Elaine Orr Book Club 2014 007

The Wonderland Book Club with author Elaine Neil Orr

You’re an author who’s accepted an invitation to appear before a book club—now what? Connecting with your readers through book clubs is a smart marketing strategy. Not only are you going to sell some books, you’re also strengthening reader loyalty while you’re playing the long game in terms of attracting raving fans for your next book.

Being a book club’s guest is a valuable opportunity, and here are several questions to ask so you can put yourself and your book in front of more readers:

Ask who is in your audience. Are they strong readers, occasional readers, writers themselves, homemakers, wine drinkers, pet owners, music lovers and/or HBO fans? Even after you talk to the organizer/facilitator, contact a fellow author who has previously visited that book club or connect with a regular member so you can get the inside scoop of that club’s anatomy.

Ask if it’s a public book club. Can you invite others who aren’t regulars to this book gathering—if so, that’s awesome! Now you can post your book club appearance on your website, blog, newsletter, email list and in social media.

Ask how much time is available for you. Figure out beforehand how much time you’ll spend reading from your book, talking about your “author’s journey from writing to publication” and answering questions about the book itself.

Ask for a small table. This table will be where you’ll sell your discussion book as well as other books in your collection. You should also bring plenty of business cards, bookmarks and a newsletter sign-up sheet so you can get folks to opt in your email list/newsletter.

Ask who is your facilitator/moderator. Once you have that person’s email, send her your website, frequently asked questions about your book, your bio/intro, headshot, and awards/literary distinctions. Follow-up with your contact a week out and then the day before to make sure everything’s a go. I also recommend having your contact on speed dial and mapping out the address via MapQuest or Google Maps so you are one step ahead of your GPS. Try to arrive at least 15 minutes ahead of your scheduled time.

Ask if there’s an honorarium. But only ask if the facilitator hasn’t brought it up. You don’t want to sound cheap or ungrateful, but you are driving to the club and spending time away from your work and family. Facilitators should lay out the expectations for the guest author so that there’s no awkward vibe. For instance, in my book club, Wonderland Book Club, we don’t have an honorarium, but we treat the authors to a nice Italian lunch and I state that clearly from the get-go. On top of an honorarium authors should be allowed to bring their books.

While at the book club meeting, take photos with the club so you can post these pics on social media and your website to gain more book club invites. Remember, if it’s not posted on Facebook, then it didn’t really happen! After the book club meeting, follow up on Facebook and Twitter by liking and commenting any posts the organizer has sent out. Also follow up with the organizer thanking her for the opportunity—don’t forget to follow up with those who have signed up for your newsletter, too.

Sharing your book with loyal readers is one of the great joys of being an author! Come prepared and well-rested to the meeting, but most of all, have fun and enjoy the interaction and discussion. This could be one of the best gatherings you’ve attended all year!