Friday, August 9, 2013

Let's go Clubbing! (Is there a cover?)

by Sam Thomas

In recent weeks I’ve been discussing the question of book club appearances with my wife/manager, and she wondered why authors don’t charge (or don’t often charge) for book clubs.

This question seems especially relevant in light of recent posts here on Book Pregnant and elsewhere, in which authors wrestle with the competing demands on their time: Between revising, various edits, book clubs, book fairs, social media in all its iterations, blogging, etc., authors can do a lot of work without doing any writing. So why book club?

The first answer, and the one I knew even before I started clubbing (so to speak), was that in a world of vanishingly small marketing budgets, it’s the author’s job to get out there, pound the pavement, sell books, and build a loyal audience.

What I did not realize was how many different kinds of book clubs there were, and how much fun they could be. In the six months since The Midwife’s Tale dropped, I’ve met with twenty or so book clubs, both in person and by video-chat. Thus far they have run the gamut from sedate (coffee in the afternoon) to raucous (beer, wine, and cocktails running late into the night).  Topics have ranged from the history behind my book, to the writing process, to who I would cast in the movie.

When I walk out of the book clubs, it is as if I’ve stuck my finger into a light socket. Talking to smart, engaged and curious readers energizes me like nothing else in the world. They – and the impending contract deadline – are what gets me through the copy editing process.

All of which brings me to a rather delicate question: Should an author (or when should an author) charge for book club appearances?

Obviously the answer is going to depend on another question: Can an author charge for book club appearances? For most debut authors, the answer is “no” simply because nobody is willing to pay. But as we move through our careers, the answer might change, so I’ve been thinking about when and what I might someday charge.

I don’t have an answer to the question, but I am extremely interested in hearing your thoughts on this.


  1. Book clubs rock. For me it's all about meeting readers. Can't imagine I would ever think about charging a fee.

  2. I feel the same way, and I'm playing the devil's advocate here! To look at it from another angle, I absolutely love my job, I wouldn't do it for free.

    So my question isn't "Would you..." but "Is it appropriate to..."

  3. As in so many things, I think it depends. Plenty of authors will charge a fee to give a prepared presentation to a group, whether it be a book club or another type of gathering, and I think that it is perfectly appropriate to do so. Other settings are more casual, a way to meet and greet readers and get them excited about your book. I think those types of gatherings are loss leaders--yes, you spend a lot of time and energy on them, but in the end the good will and reader loyalty you generate will ultimately increase your book sales, hopefully earning you more money in the long run. My two cents. :)