on Sept. 30, 2012
A devotee from ISKCON Silicon Valley in San Jose knows 'The more books you show, the more you sell.'
At ISKCON North America’s annual Governing Body and Temple President Meetings in Dallas, Texas on January 13th this year, Book Distribution Minister Vaisesika Das reported that distribution of Srila Prabhupada’s books in North America had seen a steady upward trend in the past five or six years. He told the sixty leaders from across the US and Canada in attendance that 2011 had seen a 23% increase from the year before, with $903,613 collected from book distribution.
He then encouraged all leaders to have their temples all over the country work as one individual team, with a collective goal of a further 20% increase in 2012. This would bring the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, ISKCON’s publishing arm, a remittance of $1,084,336 for the year.
Vaisesika explained that when the BBT reach a remittance of over $1 million dollars in a calendar year, they are able to fulfill ISKCON Founder Srila Prabhupada’s mandate for them: to spend 50% of their income on printing more books, and 50% on temple construction.
The BBT has previously helped fund Indian temples in Vrindavan, Mayapur, and Mumbai, and today is helping to fund Mayapur’s Temple of the Vedic Planetarium project. At January’s meetings, leaders agreed to shoot for the 20% increase this year. So far, in the first three quarters of 2012—from January to August—fifty participating temples and travelling sankirtan parties have reached an 11% increase from last year, and collected $602,513.
The progress is exciting, but somewhat short of the set goal. Book distributors will have to make a major push to collect another $482,000 in the last quarter of 2012 and make their goal of a 20% increase. While acknowledging that it’s a challenge, Vaisesika is positive as usual. “It’s an entirely possible goal to achieve,” he says. “A lot of temples are already reporting increases of far higher than 20%. And others could easily reach it by just putting a little more effort into the last part of the year.”
Many of these high-achieving temples have been applying principles that Vaisesika introduced at ISKCON Silicon Valley, California, eight years ago. These include good personal spiritual practice, making sure you’re well stocked with books, being well-organized, and “The more books you show, the more you sell.” Monthly sankirtan festivals involving the whole community are also a major game-changer. “Book distribution is fun and easy when lots of devotees each do a little bit,” Vaisesika says.
Srila Prabhupada's books appeal to all kinds
As proof, after applying Vaisesika’s principles, devotees in Toronto, Canada jumped from distributing just a few thousand books in 2008, to passing out 35,000 in 2011. In Washington DC, devotees jumped from a goal of 5,000 books to selling 28,000 in 2011. And in the rip-roaring success story of the year, Laguna Beach went from distributing 450 books a year to selling 14,500 in 2011. This year, those temples have continued to see success. So far in 2012, Laguna Beach has seen an incredible 163% increase from last year, and Toronto an amazing 98%. “In Toronto they make book distribution fun by inviting the whole congregation out, and then having a picnic or taking a double-decker bus ride together,” Vaisesika says.
Washington DC, meanwhile, is maintaining its success steadily with several groundbreaking new ideas. “Their beautifully packaged ‘meditation kits,’ containing four or five books and a set of japa beads are selling like hotcakes,” says Vaisesika. “And they’re doing well by setting up stands at book shows and events like Beatles Fest and Veg Fest, where they sold 1,800 books in a single day.”
In Denver devotees have sold $18,896 worth of books so far this year (at this point last year they had only reached $12,457). Their success is owed to organizing teams, setting goals and making a concerted effort. Trend-setters ISKCON Silicon Valley, meanwhile, have begun to sell sets of books door to door, distributing over 100 sets of Srimad Bhagavatam and Chaitanya Charitamrita in the first half of 2012.
There are also new contenders on the scene. At a recent seminar by Vaisesika in North Carolina, devotees from Hillsboro, Prabhupada Village and Roanoke pledged to work together and set a collective goal of 5,000 books by the end of the year. Distribution of Bhagavad-gitas in motels around the State is at the center of their effort.
Montreal, Boston, and St. Louis have all done well too, beating their goals of a 20% increase. Perhaps the greatest success story of 2012 so far is San Diego, where devotees have put a major focus on book distribution and made a huge 295% increase from last year. Then there’s the heavy-hitters. ISKCON Los Angeles, which has long championed book distribution, has collected $92,923 so far this year.
The Toronto book distribution team continues to increase and innovate
And the members of the Rupanuga Vedic College Travelling Sankirtana Party, led by Paramesvara Dasa, continue to be the biggest success story in North America. While they’ve only had a 22% increase from last year, it’s an increase on a huge score. So far, they’ve collected $174,931, on track to beat last year’s total of $209,140.
“Where there’s a will there’s a way,” says Vaisesika, when asked if he thinks ISKCON North America can band together to meet their goal of an overall 20% increase in 2012. “If you put some kind of priority on book distribution, your temple will increase. When you make goals, it’s like flipping a switch: the energy starts to move naturally.”
He urgently calls out to all ISKCON devotees to make a personal commitment to increase their distribution from last year; and to take advantage of the last quarter of 2012, particularly Gita Jayanti on December 23rd. “Devotees sometimes think book distribution is difficult, but that’s just not true,” he says. “Once they get out there, the process becomes very blissful and easy, and they usually don’t want to come home!”