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 Nissi Mutale on July 16, 2012 at 4:11am

I so appreciate you posting this. I have been wondering how to get my book 'Finding Me' into reader groups. Thank you!

Comment by Cynthia Morris on March 7, 2012 at 1:05pm

This is an incredibly helpful post. Thanks so much, Meg, for sharing so much of your strategies and successes with us. 

Comment by Valerie Brooks on October 5, 2011 at 10:46pm
Can't wait to use your suggestions, Meg, for my novel. I've done two book clubs with the anthology I'm in FRANCE, A LOVE STORY, and what the club members were interested in was the research I did in Paris. So I told them stories, like an old-fashioned story teller. They loved it. There are so many ways to connect and your info I'm adding to my strategies. What fun!
Comment by Julie Lawson Timmer on September 7, 2011 at 6:36am
Thank you for these great ideas, Meg! I am querying my novel as one that "would appeal to the book club market" so if it ever gets snapped up, I will be back on this page and following all of your tips.
Comment by Meg Waite Clayton on September 4, 2011 at 1:29pm
Definitely need to provide good content! You want them to want to read more of what you've written, not less!
Comment by Ann Rodela on August 24, 2011 at 1:25pm
Blog posts links for free? Sounds good, but need to have good content on an ongoing basis. Good advice Meg! :)
Comment by Meg Waite Clayton on August 24, 2011 at 8:52am
Some do charge for some exposures -- ads, for example -- but most will promote things like blog posts for free. I've done, for example, a blog for Book Club Girl (on my book club's holiday tradition), an interview on Book Club Cheerleader, a guest column for Dear Reader, and a guest blog on Bookbrowse, all of which I arranged directly (as opposed to Random House/Ballantine arranging), and I did not pay anything (other than my time) for these exposures.
Comment by Susan V. Weiss on August 23, 2011 at 3:09pm
I'm confused. I began exploring the book club sites you list and which you suggest are free (or so I thought). But many of them have very steep fees for authors to participate. In essence, you're paying to be advertised and promoted on some of these sites. This doesn't seem to be true of all of them, though.
Comment by Karen Wojcik Berner on August 23, 2011 at 10:46am

I was starting to do some planning regarding local book clubs, but this piece helped me to expand my thoughts. Thank you. 

 

Karen

Comment by Marcia Richards on August 22, 2011 at 5:52pm
It's great to find writer tips that are fresh and super helpful. Thanks!

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