My plan was to allow anyone who wanted to read an advance copy of the book the opportunity to do so, provided they forwarded the book within a week to the next reader.
Interesting idea. Things didn’t run quite as smoothly as he’d hoped. People weren’t forwarding the books in quite as timely a manner as he’d planned.
Still… you would think that if people agreed to read the book and forward it within a week that most of them would do that. Not true. Not even remotely true. … The most common excuses for not sending the book on time were, “I’m in the process of moving” and “I’ve been out of town.” My favorite was the person who requested a book and then volunteered for a three month stint with the forest service.
I think some people just like to get free stuff, whether they really want it or not.
It was huge investment in time, although his publisher picked up the tab for initially sending the 400 copies: $800. He later cautions against using the slowest mail, book rate, and advises springing for the extra dollar for Priority Mail to cut down on shipping time. The whole idea was not without its detractors who thought it was way too much buzz for a book that wasn’t even available yet. Elliott seems happy to have simply gotten the book out there and read.
I don’t know if you could classify this as a ‘grass roots’ effort, since he has a publisher, but it’s a bold move nonetheless. You can read more of the details at the article linked above if you’re interested in trying something similar.