After going to the workshop on book distribution at the Festival of Inspiration at New Vrndavana, where I live, I became very inspired to take up a more imaginative approach to book distribution. We have so many guests coming to visit New Vrndavana every week, and yet many had been walking away without even one of Srila Prabhupada’s books.
Lord Krsna made this point very clear to me. One day I was talking to a guest, a minister from Texas. He saw the huge poster on our temple room wall near Srila Prabhupada’s Vyasasana. It is a picture of Lord Krsna manifesting His Universal Form to Arjuna with the header: Bhagavad-gita As It Is. After seeing it he said, “I would like a Bhagavad-gita.”
I was embarrassed and at a loss when I realized there were no Bhagavad-gitas in the temple to distribute to this gentleman! Just then I remembered the adage that Vaisesika encouraged us memorize during the book distribution seminar: “The more you show, the more you sell.” I suddenly realized that it was up to me to transform our temple into a place from which to distribute books. Next I also printed small, rectangular labels reading: “For more books and information: www. Krishna.com.”
The next day, I set up a book table under that Bhagavad-gita poster. I already had a stash of some Gitas and small books at home. I dragged them out and put them on the table, attractively displayed. Next, I purchased sheets of bright yellow, round (removable) labels. Any office supply store has these. I then used my home computer to print a price on each label. For instance: “$10–Thank You!” I labeled each book according to its cost, placing the price label on the front of each book. I bought a lockable brass mailbox from Lowes building supply store and bolted it to the table. I then created the following, simple sign — displayed in a frame — and placed it on the table:
Dear Honored Guests,
These books by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada are spiritual treasures. Please choose the books you want and place your money in this Brass box. This is self-service. You are on your honor. The prices are on each book.
Hare Krsna! Thank you very much!
The next day, I set up a book table under that Bhagavad-gita poster. I already had a stash of some Gitas and small books at home. I dragged them out and put them on the table, attractively displayed. Next, I purchased sheets of bright yellow, round (removable) labels. Any office supply store has these. I then used my home computer to print a price on each label. For instance: “$10–Thank You!” I labeled each book according to its cost, placing the price label on the front of each book.
The system works!
A week after setting up the table, I came back and saw that the books were almost all gone and the envelopes, full of Laxmi, were placed in the brass box. Upon counting, I found that people had been honest, always leaving enough money to cover the printing and in many cases — more.
Now months have gone by and I’ve been finding it lots of fun at the end of busy weekends to tally up all the books that we sold and count all of Krsna’s Laxmi. We have never lost money. There is always more money than the cost of the books (we ask for at least twice what we pay the BBT for the book.) But the main thing is that lots and lots of books are getting distributed.
Here are a few extra tips:
If a lot of Indians come to your temple, have someone help you make a sign in Hindi; or if you have a lot of people who speak Spanish, put up a sign in Spanish, etc. The point is to have books available in the appropriate languages with signs that the people can easily read and understand.
In your signage, inform people that they can write checks and put them in the box.
Keep good records of the number of books you put out and how much Laxmi comes in. Do the math.
Always make sure there’s an ample display of books on the table. (“The more you show, the more you sell.”)
As far as possible, personally talk to guests and show them the books.
(But remember, even if you can’t arrange to have someone at the table, a well-organized table will sell books. Think of it as a vending machine.)
In the temple room, place the book table near Srila Prabhupada’s murti on the Vyasasana. When you give someone a tour of the temple room, you can easily bring his or her attention to the book table after introducing them to Srila Prabhupada and explaining his mission to write and distribute books.
Put a Bhagavad-gita on the altar so that guests (and temple devotees!) can see how valuable these books are — they are non-different from Krsna and are worshipable.
Display a variety of Srila Prabhupada’s books so that people who don’t have much money can at least give a $1 for a small book. Krsna, Reservoir of Pleasure is a small pamphlet, but is highly potent. Offer this for a very small donation (or for free) to insure that everyone walks away with at least one of Srila Prabhupada’s writing’s.
Arrange for the speaker at the Sunday Feast to focus on talking about one of Srila Prabhupada’s books and have that book available in large quantity and featured on the book table. Have the speaker offer a special discount on the featured book. He or she can direct the audience to the book table. It’s especially effective if the GBC, Temple President, or some senior or well-known devotee mans (or womans) the table for this type of program. This will bring more attention and energy to the event. Finally, be ready for the stampede toward table. It works!
There are opportunities everywhere to distribute Srila Prabhupada’s books. I’ve realized however, that one of the best (and often most overlooked) places you’ll find to distribute is very close by – your own temple room.