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The purpose of the Friends of Ishmael Society is to make Ishmael a household name. This, of course, means getting copies of Ishmael into those well as schools, libraries, churches, government offices, corporations, and every other setting. We need changed minds in all areas of society and we need your help to accomplish this goal! Therefore, this page contains ideas on how individuals and groups alike can and are distributing copies of Quinn's books throughout our culture.

You may also want to read about our suggested reading order to learn why we feel you should promote Ishmael as the first book for new readers.

Individual Book Distribution & Book Passing/Pyramids

Quinn's books have always been primarily spread through word of mouth. Friends and family members passing his books on to each other, one by one, have led to millions reading his ideas. You have power as an individual to affect those closest to you. The foundation of spreading this message will always be one on one discussion and book sharing.

Now, for those who wish to spread the message even faster, there is a method to do that, as well. It is said that every person on earth is separated from every other person by just six degrees of separation. For example, I know someone, and that person knows someone, and that person knows someone, and so forth. If you did that only six times we would all know someone in each other's chain of acquaintances. Another way to see this is that, as Daniel Quinn has noted, if we each told just one person each year about his books and they each told just one each year, all 6 billion people will have been told in just 12 years.

Based on that principle, here is an idea for how you can help spread Ishmael's message a bit faster.

Book Passing:

Start by buying 5 to 10 books. There are several places from which to purchase:
  1. Order through to buy from a local independent bookstore near you
  2. Order through
  3. Order in bulk through
Next, write a message on the inside front cover that says to pass the book on within three weeks, even if they don't have time to read it. Also, give them a way to return the book to you if they no longer want to pass it on (maybe they can't find anyone else to read it or disagree with the premise). As long as the book is circulating, more and more people will be exposed to it. Keeping the books moving, rather than sitting in our drawers at home, is key to getting this message to more and more minds.

The Book Pyramid:

Now here is a way to even further speed up the process of changing minds. Again, buy 5 or 10 books. This time the message should again say to read the book within 3 weeks, but it should also say that if they agree with the premise, they should buy 3 more copies and pass those on with the same message. If the pyramid takes off, you can see just by doing the math that in a short time it can reach hundreds or even thousands of readers.

Organized Booksending Networks

In order to most efficiently reach people throughout the country and use the power of numbers to encourage readership, it can be very useful to join into organized booksending networks. A network of this type can not only purchase more books at bulk rates, but allow a large group of readers to track who has sent which books where, so as not to become redundant.

Read about organized book distribution taking place now. Please let us know of any other networks or if you set up one of your own.

Targeting Influential People

"Ray Anderson is not an example of how to live but an example of how effective it can be to change someone's mind--in this case, the mind of Ray Anderson. In writing about Ray Anderson, I'm not holding HIM up as the model to be followed, but rather the person who persuaded Ray Anderson to read ISHMAEL." - Daniel Quinn in response to a reader's question.
Daniel Quinn wrote many versions of Ishmael over a period of more than 10 years before finally getting the last version published. It was Ted Turner's investment and award that finally allowed Quinn's voice to be heard. Once it was heard, it spread. But, certain key figures helped it spread and made changes on a larger scale. Pearl Jam, Oprah Winfrey, and Ray Anderson offer examples of what can happen when a key mind is changed. Like it or not, influential people and those with money have a powerful opportunity to make real change in our society. Therefore, a very effective way to make a difference is to get copies of Ishmael into the hands of those with influence.

Just as a start, make a list of people from the following worlds, and any others, that you feel would benefit greatly from Ishmael.

  • Business
  • Music
  • Entertainment
  • Politics
  • Education
Once you have chosen your targets, send them a copy of Ishmael with a hand written note explaining why it would benefit THEM. Again, know your audience and write the letter accordingly. To further encourage these folks to read, have other readers or your local group members each write a letter or email. Then, when the person receives the book, it will come with a pile of letters explaining why this book is so crucial for them to read. This will add to their curiosity and separate it from the hundreds of other letters such famous people get every day.

Remember, don't be discouraged if the person does not immediately read the book. You are planting a seed. The stories behind how Quinn ended up on the Oprah Winfrey Show and how readers made author/filmmaker Michael Moore aware of Quinn's work are perfect examples of why it is important that people receive news of Ishmael multiple times from many different readers.

In order to cooperate with other readers who are working together to spread Ishmael to influential people, you may be interested in the Monthly Ishmael Community Action sponsored by the Friends of Ishmael Society and Outreachbooks. This will allow you to increase the power of your efforts by joining with other friends throughout the country and the world.

Tracking Books

You can track the progress of distributed books in several ways. One way is to write a number on each book in addition to your e-mail address, asking each reader to email you and confirm that they have the book and its number. This will help you learn about what methods are working or not working by remembering which book numbers were distributed in which ways.

You can also track books through Book Crossing. Book Crossing encourages readers of any author to pass on their favorite books to others. Before you give it to someone else, register your book at to obtain a unique ID and write a note such as, "I've registered this book at so I can track its journey throughout the world. Please go to to let me know you found it and your thoughts on it, and/or pass it on for someone else to enjoy. Thank you!" Notice that 677-73015 is the ID of the book in this example.

Know of other ways to disperse and track books? Send us your ideas!

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