I mentioned earlier in the year that one of the things I’d like to do is join a book club. I’ve bounced around to a couple this year, and it’s been fun. I’ve met new people, got a new perspective on books, and read things I wouldn’t normally choose on my own.
As a writer, though, one of the other benefits of joining a book club is learning about your craft. It’s different than a writing group, where you learn about the industry and improve your skills. No, a book club will help you learn about writing from a completely different perspective, that of the reader.
It’s funny, as writers we think of fans that enjoy our books or articles, but we don’t always think of the average reader. I’m not talking about changing your writing style or becoming something you’re not. Rather, I’m talking about getting the basics of a great book down so you know how to write something people actually want to read. Writing might be all about you, but publishing is about the reading world. So if you’re a writer who wants people to actually read your work (as opposed to the ones who simply enjoy seeing their name in print), joining a book club can be one way to understand how readers choose and enjoy books. Hearing how your book club rips apart one book over another can make you take a look at your own. It all comes down to basics: great writing, great characters, great plot. And yes, those are three different things.
Another great thing about book clubs is occasionally you can get an author to make an appearance. I used to go to a lot of author appearances, but having them at a book club discussion is even more valuable. It’s more personal, and you can ask them things you wouldn’t normally talk about if they were just giving a reading. Recently our book group read The Tale of Halcyon Crane: A Novel. Author Wendy Webb came to speak to our group about it, and it was great to ask her questions related to plot, publishing, and the editing process. As a side benefit, I got to interview Wendy on my Working Writers blog also.
About ten or fifteen years ago I was in a mystery book club that had James Koeper make an appearance. We had read this book Exposed (and then I also read his other book Deceived) and it was fascinating to learn about the process. At that time, I was still in the corporate world, so I didn’t know as much about publishing as I do now, and I couldn’t get enough information. I’m still that way, actually. The world of publishing has continued to evolve that I’m always asking authors how they published, got book deals, or marketed their work. Koeper had just received a two-book deal (and even had a close have with getting a movie deal) so it was interesting to hear his perspective.
Many years ago my friend’s book club got to visit Jane Hamilton at her Wisconsin orchard and hear her talk about A Map of the World. You know how I adore Jane Hamilton, right? I would have loved that!
Author appearances are great places to learn about writing and publishing, but so are book clubs. So if you’re an author, consider joining one so you can view books from a reader’s perspective. It may help you learn something that improves your craft.