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The Author-Book Club Connection.

How to tap into new websites, contact lists and other strategies

At Journey's End Literary Club, great reads come in small packages and the parcels are plenty. In just two years, this North Carolina reading group received eighty-nine books from authors and publicists trying to seduce group members in order to gain access to their club.

"Clubs provide unwavering support," says founder Vanessa Woodward. "Getting onto a club's reading list gives the author one up on the traditional marketing plan."

Whether meeting in a member's home or at a restaurant, the group's inspirational discussions are peppered with dialogue from situations in their novels. Satin Doll by Karen Quinones Miller (Oshun Publishing, 1999) and Ida Mae by Delores Thornton (Marguerite Press, 2000) are "books that elicited good conversation."

Journey's End created Authors on Tour (www.authorsontour.com) to promote authors on the Internet. The free site interviews authors, shares tour information and offers listings of bookstores, book clubs and black newspapers. "There's a sense of accomplishment knowing we've successfully gotten the word out," says Woodward. "We do this not just for the authors, but for us too. The support we give is just how we operate."

Book Clubs Court Back.

Independent publicist, Peggy Hicks serenades authors and publishers with hundreds of book clubs on her national contact list. In a recent promotion for Souls of My Sisters (Kensington, 2000), an anthology edited by Dawn Marie Daniels and Candace Sandy, Hicks sent press kits, tour schedules and book copies to 200 reading group contacts.

"This is a great way to get books directly to avid readers all over the country," says Hicks. "Many clubs sponsor their favorite authors for literary events, anniversaries and book discussions. When a club likes an author, they support each book and help to promote it."

California's Tabahani Book Club donned black and white attire and presented author Eric Jerome Dickey with a dozen yellow roses. This reenactment of a scene from his best-selling novel, Milk In My Coffee proves that when a book club likes an author, they'll often court him back.

Clubs vs. Stores--The Difference People Hake

"African Americans are relationship people and are more likely to purchase from businesses that have a presence in the community," says Elaine Shelly, Marketing and Publicity Manager of The Pilgrim Press. "The Pilgrim Press carries a significant number of African American authors, but we're a small press and can't sponsor community events. Communicating with book clubs gives us a presence in the black community."

Shelly targeted book clubs when marketing Not Without A Struggle: Leadership Development for African American Women in Ministry by Vashti M. McKenzie (United Church Press; July 1996), the first female bishop in the history of the African Methodist Episcopal church, despite the fact that the book was written for women in the ministry. "I believed book club members would appreciate the book's historic value," she said, "and its helpful information for women in leadership positions."

Her strategy was a success. Members who met McKenzie felt the stirring of a personal relationship and will likely embrace Strength in The Struggle, McKenzie's forthcoming collection of sermons.

Shelly works with emerging writers who aren't a household name. "When an emerging writer has a bookstore reading," she continues, "it may not be well attended.' Book club members are usually enthusiastic about new authors, whether or not they are literary stars. At a book dub, members are more likely to engage the author in a lively discussion. The setting is more intimate, so the feedback is different. This kind of interaction is important for authors and informative for future work."

How to Engage an Author

* Be exact about date, time, location, length of program and type of event, (i.e., signing only or reading and book signing).

* To determine when an author is coming to your town, check with the publicist and make contact early. You may be placed on the tour schedule at the publisher's expense if the tour hasn't yet booked up.

* Be considerate of an author's schedule. They log hundreds of hours traveling from state to state to greet readers. Sponsor a joint event with another book group to provide a larger audience.

* If an author can't come to your book club, take your book club to meet with the author. Greet them at the bookstore, the library or at special events when they visit your town.

Book Club Evants

Whether you're looking to make contact with other book clubs or meet and greet fellow authors, the following literary events are a book lover's delight.

Romance Slam Jam - On March 1-4, 2001, book lovers and authors will jam at the Wyndham Orlando Resort in Orlando Florida to attend Romance Slam Jam sponsored by Montsho BookFairs, Inc., The Florida Romance Authors and Sistah's of Distinction Book Club.

Dialogue Literary Luncheon Series - If you're hungry for literature, join authors and book clubs at this annual series, hosted each March by the Ebony Book Club of New York, where a panel of authors and readers talk books over lunch. Contact the club at ebonybclub@aol.com.

The Memphis Black Writers Conference - On Friday, April 13, 2001 they will sponsor the World's Largest Book Club Read-In at the downtown Memphis Marriott Hotel. Books by authors Eric Jerome Dickey, Sheree R. Thomas, Reginald Martin and Rosalyn McMillan are to be discussed. Contact Lawrence Wayne, conference coordinator at 901-795-7309; email Iwayne@angelfire.com.

Annual Retreat for African-American Readers and Book Clubs - This annual retreat is host to book clubs, authors and book lovers each year in October. Contact Rhonda Gibson of Sisters With A Vision Book Club at ladyspyce@hotmail.com
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Copyright 2001, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Houser, Pat
Publication:Black Issues Book Review
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2001
Words:938
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