For many authors, writing a novel and getting published is the easy part; the challenge comes in building awareness among readers in a world over-crowded with new books. Savvy authors know that the publicity department of their publisher can only do so much, and such authors look for ways to reach out directly to their readers. One novelist, John Shors, has spoken to about 2,000 book clubs in the past three years!
In 2004, the hardcover version of my debut novel, Beneath a Marble Sky, was released. I was blessed because, over the next year, Beneath a Marble Sky did quite well--garnering wonderful reviews, winning a national award, and attracting significant interest from Hollywood. Due to all of these events, I was able to quit my day job and become a fulltime novelist.
I was grateful to readers for their support, and decided that I wanted to do something to support readers in return. So, when Penguin released the paperback version of Beneath a Marble Sky in 2006, I decided to add a letter to the back of the book that invited book clubs to invite me to their evenings (all they needed was a speakerphone). I included my email address.
Well, due to the novelty of what I was doing, my book club program started to
get a lot of media attention, and was featured in Newsweek Magazine and
on The CBS Evening News. I wasn't sure what kind of interest the media coverage
would generate, but now, about three years later, I am happy to report that I've
spoken with approximately 1,500 book clubs. Most of these clubs were based in
the U.S., though I've spoken with groups in Canada, France, Columbia, and Kenya.
I'm fortunate in that readers enjoy Beneath a Marble Sky, and are
therefore happy to talk with me about it (I spend fifteen minutes with each
group). This simple fact allows my program to flourish on many levels.
During the past three years, I've learned a great deal from readers. For instance, some clubs have said that they would have liked a map to be included in Beneath a Marble Sky (which is based on the story behind the creation of the Taj Mahal). And because of that feedback, there will be a map of Vietnam in my new novel, Dragon House (which is set in modern-day Saigon, but also features other parts of Vietnam) (read BookBrowse member reviews of this book).
Talking with up to eight book clubs a night hasn't been easy, but it's been important. I've done my best to give something back to the readers who support me. And in this age, when books have so much competition with other forms of entertainment, I feel that authors need to go the extra mile to encourage reader/author interaction. I'm trying to get other writers to create similar book club programs, as my experience has been so positive.
I continue to do book club calls (though I am now encouraging two book clubs to get together for each call). I have also created three videos on YouTube that readers can access. This way, people don't have to be in book clubs to see and hear me answer questions about each of my novels (Beneath a Marble Sky, Beside a Burning Sea, and Dragon House).
If readers, librarians, booksellers, or authors are interested in my book club program, I may be contacted through my web site at www.dragonhousebook.com.
I wish everyone the best.
John Shors is an internationally bestselling author, whose books have won multiple awards and have been translated into more than twenty languages. He and his books can be found at:
Beneath a Marble Sky: Website; YouTube
Beside a Burning Sea: Website; YouTube
Dragon House: Website; YouTube