Authors and book clubs

Malcolm in the Middle book club episodeIn one of my favorite Malcolm in the Middle episodes, mom Lois is excited about joining a book club with other mothers. She reads the book, highlights key passages, and arrives at the meeting prepared for an intellectual discussion.

It’s not long before she discovers the book club is a ruse. The women just want to escape from their families, drink wine, and gossip. “You didn’t really think we read the book, did you, Lois?” asks one woman, shocked.

Fortunately for authors, many book club members take their club commitments seriously, reading the assigned book and arriving prepared to both socialize and discuss the book. This is good news for you if you think your book is book club material.

Getting selected

Your challenge as an author is to get your book selected by book clubs. Even then, though, you also need to make sure it can be borrowed from libraries and purchased online or in person.

How will book clubs know yours is the perfect choice for them?

You want to:

  • Include a book club reading guide on your website
  • Contact book clubs to generate interest

Including a reading group guide on your site is essential because it helps your book get found by groups and tells them that you’re interested in working with them.

Creating the guide is the easy part. You will probably enjoy selecting the best excerpt, writing discussion questions, and pulling elements that include your author bio, your book description, and your book announcement press release from your online press kit into a reading group section on your website.

Finding book clubs

Finding and contacting book clubs is a little harder. You can:

  1. Make yourself available by getting listed in online directories for authors who do book signings, such as Galley Cat’s.
  2. Pay a service to advertise your book to clubs.
  3. Find and contact book clubs directly.

There are lots of ways to find book clubs; start the process with an online search for clubs in your area. You’ll be able to participate in person locally, which is far more rewarding for everyone than participation by Skype or speaker phone. Local clubs will also be more open to working with you than those in other regions, which makes them a good starting point.

Use local club meetings to discover which discussion questions resonate and what questions they ask that aren’t on your list but should be. Let them be your training ground.

Book club directory

You can find book clubs outside your local area online, but when searching for lists and resources to include in my Book Publicity 101 for Fiction e-course, I found only one national book club directory. Not surprisingly, something this unique and useful for authors isn’t free, but on the other hand, it comes with membership in a resource site that offers lots of other helpful book marketing information for authors, too.

Winner CircleThe umbrella resource with the directory and other materials is the “Winner Circle” available through the Where Writers Win website. I actually paid to become a Winner Circle member specifically to get access to the book club directory component to see if it was helpful before recommending it to the authors I work with.

It’s actually so useful that I contacted the owners to see if I could negotiate a discount for my newsletter and blog readers (I can!).  I even ended up contributing  a couple of press release templates for members to use, too.

Check it out and if looks like a resource that will help you, get a $20 discount by using the coupon code BookBuzz20 when you make the purchase.

Reader connections are worth it

Like nearly every other book marketing tactic, attracting and connecting with book clubs takes time and effort. But if your book is appropriate for clubs, whether they’re general interest, cookbook, or Christian book clubs, think about reaching out to book clubs.

The one-on-one interaction with people who have read (and loved) your book can be more energizing than a Starbucks latte.

Do you participate in book club meetings? What advice can you offer authors reaching out to them? 


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Sandra Beckwith is an award-winning former publicist who now teaches authors how to market their books. Three groups have recognized her BuildBookBuzz.com site as an outstanding resource for authors, so you know her advice is author-tested. Download Sandra’s free “Top 5 Free Book Promotion Resources” and you’ll also receive the free weekly “Build Book Buzz” newsletter loaded with book marketing tips and advice.
14 Responses to Authors and book clubs
  1. Shari Stauch
    July 30, 2013 | 9:16 pm

    Hi Sandra – Thanks for the kind words and yes, we’re the one source vetting book clubs AND book reviewers out there – we look at it as “shrinking the web” down to just what authors need, without all the white noise.

    Our fall edition of the reviewers directory releases on the Winner Circle on August 1, so timing is good to jump in – over 25% new content and some fabulous new reviewers that even our regular tribe hasn’t seen yet! Write on, Shari

    • Sandra Beckwith
      July 30, 2013 | 9:23 pm

      This is great news, Shari. Thanks!

      Keep up the great work!

      Sandy

  2. Terry Whalin
    July 31, 2013 | 12:15 am

    Sandy,

    Fred and Nora St. Laurent run the Book Club Network at: http://www.bookfun.org/ It is another resource for authors who are looking for book club information and insights.

    Terry

    • Sandra Beckwith
      July 31, 2013 | 2:12 am

      Good to know, Terry! Thanks for the link.

      Sandy

  3. Kathy Gronau
    July 31, 2013 | 1:06 am

    thank you for this post. Hadn’t even thought of this as a resource. Very Helpful.

    • Sandra Beckwith
      July 31, 2013 | 2:12 am

      I’m glad it’s helpful, Kathy.

      Sandy

  4. john meyer
    August 5, 2013 | 6:28 pm

    Actually, I found bookclubs rather resistant to authors directly approaching them. One and all seemed to prefer to “discover” books by themselves. And yet, they all seemed to pick The Help as their next read. Any that didn’t immediately rebuff my offer (which included a Skype follow-up interview) only wanted deep discounts that were less than the cost of postage. So I would caution any author to pursue them.

    • Sandra Beckwith
      August 5, 2013 | 7:40 pm

      John, as noted above, club members need to be able to borrow your book from libraries or purchase it online or a store. If it’s only available from the author, they’ll probably be less interested.

      That said, it’s not so much about making money on book sales, but more about developing a “fan” base by building reader relationships. I don’t see how that can hurt an author who plans to write more than one book or wants an audience for related products. But it’s definitely not for everybody — or every book, that’s for sure.

      I hope you’ve found another tactic that works well for you.

      Sandy

    • Shari Stauch
      August 10, 2013 | 5:49 am

      We only include book clubs open to author contact.

  5. Book Graphics
    August 9, 2013 | 4:26 pm

    Are there book clubs on the list that are specific to cookbooks? If so, how many? I’m preparing for the publication of my first cookbook (in a series of six) in October and wondering if joining would be worthwhile for a non-fiction book.

    • Sandra Beckwith
      August 9, 2013 | 5:38 pm

      I’ll get you an answer for that, but I’ll also point out that the Winner Circle offers more than the book club directory.

      : )

      Sandy

    • Shari Stauch
      August 10, 2013 | 5:52 am

      Congrats on your upcoming cookbook and jot me a note when it releases – I know quite a few women who collect ’em! Meanwhile, yes, we have a few clubs who read cookbooks. There is one that reads the book and each member then makes a recipe from the book (cool idea, right?!) In addition within the Winner Circle is a quarterly updated directory of vetted book reviewers and their submission guidelines – a few dozen in the Food & Drink category… Happy Hunting! Shari

  6. Donna Vaal
    January 13, 2016 | 12:39 pm

    Thanks for the excellent advice. Much needed.

    • Sandra Beckwith
      January 13, 2016 | 12:44 pm

      I’m so glad you found it helpful, Donna. Thanks for letting me know.

      Sandy

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