Ruth E. Walker
The first book club invitation I received came from Sharon, a co-worker. She’d read Living Underground and wondered if I might come to her book club while they discussed my book. Holy poop! I thought. Be there while they dissected my characters, found holes in my plot, puzzled over themes I didn’t know I had in there?
Absolutely terrifying. So naturally, I said yes. I figured it would be my one and only. I was wrong.
My book was published in 2012, and Sharon’s lovely invitation was only one of many I continue to receive. I’ve travelled all over southern Ontario to libraries, pubs, living rooms, coffee shops and even an office boardroom. I’ve accepted book club invites to Virginia and Michigan. I was with a seniors’ group in London Ontario recently and in September, I’ll meet readers in Niagara-on-the-Lake.
For authors, book clubs are a wonderful opportunity to meet with people who read your book. But you should be prepared before showing up. Each club has its own structure and set of expectations — some are social with wine and nibbles; others are prepared with note pads and questions. Remember: you want to be a welcome guest who adds value to their reading experience.
Here are some pointers for attending book clubs.
Do your research. Ask questions before you go:
- what is the format and what do they expect of you? (if they’re not sure, you need to be prepared with suggestions. Consider preparing a book club guide/questions to provide in advance)
- will a member lead the evening or is it more free-flowing?
- what time are you expected to be there? (sometimes, you’re asked to show up after the meeting starts to let the group settle before you arrive) and when you should leave? (they can’t talk about you if you are still in the room…)
- what is the address? (you may think this is a silly question but you need to know exactly where you are going — front door, side door, meeting room on 2nd floor & not the main floor…)
- what are the contact phone numbers? (and give them yours in case of last-minute changes)
Set out your parameters:
- let them know if any question is out of bounds for you (in my case, I am clear with book clubs — they can ask me anything at all about the book & they can’t offend me with opinions or questions)
- time limits, if you have them
Be the guest author, not the wannabe member:
- avoid the social drinks; stick to water or tea/coffee (I like wine but not at a book club; I’m there to answer their questions, not join their group.)
- similarly, go easy on the nibbles (eat dinner before showing up)
- dress professionally (it’s not a white tie event; however, know that your ripped jeans and sweatshirt is only great for writing marathons and not a book club)
Bring copies of your book:
- book clubs have usually already bought your book but it is helpful to have copies on hand (be discreet because it’s not about selling the book; you are there to appreciate your readers)
Be prepared to hear negative comments:
- reading is an individual experience and not everyone will love your book (p.s. – really, it’s no longer YOUR book once you send it out to readers; it becomes THEIR book that you wrote)
- practise the following:
- Thank you for letting me know.
- That’s interesting. It wasn’t what I had in mind when I wrote that scene but I appreciate knowing your response to it.
- I appreciate your honesty.
- I always let the organizer know the following:
- Your members can ask me anything at all. I’m a writer and I’m used to critiques and rejection. They can’t hurt my feelings even if they didn’t like anything about my book. (and I repeat this at the beginning of every book club appearance — it helps break the ice for some readers.)
Remember to say thank you:
- What a terrific compliment; the club members picked your book to read. If you think about it, what better validation of the crazy passion we have for writing than to have readers engage with your book?