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Ask Daphne! How do I get prizes?

Prize-worthy shoes for Fabulous librarian Erika, who writes:

I am the Young Adult Librarian at a public library in Illinois. As we start to prepare for our summer reading program (we like to get the grunt work out of the way as early as possible), I’m trying to find prizes that would actually make high school students want to participate, which is like beating my head against the wall. I’m only here part-time so I don’t have the time to actually go around to schools to talk it up like some of my coworkers in the children’s department, but the librarian at the high school is wonderful and helps a lot in that area. The kids that read constantly don’t seem to need more encouragement so the prizes are really more like rewards for them, and sometimes we can hook a few who are on the fence. We’ve been able to get good stuff for the last two years (the grand prize has been an iPod mini, thanks to local donations), and this year is looking up: I wrote to some YA authors and several have donated signed copies of books, so even if we can’t get another iPod this year I think the readers will be happy, at least.
What I was wondering is whether or not any publishing companies might be willing to donate some paperbacks that we can give out, kind of like mini-prizes. Does this seem like a viable idea or am I being naive? I’ve got a whole list of companies to try but I wasn’t sure if that was something that these places did under normal circumstances, let alone in an economic climate like this. I was just curious about your opinion.

Publishers MAY be inclined to help out, Eika, but I think the best way to get these kinds of prizes is to go directly to authors. If they can’t contribute a book themselves, they may be able to put you in contact with their editor, who can. I think you’d have a harder time if you went directly to the publisher — I’m not even sure where you would direct that kind of request.
Authors, meanwhile, are generous folk with whom it’s easy to communicate — just check out a few of your favorites’ websites, facebook pages, or blogs for contact information.
You may also try local businesses, who might be inclined for the promotional benefit to donate money towards a gift card to Barnes & Noble, Amazon, or your local independent bookstore.
Good luck!

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