What Is a “Book Club” Book? by Bonnie Schroeder

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Bonnie Schroeder started telling stories in the Fifth Grade and never stopped. After escaping from the business world, she began writing full-time and has authored novels, short stories and screenplays, as well as non-fiction articles and a newsletter for an American Red Cross chapter.

 

 

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In today’s publishing environment, with millions of books competing for a reader’s attention, having book clubs discuss your work is one sure way for recognition.

But how do you get on the book club universe’s radar?

I wish I knew.

Oh sure, there are websites out there offering to help connect you with book clubs—for a fee.

There must be a better way.

And what defines a “book club book?” Does anyone know? Some clubs go for the best-sellers and prize winners. Others seem to focus on genres, like mysteries.

One way to figure out what makes a book club tick is to join one, which is what I did.

Several years ago, I joined the Brown Bag Book Club at Flintridge Bookstore in La Canada, not as a sneaky way to find an audience—my first novel hadn’t even been published then—but as a means to gain insight into what readers like and don’t like in the books they read.Book Club

Being in that club has enriched my life in many ways. I’ve made good friends, and I’ve read books I’d never have chosen on my own—for example, The Help. A novel about Black maids in Mississippi in the 60’s? I figured it would be too depressing. I would have missed a wonderful, uplifting story if I’d gone with my first impression.

Our club uses a variety of criteria in picking our books: we do some best-sellers and prize winners, but only after they’ve been released in paperback (which is why we’re still waiting to read All the Light We Cannot See.) We also ask individual members to recommend books, but only books they’ve actually read and, preferably, loved.

We take turns “moderating” the hour-long monthly discussions and usually bring a list of Reader’s Guide-type questions to fuel the discussion, but sometimes just asking “How many of you liked this book? And why?” will fill up the hour with commentary. It’s fascinating to see how people’s minds work!

My novel Mending Dreams has been read by two different book clubs, and I sat in on both discussions. The first time it was still in draft form, and the feedback was very helpful in shaping the final version. The second time was with my own Brown Bag Book Club, and the members were ever so kind in their comments. But both times, I have to say it was almost an out-of-body experience to hear them talk about my characters and the story developments. I kept having to remind myself, “I wrote that.”

I’d do it again in a heartbeat, and I hope I get a chance.

Some advice if you are lucky enough to be invited to a book club discussion of your book:

  • Leave your ego at the door if you can. I found that some club members really personalized parts of the book, and I had to remind myself their reaction was colored by their own experiences. Focus on hearing what resonated for readers—and what didn’t—so you can build on that knowledge in the future.
  • Come prepared with a list of questions in case the discussion loses momentum—not just the Reader’s Guide type questions, but your own as well: things you’d like to know about how a certain part of the book plays out, how the members felt about a character, did they see a plot development coming?
  • Be sure to bring bookmarks and/or business cards to distribute, maybe an email signup sheet so you can build your contact base.

If you don’t belong to a book club already but are thinking it sounds pretty cool, where do you find them? All over the place! Many bookstores have them, and so do libraries. One member of my club also belongs to a neighborhood book club. Ask around. You can also find some in your area through the Meetup website (http://www.meetup.com/topics/bookclub/).

Besides getting to read some really interesting books, you might find an audience for your books, maybe even more than one audience. Book clubs often share information. Get in with one (or more), and your book might be chosen by others. Word of mouth is a powerful thing, and some book clubs can definitely affect a book’s success.

Happy reading!

16 thoughts on “What Is a “Book Club” Book? by Bonnie Schroeder”

  1. An interesting post, Bonnie. I’ve wanted to join a book club from time to time, but like you, thought I might be trapped into reading books that I hated. (Knowing me, I wouldn’t bail on the group because I didn’t want to read it.) Also the long-term committment seems a bit scary. It was good to read that you found some gems, AND some good friends.
    Do your discussions tend to be like our critiques in the old writing club we belonged to? Or do you approach the talk from a different angle? Do they ever evolve into “heated” discussions and people getting angry with others?
    Thanks for the insights. It’s got me thinking about MAYBE looking for a book club again.
    PS: Talk to Pamela Samuels-Young about how to find clubs that will read your books. She is a pro at them.

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    1. Jackie, we seldom venture into critique territory–except from me, the only writer in the group (smile.) We often draw on the “Reader’s Guide” questions in the back of the book, or if we don’t like those, we come up with our own. I like to start with asking if they liked the book, and why, and then go from there. We don’t have knock-down drag-out fights, but we have strong opinions and disagreements, although civil, are not unusual.

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  2. I love your idea of a book club critique. I’m thinking of other ways to gather readers – at an annual professional or hobby conference that you attend as a companion (car enthusiasts, Jackie?), Mommy and Me groups, workout buddies, retiree gatherings, quilting bees, adult classes. So many possibilities. Like Jackie, I considered joining a book club, but haven’t yet, partly for Jackie’s reason and partly because I read so slowly I might not finish a book in time. However, you’ve made me reconsider.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Miko, having a deadline to finish reading a book helps me devote more time to it, but are times when one or more members didn’t finish the book. And after listening to the discussion, they either decide not to bother with finishing it, or they come away motivated to fly through the rest of it.

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    1. Glad you like the idea, Gayle. By the way, on my website I put up a link to a pdf of questions I developed for “Mending Dreams.” Here’s the link: http://bit.ly/29MEUD6

      Some of the questions are specific to my book, but a lot are general enough for any author to use.

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  3. Great post on book clubs, Bonnie. I’ve been in book clubs many years wherever I’ve lived. Our next one is tomorrow. I give all the members a copy of my books when they come out, because I want to share with them. But refuse to have a meeting about my book. Two reasons, can’t leave my ego at the door as you say, and I’ve already read the book! (smile) Like you, so many books that I wouldn’t have read…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Writers do need to be readers, Mad. Having them discuss your book is a strange experience but it did give me a lot of insight (and a slight headache, ha ha ha.)

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  4. What a great experience, having a Book Club critique your novel in front of you: How brave of you. I know several people who belong to these Book Clubs, but never figured out where they are. So thanks, Bonnie – useful information…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad you found it useful, Rosie. I think you would enjoy belonging to one–and your “Lottie” book is perfect book club material!

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  5. And we’re so glad you’re part of our book club, Bonnie. Often when our group is stumped by why the author took an unexpected turn or change in point of view, we’ll turn to our author Bonnie for her take on it!

    I’ve been in 2 other book clubs but this is my favorite club because our primary purpose is to discuss the book and we do on various ways and in the process we learn about our members & why a passage in a book brings back similar memories or affects us in a certain way.

    We’re eagerly awaiting Bonnie’s next book so we can read it …… and then discuss it together and attend her book signing party too!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. It’s good to hear from a book club member outside our group. Like several of us, I’ve considered joining one in my area (South Orange County). You’ve given me a little push. Thanks Anonymous. (Or Susan Carr – 🙂 )

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so glad you made it through the red tape! Not sure why the program was harassing you, but hopefully, it will leave EVERYONE who tries to leave a comment alone now. (I know that when I run into that “you must sign in to WordPress” nonsense, I give up!)

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