FaceTime Book Club: Seven Ways to Ensure It’s Almost Like Being There

I love book clubs: A small group of curious readers come together to parse a selected volume. The discussion is often enhanced by some savories, sweets, and libations. The community of the page is hard to beat.

As an author, my experience as a book club’s guest always leads to fresh insights and new friendships. And now with nearly-perfect ease of remote access, I can be a part of a discussion anywhere in the world so long as there is at least a smartphone.

As a guest author joining the group via Facetime or other live streaming format, I might not get in on the warm social part of the exchange often enhanced by savories, sweets, and libations, but by satisfying seven key components, everyone can have a richly rewarding and personal experience.

  1. Work with a rock-solid book club contact. I had my first FaceTime book club discussion with a group in Costa Rica. The coordinator, a friend since childhood, was the key to its success. Shelly easily earns the title of The Best Book Club Coordinator in the World; she made certain everyone in her group accessed my novel (most purchased an e-book copy at www.sisterofgrendel.com) well in advance of the discussion; and she took care of the on-site arrangements.
  2. Send along a set of guiding questions. The book club members appreciated having key questions to consider while reading the book. I sent the coordinator a set of framing thoughts about the novel right after receiving the invitation to be the guest author.
  3. Do a tech-check a week or so before the discussion. The Best Book Club Coordinator in the World reached put to me via FaceTime several days before her group met. This way she and I ensured our connections worked.
  4. Get preliminary questions from the coordinator. Just as my guiding questions helped frame the readers’ experience of my book, so did their pre-discussion questions help me prepare responses that were thoughtful and on-point. We didn’t waste any time waiting for someone to ask that first question and could launch right into a lively discussion.
  5. Be ready to adjust. Despite the pre-event tech-check, we still needed to fine-tune the day of the discussion. Because we linked up a few minutes before the scheduled discussion, we had time to try a few approaches and discovered we had a better connection with my calling Costa Rica. We also knew that the worst-case scenario would also have worked: audio-only with speaker wouldn’t have been the end of the world.
  6. Check to see if club members will be fed and watered. The social portion of the gathering took place before I my electronic arrival. Again, credit goes to The Best Book Club Coordinator in the World. No one was cranky from thirst or hunger. It also reduced my wishing I could be there in person (i.e., there you all are in gorgeous Costa Rica, relishing all things tropically delicious and here I am…not!).
  7. Say please and thank you. After the discussion and before we disconnected, I politely asked for their help in spreading the word about my novel. Don’t be shy about asking for reviews on every format and platform possible. A lot of readers don’t realize stars and reviews on everything from Goodreads to Amazon equate an electronic word-of-mouth life-blood to an author’s success. And don’t forget to say and write your thanks. The coordinator beat me by a few minutes with her note, and I was certain to send my thank you to her for great preparation and for their time.

By covering these seven components, the club members and I enjoyed a perfect 30 minutes of book-talk  bliss. Sterling preparation meant we got to the heart of the novel and made the most of our time. I can’t wait for the next one…maybe yours? Reach me at sthpoet@gmail.com.

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