Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Goddard Riverside: New York Publishing's Kinder Side

Reprinted with permission of Publishers Weekly.


By: Lynn Andriani

The publishing industry is filled with members who will send a carton of books to a class of second-graders in Kansas or a library recovering from a flood in Louisiana. But one of the most enduring shows of goodwill on behalf of the industry takes place in the city where the business is based. Over the past 24 years, Goddard Riverside Community Center has raised more than $7.5 million for New York City youth programs, housing programs, arts, and outreach to and services for the homeless—all through the generosity of publishers ranging from smaller houses like Black Dog and Leventhal, and Abrams, to major companies like Hachette and Random House.

Goddard's major fund-raiser is the New York Book Fair held every year the weekend before Thanksgiving. A gala dinner kicks off the weekend, honoring a publisher or bookseller—this year's honoree is Books-A-Million's CEO, Clyde Anderson; last year the group honored Josh Marwell, president of sales at HarperCollins. The book sale takes place at Goddard's community center on Columbus Avenue on Manhattan's Upper West Side, Saturday and Sunday. Some 25,000 brand-new books, all donated, are for sale, at discounts of 50% or more. Volunteers from publishing houses and booksellers—including HarperCollins, Random, Simon & Schuster, Workman, Barnes & Noble, and Books-a-Million—work at the fair, sorting, decorating, selling, and cleaning up. In all, more than 100 publishing houses, booksellers, literary agents, and printers are involved in Goddard's fund-raising efforts.

The book fair "is a complete retail operation," said Lily Morgan Owen, director of development. "The great part about having the connection to publishing at every level is we have corporate support, but we also have people who are passionate about books." More than 3,000 shoppers typically buy books at the fair, and Owen said more than 85 cents of every dollar raised goes directly into Goddard Riverside programs. The fair and other weekend activities typically raise about $500,000 annually.

The fair started in 1986, when writer Donald Porter came up with the idea for a book sale to help the city's homeless. Porter persuaded publishers to donate new books, and although the first fair was small, it was a success. Now, 24 years later, it benefits all of Goddard's programs, which, in addition to help for the homeless, include after-school programs and summer day camp for children of low-income families, and meals for older adults as well as help with questions relating to health care, housing, legal issues, and money management.

In addition to the book fair, Goddard also organizes "Meet the Authors" dinners, where publishers arrange for authors to attend dinner parties in people's homes. Throughout the fall, about 20 such events take place and Goddard is getting its 2010 list together now; past authors have included Robert Caro, Jeffrey Toobin, and Linda Fairstein. The host supplies dinner and guests pay about $300 to attend.

Chip Gibson, president and publisher of Random House Children's Books, has been involved with Goddard Riverside for 23 years. "Community involvement and support is a core value of Random House Children's Books," he noted, "and is, I think, a core value to most of us in book publishing. Goddard Riverside is vital to the social health of Manhattan—where we and the majority of trade book publishing live—and it is a constantly rewarding joy for us to support this brilliantly run organization."