Have you ever wanted to invite your book club’s favorite author to a meeting? The chance to directly ask an author about their writing process and inspiration can help offer your book club new insight into what they’ve read, and may even change the way they look at books in the future. Here’s your how-to guide packed with dos and don’ts for reaching out to an author about a book club visit.
Do: Use the contact form on their website
Most authors have a Contact page on their website where readers can find an email address or form. Be sure to read all of the text on the Contact page, as it may indicate the best way to get in touch for book club events. If they don’t have either, there’s a chance that they aren’t available for requests at this time.
Don’t: DM them on social media
Unless an author’s social media bio says to DM them with requests, avoid it. There’s a huge chance of your message being lost amongst the other notifications, and the majority of authors prefer to conduct any professional business over email. Especially when making a request, it’s a boundary to be respected.
Do: Include as much information as possible
The best way to receive a quick and clear response back from an author is to give them as much information as you can, as concisely as you can. Let them know how many members are in your group, the book or series you’ll be discussing, the format of the virtual visit (including the video program you plan to use), the dates you’re considering, the time of day that works best for your members (don’t forget to mention time zones!), and how long you’d like the event to last (typically an hour works).
Don’t: Overdo it
Authors are busy people, which is why a short and concise email works best. Include the basic information above and, if you’d like, a reason why you’d love them to join you. Be brief, a simple “Your debut was our favorite book we read together last year!” works better than a lengthy paragraph.
Do: Prep your book club on how the event will go
Once the author has said yes, it’s time to start planning! For an event like this, it’s helpful to have a moderator who can help keep everything organized and on track. This person will be the main point of contact for the author and can help guide the virtual discussion. Your book club may already have a moderator for meetings, or you can see who feels most comfortable in the role.
The moderator can either run the majority of the discussion or can help the conversation stay moving by passing the mic (so to speak) to various members so everyone has a chance to directly ask the visiting author a question. Decide what format works best for your group together.
Don’t: Expect it to be like your typical book club meeting
An author visit is a rare experience to gain more insight about the book you’ve read, to learn about various inspirations, and to hear about what an author may be working on next.
It may seem obvious, but it’s important to make it clear to members that the author is a guest to be respected. This isn’t an occasion for members to list what they didn’t like about the book or to complain about how a character was written or the way a plot point was resolved.
It’s recommended that book clubs have a regular meeting to discuss the book where they can be open about their opions with other members and to view the author visit as an exciting interview where they get to learn more about the book.
Do: Prepare questions in advance
Another reason we suggest having both a book club meeting and an author visit for the same book is that the meeting might spark some questions that your group would like answered! A Google Form is also a great way for group members to submit questions, and this makes it easy for the chosen moderator to look them over.
Sketching out which questions will be asked, the order to ask them in, and who is asking them (the moderator or a group member) will help everyone feel prepared for the event and ensure that one person isn’t taking over the conversation.
Don’t: Forget to share them with the author
Send the author any questions you plan on asking a week before the event. This will give the author time to consider thoughtful responses. It’s also helpful to offer the author the chance to give feedback if there are any topics they’d prefer not to discuss or if there’s a theme they think would be valuable to include.
Do: Respect the author’s time
In your email exchanges, make sure you and your guest author are on the same page about how long the event will last. An hour is usually enough time for a thorough discussion and doesn’t demand too much from the author.
If the event is going well, it can be so tempting to ignore the clock. But authors will appreciate book clubs that are respectful of their time, and it makes them even more likely to want to come back!
Don’t: Forget to follow up with a thank you
You’ll of course say thank you as you sign out of the video chat, but it’s always smart to follow up with the author via email. Give them your thanks for being generous of their time and share how much your group appreciated the visit.