How to Get Book Clubs to Choose Your Book

A friend recently told me that her book group had chosen to read the book The Devil In Pew Number Seven. The book is a memoir by a North Carolina preacher’s daughter. I was a little surprised at the choice because I had read the book years ago, so I knew it was not a newer book.

The Devil in Pew Number 7I asked my friend how her book group had decided on that particular book. She reported that each member in her book club nominates a book that they have read and then the group votes on which book to read.

Getting a book club to read your book is a great way to increase both your book’s exposure and your readership. Yet, promoting a book to book clubs can be a daunting task. First you have to find resources that reach book clubs; and then you have to advertise.

A new study on book clubs by BookBrowse that was published in the report “The Inner Lives of Book Clubs” shows that reaching book clubs may not be a difficult as many authors think. The study found that, when it comes to choosing what books they will read, most book clubs require a member to have read a book before recommending it to the group—or, at a minimum to have thoroughly researched it.

This means that you don’t have to promote your book to book clubs. You just have to reach a reader who is involved in a book club. And, book club members discover books in the same way that most readers discover new books.

Book clubs read both fiction and nonfiction books. The BookBrowse study showed that 70% of book clubs primarily read fiction, and 93% read nonfiction at least occasionally.

Book Club

So, what type of books do book clubs prefer? BookBrowse’s study showed the following:

  • 97% of book club members want a book that will provoke a good conversation.
  • 73% actively seek out books that challenge.
  • 55% look for books that are controversial.

Now, BookBrowse is a secular organization. The book clubs that they interviewed for their study were primarily secular book clubs, not Christian ones. I imagine that most private Christian book clubs operate similar to secular book clubs. However, in the Christian community, I think the vast majority of book clubs operate as small groups.

Many churches’ small groups—whether these are home groups, life groups, women’s groups, or men’s groups—read and discuss books. This raises the question of who chooses the books for these groups. Do the individuals in the group recommend the book, or do the church leaders decide?

In my church experience, I have been involved in small groups where the group chose the book and in groups where the church leadership chose the book. The groups I have been involved in where the church leadership chose the book far outweighed those where the group got to choose.

Since leaders appear to be the primary decision makers when it comes to what books a church’s small groups will read, marketing your book to church leaders is a necessary ingredient to get church groups to read your book.

This is just one example of how marketing a Christian book is different than marketing a secular book. If you need to learn more about how to market your Christian book effectively, I suggest that you check out my book Your Guide to Marketing Christian Books.

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A Book Marketing Recipe

I once met an author who wrote a book that she was promoting as a Christian book. I spoke with this author and really liked her. She had a charming, likable nature. She was very personable. However, during our conversation, she told me that she did not read the Bible. In fact, she did not even know some of the more familiar Bible stories such as Esther.

A Marketing Recipe

When I discovered this piece of information, I decided to not read her book. Why? Because I did not trust that her book was really a Christian book. On another level, I did not trust this author. After all, she was promoting her book as a Christian book, yet she did not read the Bible.

Relationships follow a predictable pattern. First you must meet someone and get to know them. As you get to know the person, you start to like him or her. Then, as you spend more time with that person, your trust in the individual grows.

This pattern—Know + Like + Trust—is repeated over and over in our life with each new person we meet and befriend. The same pattern is replicated in selling products. After all, we buy products from people we know, like, and trust.

When you think about marketing your book, this simple pattern should permeate what you do. Your marketing efforts need to help people first get to know you, then to like you and what you offer, and lastly to trust your message and writing.

Let’s examine each step a little more closely.

Know:

People have to meet you to know you. This meeting does not have to be in the physical world; it can be in the print or digital world. There are many ways for people to meet you. They might read an article you wrote or see one of your social media posts. They might hear you interviewed on a podcast. For people to meet you, you have to show up. The more places you show up at, the more people will get to know you.

Like:

We like people who help us. As an author, you help people by enriching their lives with your useful information, stress-relieving humor, or compelling stories that speak to hearts. We help people by showing up regularly and offering value to their lives. When we help our audience, they like us.

Trust:

Trust builds as like deepens. When we are consistent and people can rely on us, they trust us more. Your message matters. When your message speaks to someone’s heart, they feel that you know them and their struggles, and they begin to trust you.

This pattern is rarely completed in a quick getting. Sometimes the Know + Like + Trust pattern can all happen in a one-time meeting. Usually, it develops over time. Repeated exposure is necessary. Consistency is key.

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What influences Book Purchasing Decisions?

Whoever coined the phrase “Familiarity breeds contempt” was not talking about readers who buy books. In fact, when it comes to book purchasing, the opposite is true.

Familiarity is a leading influence on readers' book choices.

BookNet Canada conducts studies on book reading and buying behavior. In one of their studies, they looked at which element influence readers to purchase a particular book. Were readers drawn in by the awesome cover design? Were they won over by the gripping book description? Did endorsements influence readers purchase decision?

