by Erin Mitchell
First, I have to share this, which I find hilarious:
I’ll say this right up front: I am not now nor have I ever been a joiner. I’m somewhat antisocial, and I’m skittish in large groups. So as much as I love reading and talking about (and marketing) books, I’ve never done the book club thing. It always seemed to me that if you have a (relatively small) group of people reading the same book and talking primarily to each other (read: other people who have already purchased the book) about the book, it’s not a scalable marketing opportunity.
I’m not talking Oprah here. Her “Book Club” is an entirely different entity, as are the many online “book clubs” from publishers, Amazon and Barnes & Noble and those sales entities that call themselves clubs.
Yesterday at a book signing, though, I was listening to a woman who was telling someone else in line that she just moved to the area, and she was desperate to find a book club. The woman was offering helpful suggestions about where she might look. She called over one of the store owners to ask whether they had a book club at the store (they don’t).
She made me curious enough to read this lengthy and somewhat convoluted article from Slate almost a year ago. It’s interesting, if somewhat difficult to slog though.
But here’s the thing: The woman asking about where to find a book club was buying SEVEN books. Hardcovers, all. Crime fiction, mostly. It occurred to me that perhaps I’ve been selling book clubs short. If someone likes reading enough to join a group of compatriots and talk about a book, that person is, by definition, an influencer. The whole group comprises them, in fact.
Interacting with book clubs is a timely endeavor, but it makes sense to include a reference to book clubs on your web site. That way, if a club is reading your book and wants to invite you to phone in, they can. Even if you decline such requests, it makes sense to listen to them and respond, because this interaction will only solidify club members as book advocates (and you can have someone else take care of this for you if it’s too cumbersome, of course).
Should you seek out book clubs? That depends on your book and, frankly, on you. From what I can tell, most book club members and administrators are women. So if your book is distinctly male-focused and/or you’re uncomfortable talking with female readers, probably not. If, however, you’re cool interacting with women readers and your book is good book club material and it fits in the scheme of your overall marketing endeavors, then yeah, sure.
Speaking of which, what makes a book club book, anyhow? I really can’t tell. Most of the clubs claim to read across genres, although most preclude anything smelling of erotica (sorry, 50 Shaders).
I also didn’t realize that BookCrossing is considered a book club. I’ve always been a fan of giving books away, and Book Crossing is a super means to do that, particularly in Europe where it seems to have more avid participants than here in the US.
Maybe one of these days I’ll get especially brave and attend a book club meeting. Until then, if you’ve used book clubs as a marketing tactic and/or participate in them, I’d love to hear your thoughts!