by Jack Heath
Good news authors, I have found that local Book Clubs are thriving in New England. At least that is good news to me since I am a new author and live in the region. I am not sure if this is due to Oprah, Kindle, Nook, IPads or Reality TV burnout, but people- especially women- are reading and meeting to talk about it. It is refreshing and encouraging to meet with these clubs after they all have read your work for their monthly book choice. I have been to several of these clubs where close to twenty women meet at one of their member’s homes. The mood is social for them and for the author. While I have enjoyed the store signings and events, I have found these local Book Clubs to be the most fun and engaging.
Each time I have been asked to come about an hour after they meet. Typically this is around 7pm or 7:30pm. The hosts have treated me very kindly and warmly and each time we end up in a living room or dining room setting where the readers surround the author and start the back and forth.
“What were you thinking when you created Abigail Putnam or why did this character have to die off,” are typical questions. For me, I have learned a lot from these meetings and the readers always bring me back to why I wrote my book in the first place. While many of the questions are the same from Club to Club, I always come away with greater knowledge of ‘who’ the reader today really is. An attentive author can get a free marketing survey every time they go to one of these. I often ask each group how many people read my book online. I ask how many bought a print book at the store or online. I ask how long it took them to read my story. I ask what part hooked them or if they did not like a certain twist. I can now tell from several of these that the mix of online readers compared to print is about 50-50%, and that the more avid readers are increasingly reading the books on their portable laptop or IPad devices at night, when they go to bed. The readers have told me it is so easy and convenient for them to make an online buy and read their book a few minutes later right in their home.
I have even tested these groups with ‘plot vs. character development’ questions and found that the majority of them vote for the character development, which surprised me somewhat. Since I and our team are in the process of writing a trilogy of books from the original Salem VI- Rebecca’s Rising story, I have picked up valuable or tips from the groups about the next plot and characters. I figured these groups are our best customers since they took the time to purchase, read and then meet on my book. These groups are the author’s season ticket holders in a real sense.
So with all the changes in publishing going on, with all the changes in platforms and technology, it is nice to know that Book Clubs and reading for social fun are alive and well in New England. I have already learned that being an author can be a lonely island, where you live with your up’s and down’s daily and keep the climb onward. I highly suggest you try to get invited to local Book Clubs as one way to spread good viral buzz on your story- this leads to more sales and more fans perhaps faster than most any other way. Today, unfortunately for most authors and aspiring best sellers, gone are the days where writing a good book alone will get you to the top of any commercial mountain. Book Clubs represent true grass root marketing for authors. It may be an ugly comparison, but ask any successful politician how they got elected, and chances are they may tell you living room teas and coffee meetings with 20-25 likely voters were key. So go enjoy meeting your readers, and have some fun- you’ve earned at least that.
Jack Heath is the host of NH Today, New Hampshire’s only live afternoon radio talk show, and co-host of Sport Legends of New England with Bob Lobel, which can be seen throughout New England. A direct descendant of Rebecca Nurse, the last person to be tried and hanged during the Salem witch trials, and Ann R. Putnam, one of her accusers, his first novel, Salem VI: Rebecca’s Rising, is an altogether modern take on Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. www.salemwitchtrilogy.com or www.jackheathradio.com
Images courtesy of Sherrie Wilkolaski.