A Mutual Admiration Society

Sylvia Brown-Roberts exhibiting at the 2015 Black Authors & Readers Rock Weekend!

Two tried and true methods that will help an author expand their reach and get more people to read their books are to (a) Participate in an as many literary events as possible and (b) To develop and nurture relationships with book clubs.

If you are looking for contact information on book clubs in your area, one of the best resources I have found is Troy Johnson at www.AALBC.org/bookclubs. Troy also maintains a list of black-owned book stores at www.AALBC.org/bookstores. Both lists are sorted by state making it easy to navigate.

Events:

  • Participating in events can be expensive, but you can manage those expenses by investigating and then choosing the events you participate in very carefully.
    • For starters, ask specific questions about what you will get for your investment, how many other authors are participating and how many attendees are expected.
  • Before you decide to travel across the country, become "famous where you live" by attending as many events as possible that are being held "close to home".
  • If you can't afford the exhibitor fee, buy a ticket, join the audience and network, network, network with both the other attendees and authors.
  • If you are an attendee at an event, as discreetly as possible, pass out rack cards or book marks that introduce you and your book. Do not attempt to sell books if you have not paid the required fee. 
  • If you are a new author, observe and take notes about what you learn from the authors who are exhibiting - how their tables are set up and how they present and sell themselves to the crowd.
  • Gather contact information - email addresses and names of book club members, avid readers and authors and add them to your list of contacts. Send them your newsletter, book releases, and calendar.
  • Remember that events should not only be measured by the number of books you sell - but also by the less tangible "how many new people did I meet?", "how many names and how much contact information did I gather?", and "what did I learn from the experience?". All of these things will help you to grow your business.
  • Don't waste time or money: 
    • If your genre is erotica, don't try to sell yourself to someone who only reads Christian fiction.
    • All clubs do not review; be sure to ask if they do before you send them an unsolicited copy of your book for review.

Book Clubs

Although many book clubs have email, websites and Facebook pages, a face-to-face meeting is still the best way to develop and nurture a relationship with them! There is no better place to meet them than at a literary event.

It is important to understand that it is not until after a relationship has been established that you should reach out to them on social media to introduce or promote your book.  Even after a relationship has been established, It is NOT acceptable to post unsolicited information/ads on their timeline without their permission.

Establishing a relationship can be easy! Two of the books that were read in 2015 by the book club I belong to were written by local authors. These books were chosen by book club members who met them at local events. One was an exhibiting author at a book festival and the other simply purchased a ticket to an event and shared that she was an author with the people who sat with her at lunch. But it doesn't stop there!

Book clubs members routinely exchange information with other book clubs about what they're reading thus increasing the visibility of readers with whom they've connected. I once stumbled across a book by a new author and after speaking with him, I invited him to speak at an event. When another book club president asked me to recommend a book for her book club event, I recommended him and that led to his book being made required reading for several schools which led to several hundreds of his books being sold.Though this was an unusual circumstance,  book clubs exchanging information can certainly be the catalyst for you to be invited to several events or book club meetings each year.

To successfully build a relationship, it's very important for authors to understand how most book clubs operate:

  • The average book club reads a book a month and often they take a month off in the summer and hold a holiday gathering at Christmas, so as a group, they may only read a total of 10 or 11 books each year. As a book club president, I receive 3 or 4 requests each week from authors requesting that my club read and/or review their book - but like most clubs, we simply don't have the manpower or the time.
  • Many book clubs allow the member who hosts the monthly meeting to choose the book of the month - so it is usually an individual not the entire club who decides what is read each month.
  • Books are not usually chosen more than a few months in advance; if the club chooses all of the books for the year in January, they don't allow themselves the opportunity to choose and read new hot releases as they come out during the year.

So! When your book is chosen as a book club BOM - be assured it is something special!