By Alice Osborn, NCWN Board Member and Wake County Regional Rep
Youâ€™re an author whoâ€™s accepted an invitation to appear before the Wonderland Book Club (or another fine book club)â€”now what? Connecting with your readers through book clubs is a smart marketing strategy. Not only are you going to sell your books, youâ€™re also strengthening reader loyalty while playing the long game in terms of attracting raving fans for your next book.
Being a book clubâ€™s guest is a valuable opportunity, and here are several questions to ask so you can put yourself and your book in front of more readers:
Ask who is in your audience. Are they strong readers, occasional readers, writers themselves, homemakers, wine drinkers, pet owners, music lovers, and/or HBO fans? Even after you talk to the organizer/facilitator, contact a fellow author who has previously visited that book club or connect with a regular member so you can get the inside scoop of that clubâ€™s anatomy.
Ask who your facilitator/moderator is. Once you have that personâ€™s e-mail, send her your website URL, frequently asked questions about your book, your bio/intro, headshot, and awards/literary distinctions. Follow up with your contact a week out and then the day before to make sure everythingâ€™s a â€œgo.â€ I also recommend having your contact on speed-dial and mapping out the book club address via MapQuest or Google Maps so you are one step ahead of your GPS. Try to arrive at least fifteen minutes ahead of your scheduled time.
Ask if itâ€™s a public book club. Can you invite others who arenâ€™t regulars to this book gatheringâ€”if so, thatâ€™s awesome! Wonderland is open to the public, so our authors can invite their friends. Now you can post your book club appearance on your website, blog, newsletter, e-mail list, and in social media.
Ask how much time is available for you. Figure out beforehand how much time youâ€™ll spend reading from your book, talking about your â€œauthorâ€™s journey from writing to publicationâ€ and answering questions about the book itself.
Ask for a small table. This table will be where youâ€™ll sell your discussion book as well as other books in your collection. You should also bring plenty of business cards, bookmarks, and a newsletter sign-up sheet so you can get folks to opt-in your e-mail list/newsletter.
Ask if thereâ€™s an honorarium. But only ask if the facilitator hasnâ€™t brought it up. You donâ€™t want to sound cheap or ungrateful, but you are driving to the club and spending time away from your work and family. Facilitators should lay out the expectations for the guest author so that thereâ€™s no awkward vibe. For instance, in Wonderland Book Club, we donâ€™t have an honorarium, but we treat the authors to a nice Italian lunch, and I state that clearly from the get-go. On top of an honorarium, authors should be allowed to sell their books.
While at the book club meeting, take photos with the club so you can post these pics on social media and your website to gain more book-club invites. Remember, if itâ€™s not posted on Facebook, then it didnâ€™t really happen!
After the book club meeting, follow up on Facebook and Twitter by liking and commenting any posts the organizer has sent out. Also follow up with the organizer thanking her for the opportunityâ€”donâ€™t forget to follow up with those who have signed up for your newsletter, too.
Sharing your book with loyal readers is one of the great joys of being an author! Come prepared and well-rested to the meeting, but most of all, have fun and enjoy the interaction and discussion. This could be one of the best gatherings youâ€™ve attended all year!
ALICE OSBORN, MA, is the author of four books of poetry: Heroes without Capes (Main Street Rag, 2015), After the Steaming Stops (Main Street Rag, 2012), Unfinished Projects (Main Street Rag, 2010) and Right Lane Ends (Catawba, 2006); she is also a freelance writer and teaching artist.
She facilitates the Wonderland Book Club, the regular Wake County regional meeting for the North Carolina Writers’ Network. Wonderland meets on the last Friday of the month, 10:00 am – 12:00 pm, at the Center for Excellence in Raleigh. There’s always a guest author. Usually the first hour is taken up with the book discussion, the author reads a few passages, and then in the last hour the floor is opened for the story behind the book. How was this book published and marketed? How long did the author take to write the book? Did the plot or characters come first? And the questions continue when book club members take the author to lunch.