Tag Archives: book clubs

Read or Not Read

Did my title confuse you, dear reader? Don’t worry, I’ll explain. After my publisher launched my debut book, SHE HAD TO KNOW, in 2011, I gave a number of talks and signings for various organizations to familiarize people with me and my work. In addition, I was on several panels at writers’ conventions in which the subject of the panel had something to do with the panelists’ books, and a signing followed so attendees could purchase said books. For me, there were talks with signings at libraries, art galleries, and civic groups, but there was one thing in common with all these talks. No one had read my book yet. Of course, I’m referring to the public, not people who were associated with the publication of the book itself.

I had been attending writers’ conventions and conferences for a number of years before my first publication, so there were lots of writers whom I had met and also lots of aspiring authors like me with whom to share experiences. In fact, an author friend introduced me to her agent. Although my author friend’s agent wasn’t looking for my particular book, it was a good experience for me to have contact with her. I also did several pitches to agents and editors at these conventions and finally I acquired my agent at a convention. It was all so frightening, exhilarating, exhausting, energizing, deterring and inspiring, and produced both insecurity and later a bit of confidence and I loved most every moment!

In all of these instances people had not yet read my book, so in delivering my talk, I was always aware not to give away any important clue, or say too much about any character. My subject matter covered my motives for writing this particular book and what went into doing so. I talked about how I accomplished the research needed. Everything was general and somewhat vague, so as to not spoil the book for a new reader. I only realized this recently when I was scheduled to give a talk for a book club in which everyone had read my book.

The first part of my talk with this group was like previous ones since most of my audience didn’t know me, but I started seeing smiles of recognition as I went on. I was able to talk more freely, specifically about placement of red herrings, or why a certain character acted a certain way. During my question and answer period, I received some interesting questions that I was able to answer fully without having to be concerned that someone’s reading experience would be ruined by a spoiler. This was the first time since my book came out that I had specific feedback on it.

As an author, this experience was more helpful to me from a writer’s perspective. I guess one could call it a critique session from readers. I really enjoyed this. In this case, my audience was too kind to give me any negative feedback, but I would have welcomed that as well, because one learns from all criticism.

Reviews and comments on Amazon and Goodreads are good too, but in the case of the book club, I was able to interact with my questioners. That isn’t possible, of course, in a review.

The only drawback to doing a talk for a book club is that the author probably won’t sell many books, if any, because book clubs usually read lots of books over time and book stores and libraries usually don’t have enough copies for all the members to share. Since costs of books would get prohibitive, often the prospective readers will buy used books or ones from another vender than one that would provide a royalty to the author. I certainly understand that, but I have to say that’s not a reason for an author to not do book club talks, because I certainly learned a great deal from my experience and I would do it again in a heartbeat. Yes, we do want to get paid for our work, but sometimes the lessons we learn along the way can be much more valuable than the cost of a few books.

I’d love to hear what you writers feel about this subject.

 

Coco Ihle is the author of SHE HAD TO KNOW, an atmospheric traditional mystery set mainly in Scotland.

Join her here each 11th of the month.

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Book Club Appearances

Due to the efforts of a friend, I made my first author’s appearance at a mystery book club a few weeks ago. I was honored that this group of ladies decided to give my debut thriller STACCATO a chance. As many of you know, book clubs choose the titles they will read many months in advance. I had been waiting patiently since last November and had no idea what to expect.

A buzz began a month before the book club meeting; a few had already finished my book and enjoyed the read. Some refused to purchase the title from Amazon or didn’t have the time to wait for the publisher to send them a copy. I had extra copies on hand, so provided them at a discount for the rest of the group to purchase and all problems were rectified.

I think my friend was more nervous about the appearance than I was. This group hadn’t ever been visited by the actual author of a book they had read. Any unease soon abated when the questions about STACCATO began to flow: How did I come up with my location, names, character traits. How did I choose the classical music pieces? Explaining the motivation for why I chose that particular piece of music. On and on for two hours, these women drew me into their little circle of the appreciation of written words.

I found the experience to be well worth the anxiety of not knowing: 1) if they would like my book. 2) Would anyone show up to discuss the book? 3) Had they even read the book?

Not only did I sell 15 copies to this group, I feel confident that they are spreading the word about STACCATO. They’re also looking forward to my next release and plan to invite other authors to their book club.

Deborah J Ledford is the author of the debut suspense thriller novel STACCATO, now available from Second Wind Publishing, Amazon, Kindle, and independent bookstores.

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Do Guest Authors Stifle Frank Discussion?

My book,  Murder in Winnebago County, was selected by a number of area book clubs as their read of the month. I was invited to attend two meetings as the “guest author.” Both events were attended by bright, well-read people of all ages. They asked question after question about the writing process, the publishing process, what sparks ideas, if the characters were based on real people, was I one of the characters, and so on.

Others things they asked were: who were my favorite authors, who were my favorite Minnesota authors, what books would I recommend, when would my next book be in print, what was my next book about?

My experiences at both meetings were positive, fun and encouraging and I loved every minute of our discussions. However, there was one question that weighed on me, “Did my being there prevent members from giving their unedited, frankly-honest opinions?” Chances were, in a group of ten or twenty people, someone was bound to have been disappointed with something in the book–the plot, one or more characters, the writing style, something.

I expressed my concern to a couple of people some time after the meetings, wondering if my presence dampened open dialogue and discussion. Both assured me it was a different format than their usual book club meetings and it was a real treat–and informative– having me there. I was even invited to join the clubs.

As authors, have you had similar experiences? As readers, do you think guest authors stifle frank discussions of their book? I’d love to hear your comments.

Christine Husom is the Second Wind Publishing author of Murder in Winnebago County, and the upcoming, Buried in Wolf Lake.

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