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  • Stacie Haas

An Informal Book Club Survey

With the dramatic changes occurring in the publishing industry, especially the explosion of self-publishing and hybrid publishing, I thought it would be interesting to survey members of a local book club to understand their reading and meeting preferences.

What I discovered was that the market—at least as represented by these book club members—is open to different ways of engaging with our books. When I asked where they purchased my book, this was the result:

• Traditional bookstore: 40 percent • Amazon.com: 60 percent

Interestingly, their book format preferences were split:

• Hard cover or paperbook: 40 percent • eBook (Kindle): 40 percent • Audiobook: 10 percent

All the members surveyed were women between the ages of 35 and 50. They meet regularly and rotate the book choice among the members.

They don’t set limits on genre. In fact, they selected my upper middle grade/young adult novel on the last round: Freedom for Me: A Chinese Yankee, a historical fiction book based on the life of a real Chinese Civil War soldier. On the surface, this is a book for teens, with historical, wartime content, and a male main character, and perhaps not the first book one would expect the group to choose. However, when one of their members connected with me on LinkedIn and saw a social media post about my book, they were excited about the opportunity to read the book—and invite me to their next meeting to discuss it with them in person. It was the personal, local connection that led to my book’s selection. Authors should note that, in specific circumstances, promoting their authorship of a book may be even more impactful than the book alone, especially to local audiences.

The book club members were also aware of how to help an author. Immediately following the meeting, forty percent of the members posted reviews of my book on Amazon. One of the members posted a photo of us on multiple social media channels. They also expressed a willingness to sign up for my newsletter and join my all-important email list.

Next time I attend a book club meeting, I will also ask the following questions: 1) when you choose a book, are you aware of the book’s publisher? 2) Do you prefer books by established authors? I am a traditionally published author, but by a small independent press. I am eager to know how impactful being published by the big six impacts book choices, and if readers are aware of the difference between traditionally published and hybrid- or self-published titles.

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