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Every day publishers decide to publish books that they hope will have positive effects in society and make money for their companies as well. In special cases, they go one step further and decide to donate their profits to organizations or causes they believe in. Often such "pro bono" publishing goes beyond the traditional forms of corporate philanthropy--donations to charities, scholarships and matching gift programs--and involves a more direct commitment of resources.
AIDS is far and away the social issue getting the most attention in the publishing community. From Pocket Books' 1988 publication of The Quilt: Stories from the Names Project to the joint publishing effort that produced Alyson's You Can Do Something About AIDS, publishers have supported pro bono publishing projects that benefit AIDS outreach organizations. "The government isn't doing enough," comments William Grose, editorial director of Pocket Books, "and publishers are helping to pick up the slack."
Three recent such efforts are Hockney's Alphabet, an illustrated book published by Random House; Earvin "Magic" Johnson's What You Can Do to Avoid AIDS, published by Times Books; and Broadway: Day and Night, which Pocket Books will publish this November. Random House is donating 100% of the net proceeds from Hockney's Alphabet to American Friends of AIDS Crisis Trust (a British charity that will distribute the proceeds to American AIDS organizations); Times Books is donating 100% of the net proceeds from What You Can Do to Avoid AIDS to the Magic Johnson Foundation for AIDS prevention, education, research and care; and Pocket Books is giving part of the profits from Broadway: Day and Night to Broadway Cares and Equity Fights AIDS.
Publishing has also addressed drug abuse, homelessness and ecology, as well as health, race and family issues. Children's book publishers have been paying particular attention to these problems (see p. 33).
Proposals for pro bono publishing projects are originated in house or received from agents, book packagers or social-outreach organizations themselves. "We had just finished a book with [former Surgeon General] Dr. [C. Everett] Koop when Magic Johnson announced he was diagnosed HIV-positive," explains Peter Osnos, vice-president and associate publisher of Times Books, and the implication of the announcement gave us the opportunity to do something …