Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Talking to Book Clubs

uwharrie I’m looking forward to meeting with a book club tonight at Uwharrie Books in Locust, North Carolina.

Book clubs are usually a lot more fun for me than signings. At most signings, the folks who come into the bookstore have no idea who you are (unless they’ve come out specifically to see you) and may not be interested in the types of books you write.

At a book club, you’ve got a group of people who’ve chosen your book to read. And the sales pressure is off, which is always a real relief. They’ve (usually) read your book and are eager to talk to you about it.

Usually book clubs fall into two different groups—the kind that takes a more casual approach where you participate as a book club member—by sitting as part of the group, listening to the discussion, and answering any questions the readers have about why you chose to send the plot in a particular direction or what inspired a particular character.

The other kind wants you to talk a little about your book—the inspiration for it, the challenges and fun of writing it, and things like cover selection, etc. and then open it up to questions.

I usually come prepared for either one. :)

I hear sometimes from authors who are interested in reaching out to book clubs and aren’t sure how to find them. Good places to check are usually libraries (my local branch has a book club that focuses on mysteries), bookstores (which frequently have book clubs meet in their cafes—and Borders has recently made a public drive to attract book clubs to its stores), churches, and clubhouses for different subdivisions.

Things I’ve discovered from talking at book clubs:

Find out if you should bring anything. I’ve been to book clubs where everyone brought food. They probably would tell me not to bring food, but I feel funny not bringing anything with me when everyone else is.

Bring bookmarks, postcards, and other small giveaways. Individually-wrapped chocolates and mints are always popular. :)

Consider doing a door prize giveaway for one book club member to win.

Bring a sign up sheet for your email newsletter, if you have one.

Consider bringing a cheat sheet with your book’s characters on it. I hate to admit it, but sometimes when I’m on the spot, I’ve been known to forget a minor character’s name. It doesn’t look good for someone else to know your book better than you do.

Be prepared that someone might not like your book and will talk about why they didn’t. It’s tough, but learn to accept it and not get defensive.

Be prepared for the book club to find deeper meaning in your book than you intended. :) It’s happened to me a couple of times and I loved their ideas about my book,although symbolism wasn’t my intention. A lot of book clubs are used to reading literary fiction.

Be prepared to talk succinctly about what you’re working on next.

Have you ever spoken to a book club or belonged to one where authors spoke? How did it go?