Today we have a post on a topic that has never been discussed at Writers Helping Writers. Can you believe it? After 9 years, that’s almost impossible. So I was very excited to hear about Kelly Miller’s proposed post. It was also beyond awesome to get a guest post proposal from a writer who’s been walking the journey with us since our Bookshelf Muse days. Talk about dedication! So read on as we discuss book clubs and what they can offer writers.
Have you ever been a part of a book club? I’m not talking about a get together where you all drink wine and talk about everything but that month’s novel. I mean a bone-a-fide gathering where every member is armed with their club’s latest pick, questions they want to discuss, and an opinion on what they read.
As a writer, if you’re not a member of a book club, you’re missing out on an untapped avenue for not only invaluable research but a bevy of potential superfans. Here are 5 of the top reasons you should join a book club.
Learn How Readers Think
Face it, if we knew how readers thought, we’d have already written a New York Times bestselling novel instead of firmly treading water as a mid-lister. But there’s no better way to get into the mind of a reader than to sit and listen to a group of them discuss a book. True, they may not be discussing your book or even your genre, but there’s always something useful you can glean from their conversations.
In my book club meetings, I’ve learned what makes a reader stop reading within the first three chapters. And what makes a mentally-fractured protagonist someone you can empathize with rather than hate because of their whiny qualities. Researching and reading this kind of information online is possible, but until you have a front-row seat to hear the back and forth between book clubbers about why one person hated the main character and another was totally drawn in, you can’t truly absorb the information and shape it into something usable.
Fantastic Source for Research
While working on your latest novel, how many times have you wondered about the possible hiding places in a half-constructed building, or how it feels when a deathly allergic person is stung by a bee? Okay, maybe that’s just me, but I know from personal experience that sometimes internet research or a Facebook post to your friends isn’t enough. When you meet people in a book club, you discover information about their professions and hobbies that can be a priceless resource. The more connections you can make in the real word (a.k.a life that happens away from your computer), the better equipped you’ll be once you sit down to write.
Potential Beta Readers
Book club members really know their books! Once you’re in a group for a while, you’ll come to know the members who are really good at articulating their opinion of what works in a story and what doesn’t. These are the people you want reading your WIP. Pull them aside after the meeting or message them and tell them that you’ve noticed their insights. Ask them if they’d be willing to provide feedback on one of your books in the future.
Great People Watching
If you’re willing to sit back and listen—really listen—a group of book clubbers is a great way to find new material for future books. I know it’s tempting to talk as much as possible, because face it, writers are always stuck in front of the computer with only our pets to keep us company. But during the meeting, once the conversation about the book dissipates, the participants usually hang around and talk about their lives—everything from their demanding kids and jealous husbands to the office starlet and the hunky lawn guy. This is the best time to absorb the words and interactions between the members. You never know when you’ll come away with a nugget of inspiration which could lead to your next great protagonist.
The last book club meeting I was at, one of the ladies was talking about her young daughter who likes to climb into her bed at 2 am. The way she described her daughter hogging the bed and the need for her to be “all up in her womb” was hilarious. It’s moments like these where people can provide you with the best lines that will make a writer’s night.
Feedback on Your Novel
Don’t join a book club with the express purpose of trying to get members to pick one of your novels. Instead, participate in a few meetings before it even comes up that you’re an author. If you build the strong bonds first, it won’t look like a smarmy move when you mention your book. In fact, everyone will be so surprised that you write, they’ll be clamoring for you to choose one of your own books the month you’re picked as host.
If your book is read by the group, be sure to leave your ego at the door. Whether the feedback is good or bad, don’t let it give you a big head or, in turn, crush you. Instead, look at the meeting as a learning opportunity. When you’re creating a list of questions that everyone will discuss at book club, ask the ones that will help you understand your strong and weak points as an author. That way you can incorporate the lessons you’ve learned into the next book.
How to Find a Book Club
Unsure of how to find a book club? Check out the Reader’s Circle website. It’s an online community that matches book clubs with potential members. Just use the search function and enter your zip code. When I filled in mine, I found a great Mystery Book Club not too far from my house. Other resources are community bulletin boards with listings for local groups at a bookstore or library. Even meetup.com advertises groups. And if all else fails, start your own group!
I’d love to hear about any helpful experiences you’ve had as an author in a book club. Please share yours with us in the comments!
Kelly Miller is an award-winning mystery author with three books and two novelettes to her credit. Dead Like Me and Deadly Fantasies are the first two books in the Detective Kate Springer series. Splintered was named a 2015 Kindle Scout winner and garnered a publishing contract with Amazon’s Kindle Press. She’s also published two mystery novelettes in her My Nightmare Series, My Blue Nightmare (which is free to newsletter subscribers) and My Emerald Nightmare which just debuted April 2017. For more information about Kelly Miller visit www.kellymillerauthor.com.