Sell More Fiction by Activating the Power of Book Clubs


By

Sell Your Book Like Wildfire

Today’s guest post is by Rob Eagar, author of Sell Your Book Like Wildfire.


Book clubs and discussion groups—where millions of readers congregate both in-person and online to discuss their favorite books—offer a powerful marketing opportunity for novelists. Some of the most popular social networks devoted to book readers include GoodReads (12 million members strong), LibraryThing, Red Room, and BookShout. Promoting your book to both physical and digital book clubs can help boost sales by increasing the number of volume orders placed. Below are three ways to get started.

1. Provide spicy discussion questions

Encourage groups to dive into your novels by streamlining the process to get them talking. First, create a list of interesting questions and add them to the back of your book, your author website, your publisher’s book page, etc. Make it easy for people to find and download these questions.

Second, don’t put a book club to sleep by giving them boring questions. Simple “yes” or “no” answers fail to generate curiosity. Likewise, don’t create dull questions, such as “Did the main character seem scared in Chapter 3?” Instead, push your audience to shake things up with deeper questions, such as:

  • If you were in the main character’s position at this point, how would you respond?
  • Do you feel as if this book changed your views on the primary subject of the story? Why?
  • The main character’s adherence to social customs can seem controversial to us today. Pick a scene where you would have acted differently. Why?
  • If you could change something about this book, what would it be and why?

2. Turn your book into an event

Provide a context for groups to interact with your book; offer ideas for your book to be used as the basis for a mystery dinner, field trip, supper club, Bible study, service project, etc.

For example, you could provide a list of recipes that pertain to the characters, locations, or events in your novel. Or you could build a playlist of songs that evoke the novel’s themes or offer insight into the characters. If your book deals with difficult social subjects, such as soldiers fighting overseas, children at risk, or abandoned animals, you could invite the group to send letters and care packages to forgotten servicemen, volunteer at an after-school program, or volunteer at an animal shelter.

Look for ways to make book clubs view your novel as an experience they can share, rather than just a book to read. Position your book as the catalyst for a meaningful activity. This is a great way to generate excitement and boost word of mouth.

3. Offer a virtual discussion with the author

Book clubs thrive on debating how a novelist creates and masterfully tells a story. Allow book clubs to meet you privately by scheduling phone calls or online discussions to answer some of their biggest questions. Just hearing your voice can be a major thrill for fans. Consider using services such as Skype, Facebook chat, or Google Hangouts to make virtual appearances with readers around the world. Plus there’s an added benefit of avoiding bookstore signing events where nobody shows up!

Several of my author clients offer free 30-minute phone calls to book clubs, because they like getting to know their readers without having to leave home. These phone calls allow authors to build stronger relationships with fans and understand why readers appreciate their books.

Never underestimate the desire readers have to meet their favorite authors. Promote such opportunities on your website and social media pages. Plus, notify your publisher, literary agent, and publicist about your availability so that they can help spread the word.


To learn more about book marketing strategy, check out Eagar’s new release, Sell Your Book Like Wildfire.

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  • http://www.100memoirs.wordpress.com/ Shirley Hershey Showalter

    Love this very helpful list, Rob and Jane. I hope to apply some of these principles to my memoir launch also.

  • Tom Bentley

    Rob, I saw you speak at the Hardcore Marketing session at Writer’s Digest West, and I was impressed by your forceful “take charge of your book’s promotion” presentation.

    I have looked into the “Create a Group” Goodreads Q&A function in considering one for my book of short stories, but it seems like that would be a “if you build it, why should they come” structure unless your Goodreads traffic/friend list/presence was already pretty entrenched. So I’m working on my presence, slowly but surely. Thoughts?

  • Cynthia Morris

    This is great, Rob! I’d love to have my book read by book clubs, and participate in the discussion. Any tips on how to get our books on the radar of book clubs?

  • Rob Eagar

    Tom, I’m glad you enjoyed my presentation at WD West.
    Per your question, you can’t force groups or book clubs to choose your book. But, you can write a great book and encourage readers to consider your book for group discussion. On your author website, newsletter, and social media pages, you can remind people that your book makes for good discussion and that the author is available for group interaction.
    Thanks, Rob

  • Rob Eagar

    Cynthia, glad you enjoyed my post. Per your question, a lot of book clubs choose books based on the genre that the majority of members enjoy. And, they ask around for word-of-mouth suggestions to decide on their next book. However, as the author, you can help your name or title come up in their mind by using your author website, newsletters, and social media pages to remind readers that your book makes for great discussion and the author is available for book club chats. Sometimes, you have to “state the obvious” to make sure readers put two-and-two together. Also, ask your publisher to help get the word out about your book’s discussion questions and author availability through their channels.

    Thanks, Rob

  • Cynthia Morris

    That’s so true, Rob…to state the obvious. I will make it an invitation to my list and to my social media pals. I’m the publisher so when that part of me is in a receptive mood, I’ll ask her.

    My own book group is reading my book in January and I am quite unnerved by it. An author friend recommended letting the group talk first for a few and then showing up. I can see that being reeeeeeeeeally awkward. We’ll buck up and see what happens.

    Thanks for your reply and for your expertise.

  • http://www.janefriedman.com/ Jane Friedman

    For all: Here’s a great case study from GoodReads on how a debut author broke out of the ranks and became a bestseller. Isn’t necessarily a book-club success story, but shows you how a social reading site like GoodReads can play a linchpin role. http://www.goodreads.com/blog/show/394-how-readers-discovered-a-debut-novel-a-case-study

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  • Jenn Crowell

    Thanks so much for this! It’s super-timely for me, as I’m in the middle of preparing a book discussion guide for one of my novels (which has been a perennial book club favorite). Your sample questions are great.

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