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Make Book Clubs Part of Your Marketing Plan

While we usually focus on online marketing here at Book Marketing Tools, sometimes it is good to get offline and promote your books there too. In this guest post, author Trace Conger shares some great tips about marketing your book to book clubs.

Book clubs can be a great way for authors to raise awareness of their work, increase sales, engage directly with readers, build a fan base, and even garner more reviews. Given their potential, every fiction author should make book club participation a component of their marketing plan.

Here are a few best practices to keep in mind.

How to Find Book Clubs

Finding book clubs can be difficult. It ranks up there with finding cheap health insurance and underground fight clubs, but luckily there are a few surefire strategies to help you.

Start with your inner circle. You know a lot of people, and chances are, some of those people are active in book clubs. Start by simply asking around. Let your personal network know that you’re interested in speaking with book clubs about your newest title. Even if your friends aren’t active in a book club, they probably know someone who is. Most of the book clubs that I’ve met with I’ve found through personal connections.

Go where they meet: Visit your local library, bookstores, or coffee shops where book clubs often meet and ask the proprietor if they can give you the contact information for the club’s organizer. If they’re not comfortable doing so, leave your name, contact info, and book materials with the owner to share with the organizer.

Find them online. Most book clubs don’t have an online presence, but some do. Try searching for book clubs in your city either directly through a search engine or through sites such as Meetup.com. You can also try online book communities such as Goodreads, Onlinebookclub.org, or Librarything.com. [Note: I tend to avoid these online communities in favor of a more local and personal approach].

Make Your Pitch

If you’re pitching a book club through a personal connection, you might not have to work too hard to pique the group’s interest. Many book clubs love to speak with authors (especially local authors) to learn about their craft, their approach, and chat about their books.

Other groups, especially those who don’t know you, might require some convincing. For clubs with no personal connection, contact the organizer to introduce yourself, provide a book description, and explain you’re interested in participating as a visiting author.

Don’t get discouraged if they’re not interested. Some groups might not want an author to attend for a variety of reasons. They might be intimidated to host an author or they might not read your genre. If they prefer inspirational or YA titles, they probably won’t be interested in your erotic horror western.

Also keep in mind that some book clubs plan their reading lists months—sometimes a year—in advance, so it might be hard to get your book into their rotation. If this is the case, give them your contact information and ask that they keep you in mind when selecting their next round of titles.

It’s assumed (sometimes incorrectly) that the group will read your novel prior to attending the meeting. The group organizer might ask where they can find your book, if it’s available through the library, or if they can get a discount if they buy several titles for all their members. Be prepared to answer these questions.

During the Meeting

You’ve made the connection with the organizer and scheduled the meeting. Here are a few things to keep in mind when planning for your visit:

Be on time. You don’t want to show up late to your own book club discussion.

Know what you want to discuss. I don’t prepare a list of discussion points, but some authors do. If you do, provide these to the organizer before the event. If you like to speak on the fly like me, you should still be prepared to discuss certain topics. Maybe you have an interesting story about how you came up with the central idea of the novel. If you’ve incorporated deep themes in your work you might be prepared to discuss these in more detail. Knowing what you want to discuss can help deter moments of awkward silence.

Ask questions. I love getting feedback directly from readers and I always ask what they liked about the book or what didn’t work for them. While some participants might be intimidated by an author and withhold their honest feedback, others will not. They’ll let you know what they hated about your book. Even if you disagree with them, keep it cordial. And smile a lot.

Before You Go

Let’s assume everyone survived the discussion and no one came to blows. I don’t do any self-promotion during the discussion, as that time is devoted to the participants’ reactions to the book, discussions about what they like to read as a club, and Q&A.

However, after the discussion I always:

  • Pass out a few promotional materials, such as bookmarks
  • Offer to sign any books they’ve brought
  • Ask they consider leaving a review on Amazon or Goodreads
  • Explain how they can sign up for my author newsletter to get updates on my next book

Some clubs like to take photos with authors and I always ask for a copy to include on my website or Facebook author page. I don’t take photos myself, as I feel that comes off as too self-serving.

I also send an email to the organizer after the event thanking them for their time. You can use this email to gauge their interest in having you back after your next book is available.

That’s it. Book clubs can be a great way for authors to foster personal connections directly with readers. Keep the above in mind and you’ll be an author that book clubs will want to have back again and again.

Trace Conger is an author in the crime, thriller and suspense genres. His Mr. Finn series follows disgraced private investigator Finn Harding as he straddles the fine line between freelance criminal investigator and criminal. He lives in Cincinnati with his wonderfully supportive family. Find out more about Trace Conger and the Mr. Finn series on his official website, www.traceconger.com.


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