Ask not what your book club can do for you...
May 8, 2013 12:31 PM   Subscribe

You are in a book club. You have an independent bookstore in your town. What can the bookstore do for your club?

I work at said indie bookstore, and we're trying to find ways to reach out to and provide resources for book clubs in our town.

Things we already do:
* offer 10% off the club's chosen monthly title
* offer a store credit rebate to customers after every 20 items purchased
* order books for club readers, usually arrive in 2-3 days
* staff recommendations for club reads
* newsletter for author readings at our store and in town

Things we'd like to do:
* provide contact information for new members to join book clubs
* free raffles to give away books

Things we cannot do:
* provide space for book clubs to meet

What else would be useful to you, as a book club reader?
posted by wintersonata9 to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (17 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Kepler's bookstore in Menlo Park, Calif., used to have a shelf that was all what other book clubs were reading (with the name of the club). It was a cool thing to browse and helped my small book club figure out what kind of book club we wanted to be.
posted by purpleclover at 12:46 PM on May 8, 2013 [10 favorites]

Provide a list of questions or discussion prompts for the books you're recommending? Or offer to do it ad hoc when a group is ordering their books from you? Offer a list of places where groups could get together - maybe partner with a local restaurant or coffee shop, and maybe that establishment could offer a 10% discount if clubbers used the code word "Name of Bookshop."
posted by BlahLaLa at 12:58 PM on May 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

How far in advance do you know about author visits? Because I would think that book clubs would love to have enough advance warning to schedule their reading to tie into the author visit.
posted by COD at 1:07 PM on May 8, 2013 [3 favorites]

as far as reaching out to local bookclubs, i would try searching on within your city or zip code and browsing through all the different clubs you find. you could contact them to let them know about your services, and ask if they have any suggestions for you as well.
posted by cristinacristinacristina at 1:15 PM on May 8, 2013

Some book clubs, I suspect, are not open to all comers and may not want you to provide newbies with their contact info.
posted by vitabellosi at 1:21 PM on May 8, 2013

Thanks for the input so far, everyone! Keep it coming!

vitabellosi - That's a fair point; we plan to keep this optional and make sure we have the group / contact person's consent to list their info.
posted by wintersonata9 at 1:25 PM on May 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Offer a slightly larger discount if say 5 or more members all buy the book in advance of your ordering it? This has the Benefit of decreasing your rips/returns/lingering shelf space hassle while further increasing loyalty from them. The later buyers still get 10%, but early birds get 20?

(this also prevents you from dealing with the breathless last minute buyer who needs to read for tomorrow and you don't have any copies left. Maybe.)

I'd also appreciate recipe (or cocktail) suggestions for books that warrant them, local book suggestions, current events suggestions, or whatever other suggestions from other book clubs. Because I'm getting my book reading done in libraries these days.
posted by bilabial at 1:29 PM on May 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm an author who works closely with my local indie. They do something really cool. Twice a year, they have a book club event hosted at the store. They invite the heads of local book clubs, treat them to wine and snacks, and invite book buyers and authors to present to them on great recommended book club reads. They give away books and do a fun anonymous question thing where people can drop their anonymous question about running their book club into a hat and it's read aloud and the other book club attendees can answer questions. (When I came, there were lots of questions about conflict management and how to balance different member needs when it came to books.) The events are always PACKED and it seemed like the participants all felt pampered and happy toward the store.
posted by mynameisluka at 1:55 PM on May 8, 2013 [4 favorites]

One of my local chains (!) buys back the book club books at 1/2 price and then re-sells them at half price. I think this is genius--I'm not stuck with books that I don't want to re-read, and people who don't want to pay full price can read the books.
posted by Ideefixe at 2:04 PM on May 8, 2013

Working off bilabial's comment.

What about a theme night for a book club that works with the book selection's era (themed snacks, drinks) - working in conjunction with a local chocolate shop or cheese shop or microbrewery or any local shop to provide samples and sell some choice cheeses/chocolates/beer and you recommend other similar books from the era...or even history books about the era/travel books to the location/etc.

Might not be worth it -- but it might!
posted by vitabellosi at 2:44 PM on May 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

As a bookstore, you probably know about forthcoming books and who's going on book tour. This is something book clubs might really value - if you know the genre/taste of each club, you can send them alerts about opportunities to host events with authors. Or, if you are the one who puts on events, be sure to invite them and get them to co-promote.
posted by Miko at 2:59 PM on May 8, 2013

I'll second discussion questions. The discussion questions that come in the back of books that have them are usually super lame and English-class-like.

Another thing that might be worth doing is talking to some of your bookclub running folks and put together a tipsheet on starting/hosting a bookclub that you can offer to people who might be interested in starting a bookclub but feeling a little lost. Advice on different ways to select books (each one pick one, voting, etc) and things to think about in terms of how to get a good group of people.

Another tipsheet that might be worth offering is something on how to read a book for bookclub. If you're reading a book and actively thinking about the ideas, character development, etc, it can be different from just reading the book because you're reading it.

Our local library offers bookclub sets -- batches of bookclub appropriate books that can be signed out as a group. As a bookstore, that might be a bit weird, but you could conceivably rent out sets of books to bookclubs and then offer the titles at a discount if people want to keep their copies.
posted by jacquilynne at 3:20 PM on May 8, 2013

You can't offer space, but are there any area cafes/bars/restaurants you could partner with? Like, with a book club coupon from you, the book club gets a free appetizer if they have their meeting at the restaurant next door (might be especially worthwhile for the restaurant if the book club meets on a slow midweek night).
posted by mskyle at 4:05 PM on May 8, 2013

There are a couple of specific types of recommendations that my group is always interested in: books where the paperback has just come out, and interesting pairings of books on related themes - a classic and a contemporary take on it (or its author, e.g. Hemingway and the Paris Wife), fiction and nonfiction, or an adult and a YA title.
posted by songs about trains at 4:19 PM on May 8, 2013

You mentioned you can't provide space in your physical store for clubs to meet, but can you provide space on your store's website? Besides aggregating book clubs' announcements, contact details, and book selections, you can also host reviews, blogs and even podcasts.
posted by applesurf at 6:16 PM on May 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

Start working with your public library.
Could they be the larger space for your book club events?
Or as mentioned above, could you co-host a book club summit with them?
If you provide the expertise and authors, and other program elements, then they'd be getting easy programming for the community.

Also, do you have space to post their reviews of books after they've met and discussed them? That could be on your web page, newsletter, or on a store bulletin board.
posted by calgirl at 10:18 PM on May 8, 2013

Make it easy for book group members by setting books aside for them, and keeping track of what book a group is reading. Have a book group newsletter, or a page in your existing newsletter, with reviews of books that are popular with book groups. Ask book group members to write the reviews, and compensate them with reader's copies of new books. Ask publishers to keep you well-supplied with book group-appropriate reader's copies, and be generous with book groups; that should help get them into the store, and build loyalty. Keep a list of groups forming or looking for members. Maybe have a raffle for a monthly prize of a pound of coffee, bottle of wine & brownies to be delivered within 15 miles, on meeting day, to the winning group.
posted by theora55 at 4:53 PM on May 9, 2013

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