How to Build a Book Group Audience for Your Book

The biggest market of readers these days seems to be book groups. The question for most authors isn't whether they want to reach this market, but how. Some of the ways to reach book club readers are out of an author's hand. Your publisher is going to decide whether your book is appropriate for, say, the Random House Reader's Circle program, and whether to push it for in-store book club tables and programs like the Target Store Book Club Picks.

But authors can also reach out directly to Book Club readers through an online approach involving:
  • outreach to book club sites,
  • website pages for groups,
  • a simple "email me" button, and
  • a commitment of time.

 

Outreach to Book Club Sites

The online outreach is the most challenging part of this, but there are numerous book club sites these days, many of which may give you a mention for the low low price of a review copy or a little bit of time writing a guest blog or author interview. Some of my favorites, in alphabetical order, are listed below. I highly recommend familiarizing yourself with each site before approaching to them. It's time consuming, but it might make the difference between ending up on the Bookmovement Top 20 Book Club Pick for 2010 (based on Readers' Choices), as my second novel, The Wednesday Sisters, did, or being turned away at the door.



Website Pages for Groups

Book clubs love to explore website pages with personal information and information about your books. This is a great chance to be creative! I developed mine with the help of the marketing folks at my publisher, with a portal table of contents for each of my three novels:
  • The Four Ms. Bradwells portal is a legal pad, since the book is about a female Supreme Court nominee. Pages include photos from my trip to a real life Chesapeake Bay island on which I based my fictional one, a timeline history of women in the law and politics, and photos from law school.
  • The Wednesday Sisters entry portal is a book, because the characters form a writing group. Pages include "character button pages" which describe where each character came from, and include things like recipes, excerpts from my journal, and even a timeline of the race to the moon.
  • The Language of Light portal is a photo-book, because the protagonist is a photographer. Pages include an essay on photography and photos of the horse country I used to live in, on which the setting is based.

My pages were definitely inspired by the "For Readers" pages on Amanda Eyre Ward's website.

 

A Simple "Email Me" Button

The "email me" button is pretty simple. I keep mine on a page that shares "What Book Groups are Saying about Meg's Books" and have it set up to have an auto-header "Would-Meg-join-our-book-club-for-a-chat."

 

A Commitment of Time

The last part--the time spent with book groups--turns out to be delightful. What author doesn't relish the chance to talk with readers, either in person, by phone, or these days, by video chat? - Meg Waite Clayton

I'm the nationally bestselling author of The Language of Light, a current Target Pick for Book Clubs, The Wednesday Sistersa Bookmovement top 20 pick for book clubs for 2010 (based on reader's choices), and The Four Ms. Bradwells, a Pulpwood Queens club pick coming as a Random House Reader's Circle selection in paperback. Find more tips on writing on the writers page of my website, and at 1st Books: Stories of How Writers Get Started

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Tags: Book, book, clubs, groups, marketing, novels, promotion

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Comment by Lissa Brown on August 20, 2011 at 8:41am
Wonderful info. Thanks for sharing. I'll be using it shortly.
Comment by Stephanie Dolce on August 20, 2011 at 5:50am
Great information and its given me some great ideas as well.
Comment by Elizabeth E Wilder on August 19, 2011 at 5:31pm
Have just sent books to my first club.  This post so timely.  Thx
Comment by Amy Wilson on August 19, 2011 at 4:56pm
what an amazingly useful post. thank you!
Comment by Beth Barany on August 19, 2011 at 3:46pm
So useful, thanks! I've spread the word!
Comment by Laura B Gschwandtner on August 19, 2011 at 3:04pm
Great post!
Comment by Rossandra White on August 19, 2011 at 2:23pm
Thank you so very much for posting this, Meg.  I'm getting ready to self-publish and this looks like an essential component to my marketing plan (at the moment ten billion pieces of info all over the place).  Is there some way to "save" your posting to a particular place other than my browser's bookmark?
Comment by Susan May on August 19, 2011 at 1:54pm

Thanks for all the great info. Find or getting in touch with Book Clubs seems alomost impossible. I appreciate the insights.

Susan Carlisle

Heart Surgeon, Hero...Husband?1/12

www.SusanCarlsile.com   

Comment by Meg Waite Clayton on August 19, 2011 at 1:26pm
I would certainly use this approach for an e-book, Barbara. And I've heard, Caroline, that there is a lot of YA cross-over into the book club market as well. Congrats to you both, and good luck!
Comment by Helen Rena on August 19, 2011 at 1:08pm
Thanks for the information. This looks interesting.

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