Wednesday, August 13, 2008

A Book Club’s Best Friend
By Sherryle Kiser Jackson

And, the number one reason why you should make Soon and Very Soon your book club selection is . . . Sherryle Kiser Jackson is a book club’s best friend! That’s me, and that along with reasons 2-10 ala David Letterman style was printed in my promotional material for my debut novel.

Book Clubs were my target in my marketing plan and I courted them with my words like Cyrano de Bergerac did Roxanne. I started with the list on (the quintessential place for booklovers) and started relaying the message of my self-proclaimed title. I also had success with meeting with area book club’s to do what I coined, a book tasting. Much like a chef/baker would have a tasting for potential clients I used this as an opportunity to read and share excerpts of my upcoming novel the first fifteen or the last fifteen minutes of their gathering. I was prepared to also take them through my literary journey from manuscript to the printed page and have tons of giveaways just to make an impression. It made sense to me. Out of all the people who pass by a Borders bookstore in their daily travels, book club members would nine times out of ten drop in with their Rewards card and buy something. I believe book clubs are imperative to books for and about our people.

Aww, the naivety of a debut author, I didn’t understand the form and function of different book clubs and like Cyrano I didn’t really know how to court them. I was spending lots of money and not sure to this day if some of the clubs I tried to woo with dramatic readings and baked goods ever chose my book as a monthly selection. I was starting a grassroots campaign with the type of book clubs that meet monthly and discuss a pre-selected book. I call them the page turners. I knew this type. I personally own a copy of Go On Girl!: Book Club Guide for Reading Groups by Monique Greenwood, Lynda Johnson and Tracy Mitchell-Brown when I revamped my sorority’s book club in the late nineties. After my book came out I met with many like the Black Women’s Reading Group that have been in existence in Washington DC for over thirty years. I was surprised to find another entity in the book club world though with an amazing scope of influence-the Online Book club. These powerhouses such as The Grits On line Reading, the Good Girl Book Club and R.A.W. Sistaz are of the book-promoting, book-reviewing, and book-selling variety. I call them the mini publicist brigades. They have mastered the art of networking to a target audience and can draw thousands to their site in search of recommendations on what to read next. Promoting with these groups and sometimes even getting your book reviewed may cost you, but selecting the right online book club can be well worth your marketing dollars.

As authors, we sometimes have arrogance about us. Don’t make the mistake like me and presume that since you’ve cranked out 261 pages of narrative you can tell an established book club when and where to function like they’re on your pay roll. Most book clubs whether the grassroots page-turners or the publicist brigades have websites and guidelines. Use them. Remember there are truly too many books and too little time. Keep this in mind when marketing to book clubs.

Research book clubs. As I’ve said before many of these groups have been together for a long time and have established criteria for selecting monthly reading selections. Target book clubs that read your specific genre. Inquire with online book clubs about the range of services provided from reviews to banner ads on their web page.

Capture information about these book clubs to add to your contact list. Do not inundate them with emails, a monthly correspondence to tell them about your new literary projects and signings in their area is effective in keeping them updated.

Be assessable. Let book clubs know you are available to meet with them to discuss your book. Offer to meet with clubs in different cities before or after a signing. Use to “appear” at club gatherings via the phone. Many book clubs have blogs or radio shows through blogtalk radio. Pitch an idea for a show or guest appearance to really relate to readers from the comfort of your own home.

Attend the National Book Club Conference. This is where literary giants and those authors like me with emerging notoriety walk among avid readers and adoring fans. I’ve been told its more like a family reunion. See you there.

Courting has not gone out of style A bookmark and a review copy goes a long way.

Sherryle Jackson describes her novels as too real to be preachy, Biblically based, and out-the-Christian-box. She has also branded herself as a book club’s best friend, making sure to be accessible to book club’s either in person or by phone conferencing during her 2008 book tour schedule. To schedule speaking engagements, book signings, online/telephone conference contact Author, Sherryle Jackson at (301)645-7427 or visit her on the web at: email:


Anonymous said...

Is it wise to offer contests to entice book clubs to try your book?


Anonymous said...

Is it harder to get your book accepted by a book club if you are a new author?

Marliss Stone
Oakland, CA

Anonymous said...

How receptive are book clubs to hosting events for multiple authors?


Anonymous said...

How long should you court a book club?

Pinole, CA

Anonymous said...

Contests are actually a good idea to get bookclubs inerested in your book. Most club's have avid readers. Sell them on your story whether your a new author or not. Multiple authors at a book club gatherings give clubs a chance to get two for one, but may limit the time to actually discuss your book. When courting bookclubs it's best to just follow their guidelines. Extend the invitation and then move on said...

Hi Sherryle,

Thanks so much for including The GRITS Online Reading Club in your post! I especially love your assessment of our online reading community and how you recognize the years we've spent building relationships with book clubs, reviewers, avid readers, and literary professionals in general, makes us a great place for promoting books.

And to the person who asked. . . "Is it harder to get your book accepted by a book club if you are a new author?". . . I would like to say it depends on how the book is presented to the club that will determine their acceptance of you, or not!

Book clubs are bombarded with a lot of emails from authors who want them to take a chance on their books. Too often new authors approach book clubs in their best "hard-sell" modes or feeding them the classic line, "my book is a must read!" Trust me when I say that I have not heard of any book club perishing away because they didn't read a particular book - LOL!

But what I have noticed is that when new authors take the time to get to know the reading preference of the book clubs they are interested in, they have better success. New authors who have informative and content rich websites (Facebook & MySpace profiles don't count) for book clubs to visit, read, and download chapters (more than 1 chapter please) to sample and determine if this is a book they want to read have a much better chance with book clubs embracing them. Presentation of yourself, website, and ultimately the product - your book - is everything. Great post!