Writers, for the most part, are readers. And that means they have two reasons to feel fondness for reading groups: as a grand place to connect with fellow readers and discuss a book; as an author who knows connecting with reading groups can be a fabulous way to gain new fans. In this post, let’s explore reading groups and why we love them.
We Love Reading Groups Because We’re Readers
I’ve belonged to the same book club for about 15 years. The club itself celebrated its 25th anniversary two years ago, when we all (12 of us) trekked to Monterey, Calif., to tour everything John Steinbeck (his birth place in nearby Salinas and his Monterey haunts). We read his The Red Pony for our book that month and discussed it as we dined at a restaurant in a historic Monterey building that weekend.
I love our reading group because we’re eclectic. Karen likes feel-good books; Susan likes a more literary read; Tom hungers for any nonfiction historical; Beth appreciates books–either fiction or nonfiction–that inform our view of other countries or other times in history, etc.
Pretty much each month when we gather together, someone will remark, “I never would have read this book if it hadn’t been picked by the club, but I really liked it…” Or, “I only finished reading this book because the club picked it. I didn’t like it because…”
Yup, reading groups expose us to books we individually aren’t drawn to. And we often end up benefiting more than we could have guessed by going outside our comfort zone.
We Love Reading Groups as Authors
To have a book club choose one of your titles is to sell multiple copies in one fell-swoop. And what isn’t to like about that? And once a reader discovers one of your book, that person might well explore others you’ve written. Our club often will choose a second book by an author, if we all enjoyed the first taste of her writing. (If you want to find out how to encourage reading groups to select your books, scan on down to the last subhead in this post.)
How to Find a Reading Group for You
If you’re hankering to find a book club to join, here are a few tips on locating one:
- Google “[Name of your city] book clubs.” When I did so, I discovered that our multi-locations local independent bookstore has drop-in book clubs–the perfect way to try out a club and see if it suits you. You can see the various types of reading groups it has formed here.
- Check out an online book club. Organized in a variety of ways, these clubs enable you to connect with fellow book-lovers online. Here’s a list of some of the best online book clubs. (Who knew that NFL quarterback Andrew Luck is a big fan of reading and has created an online reading group?)
Massive Reading Groups to Join
- Join a massive reading group and read the same volume as tens of thousands of others, such as Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine book club. Reese has established herself as an eclectic reader with a good eye for selecting great reads for the group, and any book she picks will end up on the New York Times best-seller list for several months.
- Connect with a book club that also introduces you to the author. The PBS News Hour book club selects one book per month and asks the author to appear on The News Hour television program as the club transitions into a new month. The author explains why he wrote the book and what he hopes readers will gain from slipping in between the book’s covers. When the month ends, the author once again appears on The News Hour–this time to respond to questions readers from around the country have submitted. Sometimes those queries are emailed in and sometimes they are videotaped and submitted. It’s fun to see the faces of fellow readers when they post their questions. During the month, the writer provides writing tips and what works/doesn’t work for him or her as well.
How to Encourage Reading Groups to Select Your Books
- Ask your local library or independent bookstore (which often host reading groups) what groups meet in their buildings. If some of them seem like a potential fit for your writing, ask if you could contact the book club’s leader as a local author who would be glad to introduce your work to the group and later appear during a Q&A time, if they select your book.
- Take advantage of other ways to connect with reading groups. For example, use events such as National Reading Group Month (which happens to be October) to reach out to book clubs with an offer to introduce your book to them. This is a great time to make the trek to your local library, independent bookstore, or even a local Barnes & Noble to ask about reading groups that might enjoy connecting with a local author.
- Offer a page on your website for book clubs. Provide discussion questions, if your book doesn’t have these at the back. Some authors also create a Book-Club-in-a-Box option that includes recipes for the book club to serve during the meeting, links to appropriate online sites you used to do your research, ideas for table decorations, etc.
- Express willingness (through your website) to join a book club to either/and introduce your book to the group before they read it; answer questions after they’ve read it. You’ll join them using videoconferencing such as Zoom. This type of personal connection with an author means the world to book clubs.
Reading Group Lists
- Ask your publishing house publicist if lists of reading groups are available to contact specifically regarding your title. If so, come up with some special offering you can make to reading groups to entice them to choose your book.
What do you enjoy most about being a member of a book club? As an author, how have you connected with reading groups? What didn’t work for you when you tried to connect?
Writers love reading groups as a place to meet with fellow readers but also as a place to offer their books as potential reads. More details are in this new blog post. Click to tweet.
How can authors help book clubs to discover their titles? Click to tweet.