Several years ago, I came across Book Club Reading List (BCRL), a site that claims to connect book clubs and readers with authors and books via, among other avenues, a monthly newsletter sent to 8,000+ book clubs. In addition, BCRL partners with various book clubs that agree to review exclusively books they’ve found through BCRL.
In their instructions to clubs, “Each month, our clubs are presented with three titles by local authors. Authors compete for your attention, and members vote to select the book that their local chapter will read. Once a title has been selected, the winning author acts as the ‘guest host’, scheduling a day, time and location through the chapter’s group on Meetup.com.”
Multiple book clubs in New York City, Boston, and Chicago are currently working with BCRL, and the site says there are plans to partner with clubs in Michigan, Kansas, and North Dakota.
The cost for an author to submit a book for consideration is $99.00.
A couple of things have changed since I submitted my first novel to BCRL. If I remember correctly, I paid $69.00 for my submission. Additionally, at that time the contact person for the club, not the author, scheduled the Meetup.com gathering.
As a middle-aged woman who devours books typically thought of as Oprah’s Book Club-type books, and who tends to write in the same genres I enjoy reading, I decided to pony up the $69.00 and go for it. A couple of book clubs, one local, and one not, had previously selected my first novel and I’d enjoyed those experiences.
The submission process is simple, requiring the usual information: author name, title, link, ASIN, blurb. They ask for the author’s location, as well as how the author plans to attend a meeting if chosen. The choices are “Skype, phone, in-person, etc.” Since I’m in Florida, I chose Skype. A few days later I received an email saying my book had been approved.
Several months later, two book clubs: one in Chicago, and one in Boston, chose Appalachian Justice. A representative from each club contacted me and we arranged Skype sessions. The Boston club, a small club, had a difficult time getting everyone together due to weather, but eventually combined with another Boston club and Skyped with me from a coffee shop in the city.
It was a phenomenal experience connecting with readers, enjoying a virtual coffee hour, gaining exposure, and yes, a very nice bump in sales. Such a wonderful experience, in fact, that I wrote a gushing “thank you” note to BCRL which as several people have brought to my attention, is now on their “submission” page for authors.
That “thank you” note has moved several authors to contact me to ask me if BCRL is truly worth the expense, and that’s not an easy question to answer. The truth is BCRL is a gamble. Had my first book not been chosen by book clubs, I wouldn’t have seen any measurable benefit from signing up. On the flip side, had I not signed up, I’d never have had the opportunity to connect with clubs in both Chicago and Boston.
The best advice I can give to any author considering submitting a book is to do an honest appraisal of the book in question. In an interview with Publishers Weekly, Nancy Pearl, a Seattle librarian and regular contributor on book topics for National Public Radio’s Morning Edition, gives her thoughts on what makes a book good for discussion:
- It has an ambiguous ending.
- The main character has to make a life-altering decision.
- The author has done something unusual with the narrative description of the novel.
- The narrator is unreliable.
Ms. Pearl explains her points in further detail in the article. It’s food for thought, and possibly a good rubric to use. As with nearly everything in this industry, there are no absolutes. There may be no discernible reason one book is chosen and another isn’t, just as there may be no discernible reason one method of marketing works for one author, and not for another.
Each of us has to do our own research and make decisions accordingly.
As I said, it’s a gamble. If you’re the lucky winner, it’s a lot of fun. If you aren’t, you’re out $99.00.