An initiative of the American Library Association

When Book Clubs Meet Authors

By Anna Ford

My book club makes a point to attend at least one live author event every year. It’s the highlight of our meeting schedule! We consult our local library’s speaker series to learn about authors coming to town and choose one or two books from that list. Universities and independent bookshops are other great places to look for upcoming author events.

Hearing an author read a passage from their work or share details about their lives adds another dimension to the experience of reading. Authors are people! People with an incredible gift. Engaging with the author can shape our personal feelings about a book and deeply enrich our book club discussion.

We plan for this special book club outing by reading and meeting beforehand to discuss the book and develop a list of questions we’d love to ask the author. Some are general and some are personal. For example, “Why did you choose to use a certain literary technique?” or “What compelled you to tell this story?” More questions to spark the flow of communication between authors and readers include:

● What was your inspiration for the setting?
● What research did you do beforehand?
● Were characters inspired by specific people in your life?

Spontaneous questions also tend to arise when hearing the author speak about their background, sources of inspiration, and editorial decisions. The answers are often illuminating and worthy of a club debrief after the event.

At Bookclubz, an online organizational tool for book clubs, we encourage our users to seek out opportunities to connect with authors. Fortunately, many authors want to make themselves available to their readers and relish the chance to engage directly with book clubs.

Over 3,000 clubs all over the world currently use the Bookclubz platform to manage their membership, schedule meetings, and keep a library. We recently surveyed our users and asked, “Have you ever invited the author to join a meeting?” Over 28% of clubs said yes! And, nearly 25% of clubs responded by saying that engaging with authors is something that they want to do more of in the future.

Bookclubz would like to do more to help facilitate this exchange. Ideas are taking hold! We’re working to publish a list of public author events across the country and integrate more opportunities for direct scheduling with authors into the site. Many of the authors of our featured books and discussion guides offer to join book club meetings virtually through Skype. Moving beyond the traditional author event and book signing setup could offer book clubs and authors an even more intimate connection. We’re exploring partnerships with other innovative services in the book club community that work to pair book clubs and authors. If you have tips or best practices for book club and author meet-ups we’d love to hear from you. One day soon, meeting authors will become the norm for book clubs, not the exception!

Anna Ford is the Co-Founder of Bookclubz.com. An avid reader and book club enthusiast, she joined her first book club in 2005. Since then, she’s formed, led, and actively participated in seven book clubs across multiple cities. Anna co-created Bookclubz to better manage her own club and free it from never ending emails chains. Now, the site serves thousands of book clubs all over the world. Bookclubz is an online organizational tool with a simple mission: help book clubs stay organized, so that they can stay together.

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