Book clubs are a great constant source of clientele for a bookstore. I chatted with Julie Robinson of Literary Affairs about hints for how bookstores can better serve book club members and tap into that book loving audience. Julie is a professional book group facilitator who runs dozens of monthly book groups, in addition to hosting luncheons with literature professors and literary themed trips around the world. For many of her events, she works with Book Soup of Los Angeles – Julie provides the event and Book Soup provides the books, a perfect match.
How do a book group facilitator and a bookstore work together?
A great service that independent bookstores can offer to their clients is a list of local book club facilitators that they can recommend. Many book clubs prefer to meet in their homes and set their own schedules but would like the benefit of a professionally facilitated conversation. If book clubs know that your store is a reliable resource for facilitators, it is not only a good service, but the facilitators can have a deal with your store that all books selected for their groups would be ordered through your store.
Do you have any recommendations for bookstore that is just starting to offer a book group?
Try to have a book club that offers something unique in the community. Offer book clubs including a visit from a local author or one that is coordinated with an author appearance on book tour. In Los Angeles, people love to see movies before they are released, why not start a preview book club? Order extra ARC’s and have a group read a book early and discuss and review it before everyone else.
What if an existing group is feeling flat?
If you are running a group that is in a rut or having low attendance, try creating a themed series that last for 2 or 3 sessions. Pair current fiction with a classic, or pick a region like the South or an issue like immigration.
How can a bookstore help local book groups?
The most difficult challenge for book clubs is the monthly selection of a great discussion book. Independent book stores should have a book club section in their store highlighting selections of local book clubs and store employees (FYI – Julie’s website is a great source for finding good book group selections). It is helpful if there are little cards with brief reviews or comments about why it is a good selection for a book group. If the store offers a discount to local book clubs that order and buy their books at the store, they will build a loyal book club business.
and finally – some great vampire fiction as fodder for your club