Around this time last year I got it in my head to encourage people to buy more books. Granted, it was at least a little self-serving as I make some portion of my income from the sale of books, but it wasn’t all about me. I want everyone to buy a book—any book, from any bookseller, on any subject, in any genre, in any format (and yes, any format includes any e-book format, too). Why? Well, I just happen to think that the world is a better place if there are books—and all the people I love and respect who make books happen: authors, editors, printers, booksellers, librarians, educators, and readers—in it.
Last year I spread the word on National Buy a Book Day, which is September 7th, by the way—fast approaching for this year—in the most grassy of the grassroots means at my disposal: Twitter, this blog, and Grasping for the Wind. Some heroic people out there in the Twitterverse and Blogosphere picked up the torch and re-tweeted, re-posted, posted links, wrote blog posts of their own, and did their level best to tell people to go out and buy a book on September 7, 2010. Then a bunch of people actually went out on September 7th and bought a book.
I was inspired, and to be honest, I can be a bit of a cynic. It’s not easy to inspire me to much but anger and frustration—most of the time—but this groundswell of support, small as it may have been—got me in the ol’ ticker.
After September 7th of last year I determined to make National Buy a Book Day not only an annual event, but one that would garner national attention. Step one, I thought, was to set up a non-profit organization to serve as a focal point for efforts nationwide.
How hard could that be? A couple online forms filled out, maybe a couple hundred bucks spent, and I set up a website (already paid for, by the way—I get two web sites from the same hosting service that hosts athansassociates.com, and that second site is sitting there vacant) and I start getting PayPal donations, throw myself on the mercy of the surviving national bookstore chains, distributors, publishers, and anyone else I can think of who might help with donations and networking.
Well, maybe not. First, my CPA, a very smart woman who does my taxes every year and patiently schools me on just how bad I can be with my personal finances, punted. She told me to find a lawyer and an accountant who specialize in non-profit organizations.
Good advice, I suppose, but not if you don’t have any money. LegalZoom wanted to charge me $600 to fill out the paperwork, but I don’t have $600 to invest in that while still starting up a small business, feeding and housing two children, and so on. How hard can it be, anyway? I thought. I’m a pretty smart guy, and the form is right there on the IRS website. What the heck, I’ll just download it and dive right in.
So, I did just that, and made it this far:
Oh, and I also successfully applied for an Employee Identification number.
Then I sat down to fill out all 26 pages of IRS Form 1023 to apply for tax exemption under section 501(c)3.
I actually am a pretty smart guy, and was not, and am not, intimidated by this empirically intimidating form. I’m a good guy, too, a law-abiding citizen. But these IRS forms bring out the Orwellian paranoid in me. It has the feeling of a minefield, where the slightest misunderstanding, a check in just the wrong box, sends me to a federal penitentiary head first.
I’m not done with this form yet, and will continue to work at it until I am. At this point there’s definitely no way that the National Buy a Book Day Foundation will be able to accept tax-deductable donations by September 7th of this year, but next year, for sure.
Now we get to the appeal for help.
I feel a little bit like Lee Harvey Oswald, calling out to anyone from the legal profession to come forward and render assistance, but that’s precisely what I’m doing. And I have precisely $0.00 to pay you, so if you’re a lawyer out there who’s willing, once I’ve slogged my way through the rest of it, to read through my 501(c)3 application and check my work, advise how best to fix it, and help in whatever way you’re willing and able, you’re going to have to get your pro bono on.
Once that’s out of the way, I’ll start appealing to others for help: Web designers, heed the call. Anyone with any experience at national/corporate fundraising, I’m all ears. I can’t shell out a single dollar, because as of yet I can’t collect any dollars either, but once I get through the successful completion of this bureaucratic equivalent of the epic poem, I’m going to start asking you for money, too.
And if it gets people to BUY BOOKS, it’ll be worth every penny, and every hour.
But wait, Phil, how do we contact you?
You can email me through Athans & Associates Creative Consulting at: inquiries [at] athansassociates [dot] com, or find me on Twitter @PhilAthans, and include @PhilAthans in a tweet. It’ll show up in my Mentions column on TweetDeck and I’ll find you!
And in the meantime, start thinking about what book you’re going to buy on September 7, 2011, and who you’re going to buy it from. Any book will do!