought to learn better and effective ways to publish Quaker thought, faith and essence, for all Quakers and non-Quaker readers alike.

There is concern that many Friends and attenders are not well versed in Quaker teachings. Apparently this is not a new problem. In the Memoirs of Rachel Hicks (1879), she wrote: “I wish Friends generally would read Friends’ books much more than I fear many do. I grieve in the secret of my heart when I go into Friends’ houses and see piles of books on the centre table, and I cannot find a Friends book among them!”

During panel discussions and presentations, we learned that promoting books in an age of book decline calls for innovative action. Promotion is a skill that writers need to learn when fewer publishers are investing in authors. More than ever before, a writer must find ways to become known. Getting a book to market, and keeping it there, is a big job. It demands effective placement of musings, along with riveting reviews. According to Liz Yeats, the administrative facilitator for QUIP, one needs to use all possible tools, such as websites, blogs, and videos on Youtube. One needs to create a buzz, a persona, and ultimately keen readers looking forward to the release of your book. “Book signings don’t work well when people don’t know your name,” Liz added.

Author Eileen Flanagan recommends providing press kits to radio stations. Including a list of questions you want to answer makes it easy for stations to give you precious airtime before you present in their community. Eileen finds that Spirit opens Way when she chooses to support others. She builds networks with local libraries, Meetings, and bookstores. While helping with her book promotion all participants gain a higher profile. Eileen added that people who enter a Meeting House to hear her speak, are often encountering Quaker faith and thought for the first time.

I recalled a recent concern, published in the Canadian Friend. Ellen Pye of Canadian Yearly Meeting wrote: “I am dismayed at how little of our printed Quaker insight finds its way into the outside world....I would regularly receive ecumenical journals containing book reviews of relevant books, but I looked in vain for ones written by Quakers. I’m sure they would have been welcomed, but can only think none were submitted. Do we hide our Light under a bushel? What we…know must be placed more prominently before the eyes of the world, beyond the Society of Friends, so that we are not just talking to ourselves.” Fortunately, Eileen is doing much to share our Light widely, and to mentor others to do the same.

During an afternoon session with Gabe Ehri and Martin Kelley of Friends Journal, they began with the question: “Who’s your audience?” Answer: Those Quakers and non-Quakers who want to apply their faith to living in the world. Like Eileen Flanagan, they stressed the importance of creating secular conversations into which we can inject Quaker wisdom. We named the endless forms of media now available to us for communicating Quaker Faith and Spirit. While some may despair the loss of real hold-in-your-hand books, with real paper pages to digital technology, most are quick to say that social media options such as Twitter, can be useful promotional tools for a real book.

One’s choice of media depends on the shelf-life of the material one wishes to publish. Take care to choose the appropriate vehicle for your information. Social media are tools to quickly build an interest in a topic. Get an article out online. Create a buzz about a thought. Ultimately, when it is a shaped piece, and published in your journal or book, then you will have keen readers waiting to snap it up.

Are we better informed now than we were before the explosion of social media? There was a caution to not become so fascinated, so distracted and engaged, by the growing ways to communicate, that we lose time for precious silence: time to let the Spirit guide and inform our lives.

Readers may recall that QUIP supported the publishing of Spirit Rising – Young Quaker Voices. At business meeting we moved forward on QUIP’s commitment to funding the printing of a Spanish edition, for our Spanish-speaking Friends of the Americas. Several Spanish-speaking young people contributed and were involved in the editing process. QUIP also administers the Tace Sowle Fund, which assists Quaker authors and publishers in less affluent countries to publish material. Contributions to this fund are gratefully received.

QUIP could become more than it currently is. From various participants, I gathered the following impressions and suggestions. QUIP seems to be geared more toward networking than to being directly helpful for publications marketing. It does have potential to be more helpful for marketing, but QUIP would need to actively engage in marketing. One suggestion was that QUIP could be a cooperative resource for book reviews.

Presently QUIP has a website on which Friends’ publications may be posted and linked. We invite all who publish in some form, to learn about QUIP and to join us. Help QUIP become stronger. Bring your expertise and join the conversation at Twin Rocks, Oregon, April 11-14, 2013.

While iPads and Kindles are changing publishing as we know it, I was rather tickled when travelling home, to overhear a young man – who was clutching a book – say to his girlfriend: “I feel like such a nerd carrying a book, but it’s so darn good!”


2012 QUIP Officers