Most authors either don’t realize or lose sight of the fact that 95% of books are bought based on personal recommendations. That’s staggering, isn’t it? But also exciting: real readers are the key to an author’s success. And that’s as it should be!
Creative book promotion that focuses on reaching real reading human beings will always be a win. Every interaction with a current or potential fan will not only benefit your book but will also strengthen your relationships with the readers who love you and your books. For these reasons, finding and pitching book clubs is a favorite strategy of mine, and one I love recommending to authors. Even – especially! – during a pandemic, collaborating with a book club is a fantastic way to reach real readers.
If your book is in a genre that’s typically popular with book clubs, it’s possible that some in your area will find and contact you. However, this is more likely if you’ve had local publicity. If book clubs aren’t already knocking down your door, it’s time to get more proactive. And if I’m being honest, nearly all the book promotion ideas worth their salt require you to be proactive – and then some.
1. Start with Your Inner Circle
Ideally one of your friends or acquaintances belongs to a book club. Start there. Many authors I work with are timid about tapping into their own networks, but this is a hurdle you’ll need to get over if you want to be successful. People really do want to help – keep this in mind as you draft an email to your network. In it, ask if the recipients are in a book club or have close friends who are. Include a short blurb (SHORT!) about your book with a link for more information, along with a request that they consider featuring your book.
2. Get Personal with Libraries and Bookstores
Libraries and independent bookstores often sponsor or virtually host book club meetings, and if not, they’re in touch with more than a few organizers and members. Do a web search of local library systems, making notes about particular branches. You’re looking for events the library is already sponsoring as well as contact information for people who work in a position with a title like community engagement or outreach. You should also note the contact information of the Reference Desk – librarians are a great resource for information not only about the materials the library contains, but also about the communities in which they work. You can easily find local independent bookstores by searching IndieBound.
After you’ve found your targets, begin a positive relationship with each one by introducing yourself as a local author and going through whatever steps you may need to complete in order to acquire contact information of their book club leaders and even, potentially, the names and contact information of other area book groups.
3. Tap Online Reading Communities
As platforms solely dedicated to book lovers and authors, Goodreads, Online Book Club, and Librarything shouldn’t be ignored. Yes, these likely won’t be local to you, but as we cope with the pandemic, that matters far less than it used to. And at least you know you’re pitching a captive audience – which means your chances for success increase dramatically. Remember, these sites cater to different genres and niches, so get as specific as you can about who you plan to reach out to. You’ll likely have a better shot pitching a group with a few dozen members than you will one with hundreds.
4. Browse Genre Specific Resources
Some genres go out of their way to highlight book clubs that are on their radar. Examples include the African American Literature Book Club, which lists clubs across the country by name with contact information. Do some searching online to see what comes up for your genre. Hint: this is where digging into your subgenre or niche themes will really serve you well.
5. Source Help Through Social Media
This is an extension of your personal network, but social media gives you a much farther reach. Design a really compelling post with the cover of your book included and whatever deal or bonus you can offer book clubs (yes, your book promotion ideas should always include a bank of special offers) and ask friends and family to share it or tag their friends.
6. MeetUp Might Be Your Gold Mine
Check out www.meetup.com/topics/bookclub to see a full list of MeetUps that have categorized themselves as book clubs. You might even find a few in your geographical area that you missed in all your other local searching.
7. Book Promotion Ideas
You need to have a Reading Group Guide ready to go. If you have a website, keep it there as a standard download offer – consider making it part of the bonus for signing up for your newsletter! Of course not everyone who signs up will be a part of a book club, but they might know someone who is, so encourage sharing!
A Reading Group Guide is essential because it tells the clubs you’re pitching that you’ve thought things through and want to make their time with your book – both as they’re reading it and during the club meeting – as rewarding as possible. Most guides include questions for discussion, but you can get creative and have fun with these as well. Do a web search for Reading Group Guides and then make a list of your favorite features to include in your own.
I’d also encourage you to brainstorm a few book promotion ideas that focus on a special offer. Perhaps you offer copies with a great discount to anyone in attendance. Or you offer to send a special signed book plate to everyone in the club if they send you the names of members. If you have a new book coming out, you could send members a sneak preview after their meeting!
You might also offer to Zoom in for part of the meeting or a future meeting. Some groups may not feel comfortable discussing the book with you there while others will, so keep your offer to video chat flexible.
Once you’ve done the work to find and pitch book clubs, work that angle as part of your overall book promotion plan. Post about your Reading Group Guide on social, mention it in your newsletter, and work it into your Amazon Author Central account in some way. It takes multiple impressions to convince consumers to take action, so when you start to worry about repeating yourself – stop that – and share it again.
These days, it’s both so much easier and so much harder to connect with others – I think you’ll find that people are hungry for ways to have meaningful conversations with other human beings about things they care about. I hope that you’ll find many such groups full of very real, very human readers with whom to share your books. Good luck!
Penny Sansevieri, CEO and founder of Author Marketing Experts, Inc. (AME) and Adjunct Professor at NYU, is a best-selling author and internationally recognized book marketing and media relations expert. Her company is one of the leaders in the publishing industry and has developed some of the most cutting-edge book marketing campaigns. To learn more about Penny and AME, visit www.amarketingexpert.com.