Saturday, March 3, 2012

Hooray for Book Groups!

I had an absolutely exhilarating experience the other evening. I was invited to talk to a book group. Not being on Oprah's Big List, I honestly didn't think book groups would be interested in reading and discussing my historical novel. After all, it isn't about some huge pressing social issue, nor does it present a deep, thought-provoking life lesson. I didn't write a serious novel. Isn't that the criteria most book groups have when making their selection? At least, that's what I thought.

Imagine my surprise when I received an email from a delightful lady named Ceanne a couple of weeks ago inviting me to dinner and discussion! A small group of a dozen or so ladies had formed a book group and chose Dragon & Hawk for their first read of 2012 at Miz Ceanne's suggestion. She had met me at the Tucson Festival of Books about three years ago and had kept my bookmark all that time. Amazing, eh?

The date for the dinner was March 1, St David's Day--a day of celebration in Wales of all things unique to that country, so I asked a dear friend to make picen ar y maen = Welshcakes. (Well, to be honest, I bribed her.) A cross between a pancake and a cookie, Welshcakes are delightful buttery bites made with currants and castor sugar, and cooked on a griddle. And my friend makes The Best Welshcakes in Tucson.

I arrived on time, armed with the cakes and flowers for the hostess, and was ushered in with a warm welcome as though I was Princess Kate entering the Tesco in Anglesey.

Readers who truly love to delve into books are priceless. Insightful questions kept the evening going, and I must report three hours simply evaporated. Members of the group seemed equally divided in their purchases between ebook and print editions; one or two preferred borrowing from the library when possible. Which was another eye-opener for me: the three copies I'd donated had mysteriously vanished from the catalog. Only one copy is listed for the entire county, in the Arizona Records section; as such, it cannot be removed from the Main Library at all. An interesting point was brought up about how many donated books are actually sold, and how going through the official channels isn't always the best way.

We talked about the strength of the characters, their motivations, the action, the setting, the research...and they were quite excited to hear that there are two more books in the series. I handed out my latest bookmarks with the scheduled release dates in nice large font. They were genuinely glad to know Book Two, Out of Forgotten Ashes, will be available in ebook formats in April. I also told them I would be at this year's Festival of Books with my nonfiction book, and I'm hoping to see a few of them there.

But what I wanted to emphasize here is that it was three years between making contact with a reader and that invitation to talk to her group. You never know how long people hang on to those bookmarks, or postcard, or business card. It's impossible to gauge when those promotional materials or even social media involvement will register a return. Just be ready to seize the opportunity when they do, 'cause I'm here to tell you it was energizing!


Dragon & Hawk     Out of Forgotten Ashes   



Julie Eberhart Painter said...

That's a wonderful experience none of you will forget, and your generous offering of Welsh cakes was pure genius as well a gracious manners.

linda_rettstatt said...

I held a contest for book clubs to read and review one of my books. The winning club won naming rights to two characters in a future book. It was such fun and I'm looking forward to meeting with that group soon when that book comes out. They are part of the local library that has been so very welcoming to me.

Rosemary Gemmell said...

How lovely, Jude, and great to hear how long that lady kept your bookmark! I agree with Julie that the Welsh cakes were a generous touch.

Jude Johnson said...

Thank you, Julie & Romy. Any excuse for Welshcakes, you know! ;-)

And Linda, what a fun way to keep folks interested in your work! What made you think of that?


January Bain said...

Jude, what a heartwarming blog!