Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Book Discussions?


I’m posting this blog to try to get a question answered. Exactly what do book clubs want to hear when an author addresses them?

For my published books, I’ve prepared discussion questions, like talking points. However every group I’ve spoken to so far has wanted to talk about other things.

I suppose this blog title is a misnomer. It seems book clubs actually want to hear about things like, how I became an author, or why; how I go about writing a book; the perennial--where do I get my ideas. I do make sure to let them know how hard it is, not only to write a book and get it published--both monumental tasks--but what that comes after that: selling the book, trying to make people aware of it without ticking them off. I give statistics on my agent and publisher queries, just so they’ll know how many years it takes to get traction.

But I’d really like to lead a discussion of one of my books. I think. At my last engagement, a woman was vocal about the fact that she didn’t like my book. Is it better for readers to discuss a book without an author present?

16 comments:

Katherine Tomlinson said...

I'm not in a book club but I have attended book signings and such. I think I want to hear about how an author came to write a book; how they came to be published; any tips they have. It must have been unnerving to hear that book club member trashing your book. Not sure that was polite. Of course everyone won't like your book but how frightfully rude to say it to your face!!

Kaye George said...

No, it was actually refreshing. She just rejected my whole premise and didn't get the humor. I know not everyone likes every book--told her I appreciated her honesty. She phrased it very nicely. But maybe an author being there inhibits the discussion, because she only brought it up at the end of the evening.

Kaye George said...

Oh, and thanks for telling me what you'd want to hear, Katherine!

Rhonda Lane said...

I've been in book clubs but never have had the pleasure of the presence of the author whose book is under discussion. I wonder if some of those "old chestnut" questions don't arise from people really not knowing what to ask. I know that some authors, like Lisa Scottoline, put suggested questions for book clubs in the back of the book. Maybe you could come up with a list of, say, Conversation Starters and send it to the club in advance of your visit?

I do know that people are curious about authors and have "interesting" ideas about how we live. (Think CASTLE. :) )

Cooper Robbins said...

I'm not in a book club, either, nor am I a published author! ^_^ But you know what I would suggest, Kaye? Though the difficulties of writing and publishing are good to know, I would suggest not harping on them too much, in fact, not much at all. Anyone listening who wants to write might only feel discouraged by it. It always brings me down when I hear people advising would-be actors on how nearly impossible it is to get into the business. I mean, what's the point of telling that? If someone feels the passion to go a certain creative direction, why throw cold water on them?

I would say to tell how you started writing, what moves you to write, where you like to write, if music inspires you and what kind, and why not throw in a plug for the groups (like ours) that do so much for giving support to each other? :) Most of all, I would want to hear about your passion for writing. :)

Edith Maxwell said...

I've been to two book clubs since my book came out. I think with one it might have hampered the discussion a bit. What I found more difficult was that one member was dominating the discussion and it was hard to make sure others had a chance to ask their questions. People do seem very interested in the process of writing, getting published, and so on, so I talked about that. Twice I've been asked a question I couldn't answer, about a character's motivation and I told them they'd have to figure that out! ;^)

Kaye George said...

Rhonda, that's exactly what I've done, but no one wants to discuss those things. They hardly want to talk about the book at all.

Cooper, I do think beginning writers need to hear how hard it is. Many people think they can write a book and quit their job. Really! I do stress that you need support for this endeavor.

Funny, Edith. I haven't had a curveball yet, but I'm sure I will.

I think giving time for questions is most important, but first you have to talk about something.

Edith Maxwell said...

At my launch party, I had prepared remarks and then a short reading, and then I took questions. At the book club, we just sat around and talked. It seemed like what they wanted to do.

Rhonda Lane said...

Wow. Shows what I know! :) :) This discussion is fascinating, could lead to a bit of insight about the demographics of book clubs. ("First rule of Book Club? Don't talk about Book Club.") But seriously, are book clubs about the reading or the socializing and the communal experience? This really is a cool discussion, Kaye.

Kaye George said...

I think *short* might be the important word, Edith. I'll keep that in mind in the future. I always feel like I should give them their money's worth.

Rhonda, I'll bet every book club (and some are called study groups) is different.

Warren Bull said...

I think it is easier to get the book discussed if you start with a brief reading.

Kaye George said...

I haven't thought of that for the groups I've done, Warren, since they've, presumably, read the book.

I wonder why I want the book discussed anyway. They should discuss what they want, I guess. I'll keep that in mind and maybe try it, Warren. I have another one in January. Thanks!

Kathy Waller said...

For most people, writing is a mystery, so when faced with a real, live author, someone who has published! a book!, they see the chance to ask who you are and how it's done. (English teachers and librarians are especially obsessed with the author's persona and process.) I like to hear one or two readings from the book. That might help introduce the discussion you'd like to hear.

Kaye George said...

Another mention of a reading--so that must be a good thing to do! In fact, my next engagement is to a group who had NOT, necessarily. read the book, so it would be especially good there.

Thanks for all these ideas and comments--good discussion today!

Saylor Billings said...

Hi Kaye,
The one book club that read one of my books, (that I know of) was very cordial. But they did want to hear my background. I had a feeling that would happen so I just put together a quick and easy opening that kinda moved into the book discussion. When I put together my little intro about myself I kinda did a FAQ sheet as well. So anytime someone would ask an off topic question I would just kindly veer it toward the book. What I learned from that group was when I was self deprecating people seemed to appreciate it or maybe it may me seem approachable. Not self dep. in a harsh or demeaning way but enough to keep it light and open and to ask open ended questions directly to a person. I hope that helps a little.

Kaye George said...

Yes, thanks, Saylor! It sounds like you're a better speaker than I am. Good strategy.