It was magical, exciting, more thrilling than I’d ever dreamed of……
No, not that!
I’m talking about my first time as the featured author at a book club.
Recently, I reconnected with a Zumba class I hadn’t seen for a year. In catch-up conversation, I mentioned my novel had been published. Joan kindly announced my news to the group who warmly congratulated me. Then she added, “I’m in a book club. Would you like to speak to us in two weeks?”
Luckily, Amazon had put my book Instrument of the Devil on special for 99 cents in January. Thanks to the upcoming meeting, sales experienced a nice spike.
On Friday afternoon, we met in Patti’s lovely home, gathering around her dining room table for drinks and munchies. There I met eleven literate, accomplished, professional women from their mid-50s to mid-70s. I knew several from Zumba, but most were strangers.
In front of me sat the very readers I had in mind as I wrote the story—my ideal target audience.
And, better yet, they were excited to talk with an author whose book they’d just read.
I gave them a quick summary of thirty years spent hammering at the gates of traditional publishers, and the watershed changes with the advent of the Kindle and e-publishing. I told them about the Kindle Scout contest, which had resulted in my publishing contract. They asked about advances, royalties, and the difference in payment to the author between buying a book on Kindle or through “loans” on Kindle Unlimited.
Several said they didn’t normally read fiction or suspense but my book had grabbed their attention.
Barb nodded at a friend. “I didn’t think I’d like it but M.J. kept telling me I had to read it. She was right. I loved it.”
But the comment that really touched me came from Nancy: “I lost my husband in July and I completely identified with Tawny [the main character, a recent widow].”
That made the hundreds of hours rewriting and editing worthwhile because she truly connected with my story.
Linda mentioned she’d gone on Amazon to find what else I’d written, which neatly segued into a discussion about the not-yet-published second book in the series, Death By Proxy. “Oh, good,” they all said, “we love series.”
Several days before, I’d been toiling over “blurbs” (short book descriptions) for Death By Proxy. A writer needs to condense an entire novel in two or three compelling sentences that capture the reader’s attention so they’ll click on “Buy Now.” Easier said than done, which is why most authors would rather stick a fork in their eye than write a blurb.
I asked the club if they’d be the focus group for my trial samples.
Unanimous answer: “Sure!”
I read three different versions and they voted. Of course, I’m using the blurb that the majority chose.
Afterward, Mary, the Zumba instructor, hugged me and said, “I can’t believe I met a real author.”
“Believe me,” I told her, “you’ve earned far more money teaching Zumba than I have as a writer!”
The writer’s life doesn’t feel very glamorous, spending years in front of a computer only to have our work rejected more often than not. But Mary’s comment made me think twice about how readers view authors.
The club taught me an important lesson: readers are excited to meet the person behind the book they just read. They’re interested in the process of how a story comes to life, what inspired the book, and how long it took to write. They like knowing the inside scoop of what’s coming next.
A number of them also took the time to post reviews which are crucial to increasing sales. My business side appreciates their support!
But for my creative side, the real thrill is when writer and reader connect. I left the meeting higher than if I’d eaten a five-pound box of See’s Milk Chocolate Bordeaux.
Thanks to the gracious ladies of the book club, I will never forget my first time!