In the few months since the release of my book, Receive Me Falling, I’ve been to twelve book clubs. I’ve known some members, others I’ve met by selling books at fairs, festivals, and signings. I’ve even met a few on Meetups.com. The average book club size is ten members. All but three of the hundred or so members have been women. Almost all of them choose books based on word of mouth recommendations.
Each book club has its own personality. Some meet at book stores, and some meet at private homes. Some get together to discuss books, others get together to get out of the house and drink. Some book clubs use the questions for discussion from my website, others use their own. Some are very casual about attendance, others have names, mascots, and meeting dates in stone.
Receive Me Falling is set on a haunted, Caribbean, sugar plantation in two time periods. The ghostly music coming form the plantation house, Eden, is Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata. The main character from the present day has a binder of rum recipes in her villa. The climax of the book occurs during a severe storm. Several book clubs have prepared Caribbean themed food, rum drinks from the book, and have streamed Moonlight Sonata from the IPOD while we met to discuss the book. At one meeting, a terrible storm arrived just as we were discussing the climax. I don’t know how they arranged that.
In spite of the personality of each club, what I encounter over and over again, is passion for books. When it’s time to pick the next book, the club becomes animated. Some groups heatedly debate future books, others are more polite, but there’s always a sense of anticipation and excitement that comes over the room–over books!
I choose my own reading selections (outside of what authors and publishers send me to review for my blog) based on the frequency I hear a book mentioned. For example, I’ve heard about The Red Tent and The Road so many times over the last month that I’ve bought them. I’m almost superstitious about hearing a book mentioned multiple times. I feel like the opening of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society when it says that books find those who are meant to read them.
Publishers have a harder time selling fiction than nonfiction, because it is voodoo. It’s very difficult to see through the haze in the crystal ball and predict what will resonate with readers. It seems that no matter how much marketing money is put into a novel, word of mouth recommendation is the way books gain momentum. If readers feel passion for a book, they will be its advocate.
It’s a great joy to get so much positive feedback on my book, and to see people discussing books in a shared, community experience. It’s fascinating how books touch different people in different ways, and how a single book can be loved and hated by different readers. I think it’s a bit like finding love (though much simpler.) Certain books touch us because they speak to our souls. I hope that the shared experience of Receive Me Falling is able to send out those ever widening circles of recommendation that are necessary for wide readership. But whatever the end result, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my book club experiences so far.