Some authors when they publish a book dream of having a room full of people pouring over their pages while sipping wine and eating cheese. A book club can be a great way to engage readers and sell books, but it’s not always easy to get on their radar.
If you’re hoping to develop a community of readers and engage within your community, a few steps need to be taken to ensure you have the right signs out to your audience that show you’re open for book club business.
Know Your Audience
It is very hard to get your audience to engage with you on any forum, but in-person interaction is by far the hardest these days. If you’re going to get your fans to connect offline, you have to really know who they are.
If you write young adult fiction, you need to ask, are your readers actually teens? Are they 15 or 19 or are they in fact adults. This could mean the difference between arranging a Skype book club with a school library or a coffee shop gathering in your hometown.
There are a few ways to start determining the demographic of your readers:
- Run Facebook Analytics – If you have a Facebook author page, use “Insights” to see who your social media audience consists of.
- Poll Your Email List – If you’ve developed a mailing list, trying getting them to share some personal information. You may want to create a simple survey and incentivize it with a small giveaway.
- Do Some Competitive Research – If you’re just getting started, you may not have a large group of people to gain a sample demographic on. Try researching the audience of a bestselling author in your genre.
Let Them Know You’re Available
A book club does not necessarily have to involve the author, but it is a great incentive for people to read your book if you are able to attend their meeting. Big name authors don’t always offer up their availability to small book clubs, so that could be an opportunity for newer or smaller authors to get a leg up.
Get the word out by:
- Creating a Page on Your Website: Make sure it’s easy for readers to discover your availability.
- Announce it on Social Media: Remind your fans that you can meet virtually or in-person if it’s local.
- Host a Mock Book Club on Facebook Live: Facebook Live has given anyone with a business page the opportunity to reach a much broader audience. Hold a “book club” with everyone on social media so your (potential) fans can see the benefit of having you involved.
- Offer Availability in Your Book: If you have this amount of control and lead time, include a note at the end of your book that you are available to meet with book clubs upon request. Include the link to the page on your website about your book club opportunities.
There’s nothing wrong with planting the idea that a book club should choose you. Being available by Skype or in-person is a huge offering. Make sure readers know it’s an option.
Join Book Clubs
This idea is just crazy enough to work. If you aren’t a part of a book club – online or off – it’s going to be hard to understand how to integrate with them.
Get to know the ins and outs of how books are chosen and how members function within the club. Certainly don’t join just to throw your name out there. Join for the love of reading and the benefit of internal knowledge.
Create Discussion Questions
You may not even necessarily have to open yourself up to attending book club meetings. You can plant the idea simply by providing discussion questions to book clubs.
Thoughtful guidance to interpreting your book could be all that’s needed. Perhaps the book clubs out there don’t want the authors interpretation, just the opportunity to have rich, literary conversations with their peers. By providing the questions, you’re already, in a way, attending the book club meeting.
Again, if possible, include the discussion questions on your website or in the back of your book.
There may also be sites willing to deliver your guide to reading groups, like this one:
Be Tech Savvy
If you are going to make yourself available for book club visits, be sure you are technologically ready for the possibility of an online meet up. When you go digital, you open yourself up to a much bigger audience, but there are some tech essentials that come with the online book club offer.
Step One: Get a Skype Account (with a good username)
If you don’t have a Skype account or your current handle is stressedmama20, you will want a professional account. Preferably your author name or something very close to it.
Step Two: Set the Backdrop
You don’t want a trashed kitchen or a blank wall in the background when you call in. The best place to position yourself would be opposite a window (for lighting) and in front of a book case or well-decorated shelf/wall. Again, the more professional the better.
Step Three: Conduct a Test Run
Even if it’s just your spouse calling from the other room, it’s good to check sound, lighting and connectivity ahead of time. There’s nothing worse than having an even planned around you and then having technology fail you at the last minute.
The traditional book club does not have to be your only aim for engaging with readers. Social media and our connected world have provided authors with so many opportunities they haven’t yet explored.
Marie Force, while an extreme example, is a bestselling indie author who hosts an annual retreat with her readers.
She has avid fans who gather to discuss books and engage with fellow readers offline.
On a smaller scale, you may find it’s just enough to start having coffee with readers or doing a book club road trip where you stop in on fans during a cross country adventure. There’s really no limit, so get creative about getting in touch with book clubs.