Book clubs and independent authors — seems like a match made in heaven, right? But how do you go about connecting with clubs, and what should you take into account before reaching out? Check out the following tips from author Stephen McCutchan, who’s sharing a few things he’s learned about promoting his book with book clubs:
Is Your Book a Good Read for a Group?
Consider the mutual value of having your book selected by a book club for their discussion. First, book clubs always need material that will engage them in a good discussion. Members will be delighted if in addition to a good story, the themes explored in the book can raise interesting questions about the issues we face in life.
After chapter 5 in my novel, A Star and a Tear, for example, I included the following questions:
- Do you agree with Frank’s analogy that society treats sex offenders the way that the biblical society treated lepers?
- In what way do people use both sexuality and spirituality in a search for transcendence?
Such lively discussions have the additional effect of deepening relationships between members of the group. For you, of course, a group purchase means more sales and more people reading your book — increasing the possibility that they will also mention it to others outside their group. If the key to marketing success is to create a buzz about your writing, then a book club can help you.
Book Club, Oh Book Club, Where Art Thou?
The first challenge is finding ways to communicate with potential book clubs. Using Google and other search engines to identify book clubs interested in your genre is a great first step, but you should also check out other online sources like Meetup.com, whose purpose is to help people interested in common subjects make contact.
In addition, don’t forget to inquire at local libraries and independent bookstores for possible contacts. In my case, since my novel has a spiritual component, church study groups were a good possibility.
After identifying a book club, you may want to ask them to suggest other clubs of which they are aware. Make use of the multiplier effect of asking each contact you make to suggest other contacts — it takes a book club to know a book club!
How Do They Know Your Book is Worth Reading?
Once you have contact information for a book club, compose a well-crafted letter introducing both yourself and your book. If you are publishing a digital version as well as a print version, you have a very inexpensive way to offer an copy for review by the leader. With Amazon, you also have their “look inside feature” which you can indicate in your letter.
If your book is only in print version, it still may be worth the cost to offer to mail a free copy. In doing so, you are also strengthening your relationship with that leader, which has benefits down the road. Remember you can purchase copies at an author’s discount, reducing your cost.
Everyone Likes a Bargain
Arrange with your publisher to offer a special discount for group purchases. You can decide on the discount, but if the primary objective is to get more people reading your book, then make the discount attractive. For example, I will have Amazon offer a 25% discount for my novel using their discount code feature. Selling books you’ve personally bulk purchased also gives you more flexibility for different discounts for different numbers of books.
Where to Place the Questions?
Most study guides place their questions at the end of the book. I’m going to experiment with placing my questions at the end of each chapter. I think this has two advantages. First, it makes it easier for the reader to locate the scene or other reference identified in your question. For example, after Chapter 9, I inserted the question: “What do you think of Oscar’s description, ‘Gossip is like mercury, it’s bright and attractive to the eye, but every time you try to gather it up, it slips away and finds a new location to shine?'”
The second advantage is that as readers continue through the book, the questions may stimulate how they think about what is happening and deepen their reflections, which will be a bonus when they come to their group for discussion.
Communication Builds Community
If you are not a well-known author, you might intrigue a group to become involved in your writing career by providing them an opportunity to interact with you. You can suggest to them that as they read and discuss your book, they can compose a couple of questions for you as an author, and you will email them a response.
For really personal interaction, you can suggest to them that you arrange a date at which you are willing to Skype an interaction with them. This would increase the personal interaction. It would also provide you valuable feedback from readers as to how you are communicating as an author.
In both cases, you are establishing your generous interest in them as readers and making the response to your book more personal.
Think of the Future Now
You want people to be eagerly waiting for your next book, right? Since all writers are constantly drawing on their bank of creative ideas, why not suggest to the book club that you would be interested in their suggestions as to themes you might want to explore in a sequel. Yes, you can build in all the protection of informing them ahead of time that you cannot guarantee that their ideas will be included, but think of the interest generated by people thinking that what they offer might be of value.
Not everyone understands the value of people writing reviews on Amazon, so you might also ask the club to compose a group review that they would post. Not only do you get a review but you also encourage other book clubs to choose your book for their read.
As you write your Afterword in your book, you might also want to suggest to people a variety of ways that they can create a book club, discussion group, internet exchange, or just an excuse for a good cup of coffee by inviting others to join you in reading the book. Be sure to provide easy ordering information, electronically if possible, for them to act on your suggestion. If you are with Amazon, you might even provide them a clickable link where they can gift your book to some friends who they would then invite for a discussion.
Supporting Other Authors
If you find other sources for identifying book clubs, be sure to pass them on to other author friends. If a particular book club responds positively to your book, you might also suggest books of other authors. The more you support other authors, the more they will support you.
Stephen invites you to order a copy of A Star and a Tear and consider the possibility of gathering a group of friends with whom to discuss it. You may get a copy from Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/s?k=Stephen+McCutchan&i=stripbooks&ref=nb_sb_noss_1&tag=. If you want a discount on a group purchase, contact him at [email protected].