Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Preparing for a Book Club Talk

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         In a couple of days, I’m speaking to a book club about my book, Pretty is as Pretty Dies.

It’s been a bit of a busy week with field trips, birthday parties, and other activities. So now I’m trying to make sure I’m ready to talk to the book club.

For me, it’s all about preparation whenever I’m speaking in public. If I’m not prepared or don’t feel like I’m prepared, I’ll definitely get flustered.

There are usually two different types of book clubs that I’ve come across. One type is very casual and you sit in a circle with the other members and engage in the general discussion. The other type is more structured—you’d give a talk about the book or writing or both, followed by a question and answer session.

It’s good to know what to expect before you go. This sounds like a no-brainer, but I’ve been surprised before by groups that functioned as covered-dish suppers/book clubs and felt like I should have brought something (although I was assured I didn’t need to.) You might want to ask if you should prepare a talk (and on what subject), or if it will be a more laid-back program.

I never charge a book club for an appearance—to me, it’s enough that they’ve bought my book. But I usually have to regret if the club meeting is too far away…travel expenses have definitely gone up.

I bring small things to give away—bookmarks, magnets, postcards, pencils, etc., Candy is always popular. :) Sometimes I’ll bring something larger--a door-prize type gift that I pull out of a hat.

If you have a newsletter, you could bring a signup sheet to collect emails to notify readers of your upcoming releases, etc. Be sure you’re being upfront that the list is for a newsletter…and that they can unsubscribe whenever they’d like.

Carry the address of the venue with you and the organizer’s cell phone number. Frequently the club meetings are in someone’s house and it’s easy to get lost. I’ll program the address in my GPS, but I have a backup on paper—and I keep the organizer’s cell phone number close by, just in case.

Look nice. I usually am dressed nicer than everyone else, but it makes me feel better than being underdressed. And if I dress well, the book club members know that I treated their meeting like a special event and dressed accordingly.

Review your book before you go. Or your cheat sheet on the book. I have a Word document that covers characters and plot twists in great detail. It’s easy for me to forget things, especially when I’m under a little pressure. And the book club will have just read the book. It’s not good for them to know more about the book than we do!

The questions I get from book clubs are different from the questions I get from writers. (I receive more questions about the book’s characters—are they based on real people? What do those people think of my books? etc). I’m prepared to talk more in depth about my characters and their motivations. I’m also prepared to talk about small plot points in the book.

The book club might find hidden meaning in your bookthat you didn’t intend. I usually just smile and nod when this happens. :) Who knows—maybe I subconsciously included symbolism?

People may challenge you on your book. I think this has happened at every book club meeting I’ve ever been to. If you’re speaking to a big group (15-20 people or more), then you really need to expect some criticism from someone.

Someone may not like a character or might find a continuity error or could disagree with a position they think you’re taking in the book. I just roll with it and don’t take it personally. Remind yourself going in that you’re not there to get defensive about your book…you’re discussing it. Most times everyone is very nice, even if they’re bringing up a point they didn’t like or a problem they had. The more professionally we can handle this kind of situation, the better we look in the end.

They will ask what you’re working on next. Practice a succinct summary. If you’re writing the first part of your draft or would rather not talk about your book, you could just briefly answer that you’re working on a follow-up to the book they read, or that you’re working on a new project that’s very different from the one they just finished.

Bring extra books. If you have other books, bring them, too. Sometimes, book club members will ask you to sign a book for them to give as a gift. You’ll also need to bring ones, in case you need to make change.

I enjoy book clubs because they’re frequently the only times I get to meet with readers in person (conferences are mainly made up of writers). Have you talked to book clubs before? Got any additional tips?


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