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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!).
- 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.