Today’s guest is international bestselling author M.J. Rose. The third book in M.J.’s Reincarnationist series, The Hypnotist, was released in paperback in May (and is sitting in wait on my side table right now since I fell under the Reincarnationist’s spell years ago). The Hypnotist–a book that blends “the provocative reality of past lives” with art crimes–is said to be one of M.J.’s best books, receiving a starred review from Publishers Weekly and this rave from Bookreporter.com:
If you haven’t been reading M.J. Rose’s Reincarnationist series, then THE HYPNOTIST will blow away any excuse you may have had… A memorable, engrossing read, a story that sets a new bar for Rose. Something for everyone: murder, suspense, history, romance, the supernatural, mystery and erotica. These elements are woven together so skillfully that the whole becomes something new and different…. Rose, who never disappoints either her die-hard fans or the casual reader, has surpassed herself.
I’m thrilled she’s with us today to speak to something all authors want to know more about: making meaningful connections with bookclubs. Enjoy!
Reaching Out to Bookclubs
I think we all want to connect to bookclubs and make that connection the richest experience we can have. But, like everything else, it’s all about expectations.
As an author—and as the owner of the first marketing company for authors, AuthorBuzz.com—I am continually reminded that it’s expecting too much that so often makes us unhappy. The Dalai Lama said if you compare yourself to people who have more than you do, you will always be disappointed. But if you compare yourself to people who have less, you will always be happy and grateful. We’ve all heard about the authors who have met with over 1000 bookclubs via phone, Skype or in person, and think that’s the Holy Grail.
It is, but we’re not all created equal.
Adrianna Triagini is the kind of funny, warm, charming, big-hearted author that clubs really want to have over. The books suggest she’d be that… and she is.
But we aren’t all.
Not every book suggests the author is going to be someone the clubs want to meet. So if you don’t get invites, don’t take it personally, and don’t force it or think that you’re failing. Being a bookclub pick or favorite is not dependent on your personality or ability to visit the clubs. That said the big question is how best we can tap into this enormous market and get book clubs excited about our books?
Included in packages we sell at AuthorBuzz are more than six ways for authors to reach bookclubs via Bookmovement, which now has over 30,000 registered bookclubs and more than 11,000 reading group guides listed. In addition to what I have learned, I asked Pauline Hubert – who started Bookmovement.com in 2003 —what authors need to keep in mind and think about in trying to reach bookclubs and interact with them.
1. Bookclubs don’t always find publishers’ reading guides helpful. A controversial stance, I know, but it’s a conclusion based on speaking to people in hundreds of reading groups across the country. Some find the guides’ questions too simplistic, and others complain that they reveal plot points. This controversy has resulted in some groups actually boycotting books with guides in them.
So how do you help clubs discuss a book without the expense of writing a reading guide?
You need to write your own discussion. Great discussion questions help groups focus on overarching themes that apply not only to the book and its characters but to their own lives as well.
A question that Michael Chabon contributed for The Adventures of Kavalier & Clay is a good example. He suggested, “Discuss the ability or inability to escape-both in the book and in your own lives.”
2. (This is sort of a no brainer, but I have a reason for mentioning it.) Book clubs want background information on books and authors. But they don’t want (or don’t have the time) to go looking for it.
Pauline said there are several reasons for this. First, it is enough of a challenge to read a book in time for a meeting without trolling the Internet for the publisher site, the author site, and reviews and interviews that could contribute to discussion and understanding. In addition, the complex maze of publishers and imprints is extremely confusing (even to someone in publishing) and makes members more reluctant to search.
So what that means is you can’t just do what I call “in reach”—that’s putting info on your site and your publishers putting info on their site. You can’t wait for people to find you.
But you can to go out and find people – or do what I call “out reach.”
Obviously paid marketing on bookclub sites is out reach.
So is you putting the URL to your reading group guide in your signature.
So is you making lists of great bookclub books and the best question about each, and including your book, and posting it at Amazon.
So is writing a provocative letter to 25 booksellers who all have bookclubs meeting at their store.
So is doing an exchange program with four writers friends—saying “Why don’t we send out one email to all the bookclubs we all know, about all four of our books, and include a contest?”
3. Bookclubs do not want to read just bestsellers—they end up selecting bestsellers because they do not know where to look for their next book selection. And they don’t care if a book is old or new.
If you look at the home page of Bookmovement.com and look at the top picks, you can see the majority were published prior to this year. If you scroll through the top 100 bestsellers on the site, you can see how many are mid list or debuts.
This is just a start… but I hope it’s helpful. I’ll be around all day to answer questions, and if I don’t know the answers Pauline will.
What do you want to know about reaching out to bookclubs? What have been your experiences? Your successes or your failures? The floor is yours.
Photo courtesy Flickr’s Gwen’s River City Images