Are book clubs on the social fringe – a hangout for shy book worms? Hardly. According to Diana Loevy, author of The Book Club Companion, close to 20 million Americans belong to book clubs, often to multiple clubs. She concludes that part of this is due to the need for intellectual stimulation, but the need for socializing in a community plays a major part as well. Book clubs would seem like a potential goldmine for authors and publishers. But how to find these folks. This would involve taking a bottom up approach to finding readers vs. selling to large book clubs like Book-of-the-Month club. One approach is using web tools like Meetup.com.
Meetup.com is a site where you can define an interest, create or find a group that shares your interesst and then arrange meetings with that group. For example, here in Seattle, there is a group interested in blogging that meets monthly, all managed and scheduled through Meetup.com. You can find meetings by topic and meetings by city.
The other day I visited Meetup.com to check out the topic “Books” and discovered there were 912 groups there organized under various categories. Some of the categories were concerned with specific authors and titles, some were more generic. The largest category was “book clubs” with 391 groups. These were pretty dispersed across the U.S. In the Seattle area, there were 9 book clubs, with an aggregate membership of about 665 members.
Marketing to these book clubs mgith be facilitated by arranging a virtual book club tour utilizing low cost web or VOIP conferencing services (e.g. Skype Out) to feature a “live” author reading and Q&A session, and perhaps offering a discount to those who purchased the book during the author’s “visit.”
Of course, the book clubs you find on Meetup.com represent just a fraction of the estimated 50,000+ book clubs. The advantage of using a site like Meetup.com, however, is that each book club has a contact, as well as a description, making it easier to find appropriate groups and schedule a virtual visit.
With new Web 2.0 technology, marketing to book clubs is not only viable, but can form the seeds of a successful word of mouth viral marketing campaign.