DON’T EVEN THINK about buying your writer-friend that moleskine notebook and unwieldy fountain pen. They already have a gazillion. This is quite possibly the best holiday gift for an aspiring writer, ever: a critique (and follow-up phone call!) with an editor at Simon & Schuster. Or maybe a manuscript assessment, with line edits, from a literary agent. Or some free ad space on a highly-trafficked book blog?
All these things and SO MUCH MORE (sorry do I sound like an infomercial? I’m just really excited about this) can be yours via Publishing Hearts Connecticut, a massive online auction connecting writers with dozens of editors, agents, publicists and publishers. All proceeds from the auctions go to Newtown Youth and Family Services. The force behing the fundraiser is S.R. (Shelli) Johannes, author of best-selling YA novels Untraceable and Uncontrollable. Together with Miral Sattar, founder of Indie-publishing start-up Bibliocrunch, she launched the auction on December 15. It ends on Decmeber 21, so get bidding!
Electric Literature: Tell us a bit about how you guys know each other, and why you decided to do this.
S.R. (Shelli) Johannes: Miral Sattar and I met online in #indiechat [a twitter tag indie writers use to discuss their work]. She runs Bibliocrunch, a great organization that helps indie writers publish and promote their work, and I am a Young Adult indie author. Somehow you just click with people at times, she was one of those people for me.
I sent out an impromptu email Friday night after the tragic events and started getting a few donations. Miral facebooked me and said she was willing to help if I needed it. I emailed her because she is very efficient and I knew we would work well together. She said yes and we jumped in. We only expected about 20 bids, but now we are over 100 and turning items away. Working together was the only way we could have gotten the site up and running so quickly for the Monday kick-off.
EL: What are you auctioning off? Who are some of writers/publishing professionals involved?
SRJ: Publishing Hearts Connecticut is auctioning off items donated by professionals in the publishing and writing community. We have signed books, agent critiques, editor phone calls, self-publishing services, marketing and more.
For example: Ruta Rimas is an editor with Simon & Schuster. She is auctioning a 50-page critique with a follow-up phone call. Where else can you get that? Literary agents Joanna Volpe and Susan Hawk are giving away critiques as well. This feedback for a writer is invaluable and rarely available. For those who love books, we have many signed copies that would make perfect gifts. For example, Kimberly Derting, Simone Elkeles, Maggie Stiefvater, and Gail Carson Levine donated special book packages. We also have author services like marketing consultations, blog tours, ads, e-book formatting, and cover design. Basically, if you love books or are involved in making them, we have something for everyone.
EL: When does the auction end?
SRJ: The final bid is Friday night, by midnight. We had to make sure it ended on Saturday so we could get the donations to Newtown before Christmas. We would have loved to continue it just to make a bigger impact but with the timeframe and people going away—we had a short time available to get it up, running, and finalized.
EL: How will the funds be collected and delivered to the Newtown community?
SRJ: We wanted Newtown to get the most money—directly and fast. No red tape and no fees. The highest bidder will contribute their donation bid amount directly to the Newtown Youth and Family Services. They have set up a site for donations. That way we are not involved in the monetary transactions; it’s an honor system. We request that bidders email their recipets to us within 48 hours.
EL: What’s the response been like so far?
SRJ: Overwhelming and wonderful. The publishing community is a giving community. As I mentioned, Miral and I only expected about 20 donations. We have listed over 100 and we have turned at least 50 away because we couldn’t manage it. If I had more time, I would have kept going. Unfortunately, we’re no longer able to accept donations, but anyone is welcome to bid on our items. If they don’t see anything they need/want, they can make a monetary donation directly to Newtown Youth and Family Services.
If you cannot afford a monetary donation in this economy, I read about another way to give back. As a family, do 26 good deeds (they can be small things like taking a dish to a family or church, or donating to Toys for Tots). Do a good deed for each victim and their family to honor their memory. Get your kids involved. Money is not the only way to heal the hurt we all feel. I think it is important to be grateful, give back, and love each other.
—S.R. Johannes is the award-winning author of the bestselling teen thriller series The Nature of Grace (including the novels Untraceable and Uncontrollable). She runs a popular marketing blog on her website to help authors reach readers with their books.