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History Pages - Back To Basics and Conference Approved Literature


Faith With Works Publishing Company has received numerous letters asking if the book, Back to Basics - The Alcoholics Anonymous Beginners’ Meetings is General Service Conference Approved literature. Since the General Service Conference only approves literature for which A.A.W.S., Inc. holds the copyright, the Conference wouldn’t even consider adding Back to Basics to the Conference Approved literature list because the copyright for Back to Basics is held by Wally P.

Just because Back to Basics isn’t Conference Approved literature, this does not mean that the book is Conference Disapproved literature. In fact, Back to Basics meets all of the G.S.O. guidelines for A.A. literature. Hopefully, the following information will help reduce some of the confusion surrounding the subjects of Conference Approved literature and A.A. literature.

  1. Not all AA literature is Conference Approved.

The article titled, "Service Material From GSO " (5M/12/87/TC) contains the following statement:

All A.A. literature is not Conference Approved

"Central office and intergroups do write and distribute pamphlets or booklets that are not Conference- Approved. If such pieces meet the needs of the local membership, they may be legitimately classified as A.A. literature...The conference does not disapprove of such material."

Back To Basics is distributed by a significant number of Central and Intergroup Offices. It has become an integral part of A.A.’s life saving program throughout the world. Many Back to Basics Beginners’ Meetings are conducted by registered A.A. Groups. The Back to Basics book meets the needs of these local Groups and as such, can legitimately be called A.A. literature, as per GSO guidelines.

The classic case of the use of Non Conference Approved material within A.A. is the A.A. Grapevine. This Non Conference Approved monthly magazine is used as a source for topics at many A.A. meetings. A number of A.A. Groups have a Grapevine Representative whose is responsible for selling this Non-Conference Approved magazine at A.A. meetings.

  1. The theme of the Back to Basics book has been endorsed by Bill Wilson, co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous.

The Conference Approved pamphlet titled, Problems Other than Alcohol (P-35), contains the following statement made by Bill W. in 1958.

"Sobriety - freedom from alcohol - through the teaching and practice of the Twelve Steps, is the sole purpose of an A.A. group. Groups have repeatedly tried other activities and they have always failed. If we don’t stick to these principles, we shall almost surely collapse. And if we collapse, we cannot help anyone."

(Reaffirmed as a guiding principle of A.A. by the members of the A.A. General Service Conferences of 1969, 1970 and 1972.)

Back To Basics is most definitely in accord with Bill’s belief that our sole purpose is to teach and practice the Twelve Steps.

  1. What does Conference Approved mean anyway?

The Conference Approved designation was first adopted for future A.A. material at the 1951 General Service Conference. It was during this same conference that Bill’s royalties for the Big Book were increased from 10% to 15%.

Conference Advisory Actions - General Service Conference, 1951.

"This conference feels that in future years A.A. textbook literature should have Conference Approval."

"The conference voted affirmatively, with complete unanimity."

"Prior to the vote on this subject, it was pointed out that adoption of the suggestion would not preclude the continued issuance of various printed documents by non-Foundation (GSO) sources. No desire to review, edit or censor non-Foundation (GSO) material is implied. The objective is to provide, in the future, a means of distinguishing Foundation (GSO) literature from that issued locally or by non A.A. interests."

"In addition, the Conference approved unanimously a motion recommending to the Trustees of the Foundation(GSO) that steps be taken to insure that Bill and Lois receive book royalties so long as either one shall live. This motion was adopted after is was disclosed that under the existing arrangement Bill would have no legal basis for claiming royalties upon the expiration of the Big Book copyright and that no provision exists for Lois in the event of Bill’s prior death." (The copyright for the First Edition, as well as the Second Edition of Alcoholics Anonymous, was not renewed. As a result, the first 164 pages of the "Big Book" have become part of the Public Domain.)

"Inflation and the decline in book sales have combined to cut Bill’s income practically in half in the past year. The five percent increase in royalty means that his earnings will once more approximate those of three years ago." (With this conference action, Bill’s percentage of the retail price of all "Big Book" sales was increased from 10% to 15%.)

(Report of the First Annual General Service Conference of Alcoholics Anonymous, April 20-22-22, 1951)

Because the Conference voted to establish Conference Approved literature during the same session that they voted to increase Bill’s royalties, some early A.A. members concluded that "Conference Approved" meant that "Bill gets a piece of the action." In later years, his proved not to be the case as the Conference started approving literature produced by "writers for hire" other than Bill.

Even today, "Conference Approved" has more to do with who gets the money rather than what is actually written. All proceeds from Conference Approved literature sales go to A.A.W.S. in New York City.

So, "where does the money from the sale of the Back to Basics book go?" The answer to this question can be found on Roman numeral page x of the Back To Basics book.

"Authors note: I do not believe in ‘making money out of A.A.’ Any proceeds from this book, after out of pocket expenses are met, will be used to distribute books at no cost to individuals and groups who cannot afford to buy them."

To date, well over one-half of all Back To Basics books have been either given away or sold at cost. As of March 1999, there have been no proceeds. Faith With Works Publishing Company will continue to give away books in order to insure that Back to Basics is distributed for spiritual rather than monetary purposes.



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