3 Reasons You Need Book Club Questions for Your Masterpiece
Got book club questions for your masterpiece? Here are 3 reasons you need them:
- Book Clubs Are Influencers
- It’s Never Too Late
- Resources Abound
Read on for all the whats, whys, and hows.
Book Clubs Are Influencers
“Book clubs are critical and wonderful influencers when it comes to talking up new books,” says publishing PR expert Shari Stauch. An estimated 5 million Americans belong to one book club or another, at least according to the New York Times (Publishers Weekly, Aug 2016).
How do you tap into the book club scene to promote your book?
First, you’re going to need BCQs—book club questions.
Let me you about my BCQ journey.
So, I’m sitting in the waiting room of the hospital cardio clinic...waiting, of course. My wife is behind closed doors doing some kind of stress test (as if living with a murder mystery writer who plots every day how best to kill people off isn’t stress enough for anyone). J
More than an Epilogue.
More than an Afterword.
More than a sample chapter from the next book in the series.
What there is...is a Bonus Section—A Reading Group Guide—with a book introduction, discussion questions for local book clubs, ideas for enhancing your book club experience, and a Q&A with the author.
Sample Book Club questions like:
Q: Strike Me Down heroine Nora Trier, forensic accountant, “explains that opportunity, pressure, and rationalization is the birthing ground of crime. Define what the opportunity, pressure, and rationalization was for Gregg Abbot’s crimes” in this novel of corporate intrigue about the world of international kickboxing.
And so, still waiting in the waiting room, I say to myself, “Why not?”
Literally. And quite loudly.
The people sitting next to me start to move away.
So as not to cause any more unnecessary alarm, I take the dialog inside.
“Topper,” I say, “why not provide book club questions for your debut novel? A guide for teasing out the subtext hiding in the entertainment wrapper of your story? You could do that. You should do that!
“And just because your book’s already in print, with the opportunity to include such a guide at the back of your novel during the publishing process long past, that doesn’t mean it’s too late. Not in a digital world. There have to be options, right? Options that don’t require waiting for a second printing?”
As it turns out, there are options.
Here’s what my research uncovered.
It’s Not Too Late
As long as you have an author website, you have a forum for getting your Book Club Qs out there. Simply post them on a fresh web page or add a link to a PDF that readers can download. Here’s an example of how one author posts her questions:
Colleen Mooney’s cozy mysteries: https://www.colleenmooney.com/book-club-questions
But don’t stop there. Reach out to book clubs in your community and pitch your book along with the Official Reading Group Guide. You might also host a book club for your book as RJ Crayton suggests in How to Create Book Club Questions for your Novel.
So, what’s involved in putting together book club questions? And are there any resources to help me get started?
A quick search of the Internet reveals several helpful articles. Here are some major Tips & Tricks:
Avoid Plot Spoilers
This is a biggie. When fashioning your questions, don’t give away major plot twists or the surprise ending. Avoid book club questions like the following:
Q: In Poe’s The Murders in the Rue Morgue, detective C. Auguste Dupin finds a non-human hair at the crime scene. What analytical powers led to his conclusion the killer was an escaped orangutan?
Talk about a plot reveal no-no! Don’t do this. But do include questions that will get readers talking. As author Sarah Sundin explains, “As readers, we delight in socializing with book lovers. While some groups fall naturally into discussion, some don’t, and good questions stimulate conversation.” Sarah suggests story-related and personal questions to help you connect with your readers.
Include Story-related Questions
To get the conversation going on book club night, questions about the story are a good place to start. Questions such as: Where does the narrative take place? Who are the main characters? What’s the story about? And is there a theme?
Here are a couple of examples from All that Glisters:
Q: During a fight at the beginning of the story that takes place at the Dodge Whitney Annual Gala, Thad’s wife asks him to intervene. “This risk’s worth taking,” Marissa says. What are some of the risks Thad takes during the course of the amateur sleuth investigation he and Bri conduct? Were these risks worth taking?
Q: Early in the book we learn Thad’s wife is pregnant. “I pulled Marissa closer, cradling my free arm around her baby bump.” What are the story implications of the primary sleuth having a wife with a “bun in the oven”? Is it just a device for examining the couple’s relationship? A tool for character revelation? Or a plot trick to add tension?
Include Personal Questions
Once the ice is broken, it’s time to get personal. Book club members love to share their thoughts and feelings about the characters they meet during their reading. Questions that probe a character’s strengths, flaws, and dreams are great candidates. Be sure to ask readers to relate the strengths/flaws/dreams to their own lives.
Here are a couple of examples from my book:
Q: When Thad hits a wall trying to decide what to do next, he resorts to surfing to clear his mind and focus on solutions. In one scene early in the book, he tells his wife: “Marissa, I really need this right now. I need to be on the water. I need clarity.” When you need to make tough decisions in life, what’s your clarity ritual?
Q: Thad describes his sleuthing partner Bri as follows: “She is privileged, after all. Takes whatever she wants. A purebred Californio with heritage on her side.” Do you know someone who doesn’t know the meaning of “No”? And if so, how does that color your relationship with someone like that? What are the upsides of working with someone used to getting their way? The downsides?
End with a Teaser Question
Author Sarah Sundin suggests that if you are writing a series, include a final question hinting at what to expect in the next volume. For the Hanlon & de la Guerra Mystery Series, my next book is in final revision with plans to submit it to the publisher by month’s end. Book Three is in the works. For my teaser question, here’s what I came up with:
Q: After reading All that Glisters, does it appear the author has laid the groundwork for a series? [Hint: Read between the lines in Chapter 46] If so, who do you anticipate will star in the next book? From what you read in Book One, what characters would you like to see reappear in the series? Why? Should any of those characters have a bigger role in Books Two or Three?
Did You Ever Finish the Reading Group Guide?
Yes, yes, I did. It was a lot of fun, in a profound sort of way, but fun no less. For the complete list of book club questions for All that Glisters, go to my author website and click the menu tab Book Club Qs or click this link: https://topperjones.com/book-club-qs
Feel free to share the list. And for those that like a challenge, consider working through the questions and sharing your answers with me via email at TopperJonesAuthor@gmail.com
I’d love to hear from you.
Authors: Does Your Book and/or Author Website Include Book Club Questions? by Shari Stauch (Oct 8, 2015).
How to Create Book Club Questions for Your Novel by RJ Crayton (Feb 18, 2014).
Why Book Clubs Matter in the Age of Tablets by Claire Krich (Aug 12, 2016).
Writing Effective Book Club Discussion Questions by Sarah Sundin (Aug 7, 2014).
On the Lighter Side
For a quirky alternative to traditional book clubs, check out the rebel Not-a-Book-Club book club featured in the Wall Street Journal:
No, I Don’t Want to Join Your Book Club by Betsy McKay (Nov 6, 2023)
Debut Authors Night Is Tomorrow Tuesday Nov 14th @ 6:30 pm
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