Familiarity

It turns out familiarity was the most cited influence for reading a given book. In other words, the reader was familiar with the author. Somehow the reader knew about the author. They may have read another book by that author. They may be familiar with the author because he or she is already famous. Maybe they saw the author on television or heard her on the radio. The key ingredient was that they “knew” the author somehow.
Here is the breakdown of the percentage of people who ranked each option first in terms of how they influence when books they read / listen to:

  • Familiarity with the author – 35.5%
  • Read a synopsis – 25.8%
  • Familiarity with the series – 17.2%
  • Cover design – 6.9%
  • Awards and bestseller stickers/badges – 6.5%
  • Saw an ad for the book – 4.7%
  • Author or celebrity endorsement – 3.1%

Notice in this breakdown that “Familiarity with the Author” was chosen by over one-third of the readers, and “Familiarity with the Series” was chosen by just about one out of every six readers. Combined, over half of all study participants chose familiarity as their number one influence in deciding what to read.

This means that as an author, you have to work hard to make yourself known to readers so that they are “familiar” with your name. In order for people to become familiar with you, you must be visible. Here are a four ways to increase your visibility as an author so readers can become more familiar with your name:

  1. Get interviewed on radio and television shows, as well as podcasts.
  2. Write articles and guest blogs.
  3. Speak at events.
  4. Write more books.

Reading a book sample

Book Samples

One-fourth of all readers reported that the number one influence for choosing what book to read was “Read a Synopsis or Sample.” A 2017 survey by BookNet Canada found that 15% of book buyers had downloaded a free extract/sample of a book in the previous year.

If you want to catch more readers for your books, then you should be offering free samples. Make the most of giving readers a taste of your book by:

  1. Allowing readers to read a chapter or two of the book on your website.
  2. Enabling the “Look Inside” feature on Amazon for your book.
  3. Getting wider exposure on social media for your book sample through Pay With a Tweet.
  4. Posting your sample chapters on reading sites like Wattpad, Booksie, and Noisetrade.

Through making yourself more visible so people become familiar with you and offering free chapters of your book to readers, you increase your chances that readers will by your book. After all, three-fourths of readers surveyed choose these two reasons—familiarity and reading a sample—as the most influential factor in their decision on what book to read.

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Videos Are a Powerful Marketing Tool

Are you using videos in your book marketing efforts?

Done right, videos are a powerful tool for promoting your books. Creating good videos takes time and resources. Yet, the payoffs can be worth the effort.

The infographic below by Renderforest provides an impressive overview of video marketing statistics. Four that caught my eye are:

  • Marketers who use video grow revenue 49% faster than non-video users.
  • Marketers who use video receive 41% more traffic from search than non-users.
  • Including a video on your homepage can increase conversion rates by 20% or more.
  • Using the word “video” in an email subject line boosts the open rates by 19%.

Check out all the statistics in this infographic. It may convince you to create some videos to market your books.

Video Marketing Statistics

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Is Your Book Impacting Lives?

The sounds of an old hymn resonated in my ears. Standing behind me in line for dinner at a writer’s conference I recently presented at, a gentleman was singing a lovely hymn.

Do you want your book to impact people?

When he finished singing, this man told me that he had been listening to a CD he had recently purchased that featured hymns. He went on to tell me that the same musician who had produced the CD has also recently written a devotional book using the old well-known hymns.

When I inquired after the book, he told me the title and the author. This brought a smile to my face. The very book he was talking about was published by a member of Christian Indie Publishing Association (CIPA).

I love to hear people mention books that are published by Members of the Association. It reminds me that the books produced by small publishers and independent authors are truly making an impact for Christ.

Sometimes I am amazed at how broad and far the reach is for these books. I shouldn’t be because I believe that producing a quality book and then marketing it is the key to successfully reaching an audience with your message. Yet, it still amazes and thrills me when I hear people mention books that were published by ordinary people striving to do what God has called them to do.

Is this the desire of your heart? Do you want your book to impact people?

If your answer is yes, then know that it takes more than just writing and publishing a book. If you want your book to have an impact, then it must also meet the following five criterion.

  1. Be well-written and professionally edited so that it is free of grammatical errors.
  2. Have a strong, clear title.
  3. Sport a professional cover design that fits the genre of your book.
  4. Carry a clear description that answers that “WIIFM” question.
  5. Execution of a robust marketing plan.

Over a million self-published books are published annually. Some studies suggest that less than ten percent of those books sell enough copies to be considered profitable. Your book is competing with millions of other books.

If you want your book to stand out and make an impact on people, then first and foremost, your book must be professionally packaged (well-written and designed). After that, you must engage in marketing your book so that your target audience knows that it exists and provides them with something they need or are seeking.

If you are unsure how to go about creating a robust marketing plan, I encourage you to either read my book, Your Guide to Marketing Christian Books, or to join Christian Indie Publishing Association and download our “Book Launch Marketing Checklist” that walks you through book marketing activities to engage in starting before your book is published and continuing after your book is in print.

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