To promote Baby Grand, my debut novel, I’ve done all kinds of appearances. Bookstores. Libraries. Assisted living communities. (Street corners.)
But probably my absolute favorite thing to do is attend book club meetings. Sitting in a casual circle, talking about the book that I wrote and everyone read, eating, drinking and, most importantly, seeing up close how readers have responded to my book, how they’ve taken ownership of the characters and defend them, fight for them, question them, hate them, love them. It’s pretty cool. But in addition to being a great way to spend an evening, book clubs offer tremendous marketing opportunities. Here are 10 ways authors can make the most of their book club appearances.
1. Put together discussion questions. Whether the book club has a facilitator or asks you to serve as facilitator for the evening, bring handouts for all the members that include discussion questions and distribute them before the meeting gets started. This will eliminate any worries of “what will we talk about?” and also gives members a heads-up on what kinds of things you have in mind to discuss, which gives them a chance to think about their comments (some people get stage fright).
2. Distribute contact info. I like to maintain relationships with book club members long after the meeting, so I give out my contact information (email, Twitter, Facebook, etc.). I usually include this on the handout I’ve distributed, but you can also use business cards or bookmarks, if you prefer.
3. Post/pass around a mailing list sign-up sheet. As an author, you may (should) already have a mailing list—an opt-in list of folks who have agreed to let you send them your news. Book clubs are a great place to grow your mailing list, because they offer readers who not only are familiar with your books, but like them enough to have you appear at their discussions. You can put your mailing list sheet—mine is usually attached to a clipboard, looks more official that way—in an accessible place, perhaps near the room entrance, and ask people to sign up if they’re interested in receiving more info about you. However, I find the better way to go is to pass the clipboard around the room while we’re all sitting in a circle—many times readers are interested in signing up, but once the discussion gets going they often forget about the list, so getting the mailing list out of the way or while the discussion is getting started is more advantageous.
4. Bring a camera. Local newspapers are always looking for news, and sending a photo of a local book club appearance is not only exciting for the book club members, but it can help spread the word about your book. I usually gather the members around for a group shot sometime after our discussion and before dessert, so that we don’t have cookie crumbs on our lips or lapels.
5. Bring copies of your book—and at least one Sharpie. While dessert is under way, I usually pull out a Sharpie and begin an autograph session. Many of the book club members will already have purchased my book in order to participate in the discussion, but I find that sometimes members want copies for friends, family members or colleagues. Or, if they’ve bought the eBook, they might want an autographed hard copy as well. Work closely with your book club contact to gauge how many books you should bring. I usually bring 15 to 20 copies. Also, one Sharpie should do, but it couldn’t hurt to have a back-up in case that one runs out of ink.
6. Sell your book at a group discount. I offer Baby Grand at a book club discount for groups of 10 or more. I find that, in addition to helping to sell books at the actual book club events, a discount helps to entice book clubs to take on your book as a reading selection in the first place — because book club members are buying books all the time, they appreciate the opportunity to save a few bucks where possible.
7. Suggest a theme for the meeting based on your book. Lots of book clubs like to have theme-based discussions and often ask members to bring food or desserts that cater to that particular theme. For example, in keeping with the “mob” storyline of Baby Grand, one club had a theme of “Everything Italian,” and the book club organizer asked members to bring wine, food and beverages that fit the bill. So there was pizza, mozzarella and tomatoes drizzled with balsamic vinegar, Italian chocolates and pastries, cannoli, espresso. It was so fun. And delicious. And it got everyone in the mood for the book discussion. Reach out to the organizer of the book club you’re planning to attend to see if they’re up for some fiction-inspired fare.
8. Give ’em the inside scoop. Make your author appearance special for the folks who are there, and let them in on some proprietary info about your book. Give them the lowdown on how your book came to be, some behind-the-scenes information or a preview of the book’s sequel. Reveal what celebrity your villain was based on (mine was inspired by Robert De Niro) or why you chose the book’s setting. Think of the stuff you would like to know if you were meeting an author, and then go ahead and spill your guts.
9. Publicize the events on social media. I often post photos I’ve taken, an insightful comment a reader made, or a themed food served at the meeting on my Facebook page, or my blog. I also spotlight a book club of the month in my monthly newsletter.
10. Have fun. This is probably the most important tip. Be yourself. Let your hair down. Have a cannolo. Guffaw, if you dare. For many of us, this is the reason we became writers: To have the opportunity to share stories with readers. What’s more, after a night of laughter and silliness and debating which one of us will be running away with one of the main characters, I’m often approached to appear at another book club (many readers are in more than one). If readers are having a good time, then they’re apt to tell their reader-friends that they did. And the best part? You get to do it all over again.
Voted one of the Best Long Island Authors for 2013 (Long Island Press), Dina Santorelli has been a freelance writer for over 15 years and has written for Newsday, First for Women and
CNNMoney.com, among other publications.
Her debut novel, Baby Grand, is a Top Rated Mystery & Thriller on Amazon Kindle. Among her nonfiction work, Dina served as the “with” writer for the well-received Good Girls Don't Get Fat and most recently contributed to Bully, the companion book to the acclaimed documentary. Dina is also the Executive Editor of Salute and Family magazines for which she has interviewed many celebrities, including James Gandolfini, Tim McGraw, Angela Bassett, Mario Lopez, Gary Sinise and Kevin Bacon. Dina blogs about the writing life at http://makingbabygrand.com. and will teach a publishing course this summer for Hofstra University’s Continuing Education department. For more information about Dina, visit her website at http://dinasantorelli.com.
BABY GRAND summary:
In Albany, New York, the governor’s infant daughter disappears without a trace from her crib at the Executive Mansion. Hours later, newly divorced and down-and-out writer Jamie Carter is abducted from the streets of Manhattan. Jamie is whisked upstate, where she is forced by her captor, Don Bailino, a handsome, charismatic ex-war hero/successful businessman, to care for the kidnapped child in a plot to delay the execution of mobster Gino Cataldi – the sixth man to be put to death in six years by hardliner Governor Phillip Grand. What prevails is a modern-day thriller about family ties, loyalty, murder, betrayal, and love that’s told in deftly interweaving narratives that follow the police investigation of the missing Baby Grand, the bad guys who took her, and the woman who found the strength to protect her.