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Book Clubs and the Paperback

There’s much written about how best to promote a new release. But seldom is the topic of what to do about your paperback release covered. I’ve heard from a couple authors who were wondering just this thing. What to do, what to do?

First, it’s not the same as the initial release. You may have trouble getting media to write reviews, especially if they’ve already covered it. But. There is a big, huge, giant market out there that you can tap for a paperback release that is not as willing to get on board with a hardcover book. That, my friends, is book clubs. In fact, many book clubs will not put a book on their schedule until it is available in paperback format.

While you may have planned a big splash for the initial release, so that all of your interviews and blog tours and reviews ran right around the release date, for the paperback release you need to target a quieter market. Things probably won’t hit all around the release date. Book clubs often plan months ahead and run during the school year. I belong to two library book clubs, and we need to have our choices nailed down several months in advance, so that they can put our selections in the library newsletter with the meeting announcement. We have due dates. Now, many private book clubs might not operate on such a stringent schedule, but you can bet that they are planning ahead.

So how are they going to find out about you? The mainstream press. Your hometown paper. Bloggers who cover books. Book clubs are made up mostly of normal people (okay, heavy on the librarians and such, but still), and they read normal publications, like blogs, consumer magazines and the newspaper. Few of your book club coordinators are going to be checking out industry trade publications like Publishers Weekly or industry blogs.

Be sure to mention during any appearances, in your bio, on your website, and elsewhere that you are available to visit book clubs. Offer to set up Skype sessions. More and more book clubs are doing this and it’s fantastic. I once attended a large, public book club where Lev Grossman joined us via Skype for a discussion of The Magicians. It was like he was sitting right there (didn’t hurt that we were in a theater and the screen was huge). He had a drink in hand, as did all of us, and it was very chatty and fun.

Make it easy for book clubs to use your book. Come up with a discussion guide or some kind of list of questions. I am continually surprised by how many books do not have this simple tool. In my book clubs, we each take turns leading the discussion. I often have a hard time finding prepared questions for my titles. It’s not a complete deal-breaker, but the discussion guide at least lets the book clubs know you are thinking about them, and it gives the discussion leader somewhere to start.

I often hear, “But where do you find book clubs?” Well, other than the idea of covering the mainstream press and announcing everywhere that you want to do this, you can check with libraries. Many libraries have multiple book clubs. Also indie bookstores tend to have multiple book clubs. If you can, offer to attend the discussion. It won’t be a “discussion” then, per se (most book clubs are hesitant to really discuss the book in front of the author), but it will give them a treat and offer a chance for them to ask you questions directly. Sometimes they will want you to give a short talk and sometimes they will just want to ask you questions. Be sure you know what their expectations are.

Please remember, a book club session is not going to be all about “buy my book.” In fact, most of your attendees will have already bought the book, and they will just want their copies signed. Which is great. Because these folks are your best fans. They are the book lovers to whom all of their friends turn for recommendations. These are the folks who will talk you up and buy your book as gifts for friends. These are the readers who will request the book be added to their library’s collection. These are, on average, ten or more people who will talk about your book before or after the meeting. The potential here is limitless.

And don’t think that a library book club isn’t going to help your book sell. Think about it. A library branch may buy three or four copies. A library system may have ten or twelve copies of a popular book. And that book club list that is required so many months ahead of time? Many people who don’t want to or can’t attend the book club meeting for whatever reason will use these as reading lists. We have often found with our group that when a book is put on our schedule, the queue for the book in the library system is markedly longer all of a sudden – much longer than the regular attendees of the book group would suggest. So think of this as free and effective advertising.

Once you really get in with book clubs, you will find an unending supply of new readers. Think about titles like Water for Elephants or The Time Traveler’s Wife. These only broke out big once they were discovered by book clubs. Also, you will find that if you have a backlist, that too will receive a boost once the book clubs discover you.

Find yourself some new best friends. Spread the word that you are available and search out some book groups. Your paperback release and your readers will thank you!

Also see: Upcoming: “Skype Session Checklist”

One thought on “Book Clubs and the Paperback”

  1. Linda, your common sense suggestions leap over all the hype on the web. Nice going, girl! Love you site and will send over some of my pals.
    Walter

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