The Joy of Book Clubs:
As an author, a great way to foster a relationship with your readers is through book clubs.
Readers at book clubs are incredibly sincere, and they are thrilled to meet with a real life author. It’s quite an ego boost. They want to know about your inspiration, your approach to writing, how you create characters, how long it took you to write your book, how you got it published, and whether or not the people you know end up in their books.
So how do you get involved?
Whenever I talk to people at book festivals (or to any readers anywhere), I ask if they’re in a a book club. If they are, I enthusiastically share that I love to talk to readers. Then I hand them a flyer about my book with all the pertinent contact information and purchase details.
Word-of-mouth has been essential for me, so don’t be shy. Talk about your book to other people, and carry cards or flyers. Self-promotion without being pushy is the way to go.
What to discuss:
Have some discussion ideas ready. Experience has taught me every book club is different. One club just stared at me until I started talking. Another had prepared questions. At another club, a few members said they really liked the story, and then we ate food and they gossiped.
You can talk to them about what inspired the novel. Talk about who inspired the characters. Talk about what you see as the theme of your book.
Ask questions: did they find any aspect of the story or plot that related to their lives? Anything that surprised them? Anything that made them rethink things? Are any of them writers themselves?
Pop Sugar has a good list of book club questions, such as: Did any part of the book elicit a strong emotional reaction? If you could change something about the book, what would it be? Did you learn anything from the book? If so, what? Who was your favorite/least favorite character?
What to watch out for:
Be prepared for the unexpected. A few members at one club got into a testy discussion started by someone who didn’t like an aspect of the main character’s behavior and choices. She was surprisingly specific, and vocal about it, too. It was rewarding to hear others defend the character’s choices. I didn’t argue her opinion. I thanked them all for sharing. (I learned a few things for the second book!)
To that point, don’t take anything personally, and don’t feel you need to defend your writing beyond a simple “This was my intention.…” Readers will bring their own personal experience to your story and interpret it accordingly. It doesn’t mean the reader is wrong in their interpretation. Stay out of any arguments unless your opinion is asked for.
If you bristle over negative feedback, meeting with your readers might not be the best idea.
At the End:
Thank everyone for reading your book. Offer to sign copies. Ask them what other books they’ve read and enjoyed.
If you feel comfortable with the group, mention that they can write a review on Goodreads or Amazon. Explain the value of reviews as far as sales and recognition. Add that it doesn’t have to be lavish or scholarly. Just a sentence or two on what they liked or didn’t like. (By the way, I’ve meet with half a dozen book clubs and I’ve gotten a total of three reviews… so if you plan to meet with clubs for this reason alone, don’t bother.)
Ask if you can take a photo with them, and if you can share it. Hopefully they’ll connect with you on social media. If you have a newsletter, mention that they can sign up online to be the first to know about your next publication.
Before you leave, pass out a promo or business card with your social media links. Follow up the next day with a thank you email or text to the host.
Meeting with book clubs is such a rewarding way to connect with your readers. You get to see their enthusiasm firsthand. You learn what matters to your readers. You get ideas for your next book. You build a fan base. You see for yourself what your writing brings to others.
Linda K. Sienkiewicz is the author of the award-winning novel In the Context of Love, a story about one woman’s need to tell her truth without shame.
2017 New Apple Book Awards Official Selection
2016 Sarton Women’s Fiction Finalist
2016 Eric Hoffer Book Award Finalist
2016 Readers’ Favorite Finalist
2016 USA Book News Best Book Finalist
“…at once a love story, a cautionary tale, and an inspirational journey.” ~ Bonnie Jo Campbell, author of National Book Award Finalist, American Salvage, and critically acclaimed Once Upon a River,and Mothers, Tell Your Daughters