Obtaining Book Club Reviews
It’s a common theme in self-publishing struggles—it’s never been easier for you to publish a book—but the same goes for everyone else. Book marketing is another area where it pays to do some research and get creative, since so many competing authors will simply put their book out into the world and hope for the best.
Some of the most successful self-publishing authors have built a following by connecting directly with readers. Online communities offer many different ways to do so, but one often-overlooked strategy is to get your book into book clubs.
Online book clubs
Where in the past the process of getting your book out to physical book clubs would have been locally-focused, slow, and offered only incremental results, today online digital book clubs provide a nationwide audience that can be tapped into virtually all at once with the right marketing efforts. When even a single online book club chooses to read your book, it can earn you any number of sales at one time, and can make a substantial impact on your book’s success—not to mention earning you a dedicated following.
Literary social networks like Goodreads, which has 80 million members and over 11,000 book club groups, offer a chance to get your book into large book clubs, or even multiple clubs at a time. Some of the most popular book clubs on Goodreads include The Next Best Book Club (with over 18,000 members), Addicted to YA (for young adult fiction), Romance Readers Reading Challenge (you guessed it, focused on romance), and Everyone Has Read This But Me (for catching up on popular books readers have missed.) As you can see, not every group will be appropriate for your writing, and these clubs won’t necessarily be open to pitches directly from authors. But this does give you a sense of the possibilities for finding the right niche for your book and the size and potential of popular online book clubs.
Just because some book clubs aren’t looking for author pitches, that doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do. Both Goodreads and other social networks like Twitter can help you connect to book club bloggers, who might be interested in writing about your book. The key, as with all book marketing, is to find the right audience for your writing—once you do, readers will jump at the chance to read your book.
There’s even BookClubCookbook.com, which is all about connecting authors, readers, and book clubs. If you have money to invest in your book club efforts, AuthorBuzz.com provides promotional packages aimed specifically at book club sites like BookMovement.com.
Local book clubs
Check in with your local library, and possibly bookstores and coffeeshops, to see if they host a book club. And of course, look up clubs in your area online. Contact the clubs, and if they seem interested, send them a few chapters to read.
Many local book clubs will be looking for books that can be found in libraries. Since most indie books aren’t carried in libraries, you may need to offer a discount on paperbacks or eBooks. But to reach a group of enthusiastic readers all at once, it will likely be well worth it.
Once again, you’ll have much more success here if you find specialized book clubs geared toward your genre and content.
National book clubs
Finally, there are also national mail-order book clubs with thousands of members, such as the Literary Guild of the Doubleday Book Club, the Black Expressions Book Club, the Book-of-the-Month Club, the Crafter’s Choice Book Club, the Children’s Book-of-the-Month Club, the Crossings Book Club (for Christian literature), and the History Book Club. If you can find a club like this that fits well with your genre and themes, it might be worth contacting these groups directly.
Appealing to book clubs
Besides actively reaching out to book clubs, you can offer extras to make your book extra appealing to book club readers. Book clubs are all about lively discussion, and you can provide engaging discussion questions on your author website and social media pages, your publisher’s book page, or even the back of your book. Just make them easy to find.
These questions should not call for simple yes or no answers, but substantive discussion questions about the themes of your book, how readers relate to your characters, how your book may have changed readers views, whether they disagree with ideas in the book and why, and whether they were engaged from the start if something specific drew them in.
On SelfPublishingAdvice.org, Jane Davis offers an in-depth guide to crafting discussion questions for book clubs.
You can also encourage group events around your book, with related recipes, playlists, projects, and activities. All of these extras could help get book clubs to come to you without the need for a direct author pitch.
You can also offer author discussions with book clubs over the phone or (better yet) via Skype. You could even offer to regularly answer questions on a discussion board. These are great options, because all it takes is a little bit of your time but will be an exciting prospect for readers.
Book clubs are an underutilized way to reach many readers at a time. Readers that join book clubs are often regular readers that will keep an eye out for any future books you release. It’s a great way for new authors to develop a following, a reader base, online reviews, and word-of-mouth support.