So while I was in Brooklyn, NY meeting with the Books Are Sexy Book Club this weekend, thousands of other book club members and hundreds of writers were assembled in Atlanta, GA at the National Black Book Club Conference. They were discussing books, meeting authors, and enjoying the best of Atlanta.
This conference, which brings together readers and writers, has been successful for a number of reasons. But the most important, it seems, is that it gives readers a chance to get up close and personal with authors -- the authors whose work they already know, and those who are new and trying to develop a readership. And it gives authors an opportunity to meet the people who've spent their hard-earned dollars buying their books. That's always a good thing... and something writers always must remember... there are real people buying our creations... or considering buying our creations.
I've been thinking a lot about the importance of book clubs, especially since my first experience with the group in Brooklyn (by the way, I love the fact you guys were my first book club!). Readers are an unofficial street team, a important arm of a book's marketing team. Our personal and professional interactions with readers -- those we know and those who reading and we don't know yet -- can affect the longevity of our careers and our books. Regardless of if the book is perceived to be good or not-so-good... for whatever reason or perception. Branding is everything, as my writer colleague Rashid Darden often tells me in our conversations about the writing life.
And as writers, who often create in private, with our private thoughts and creative worlds, in the wee hours of the day or night, it is very exciting to hear readers discuss their feelings, thoughts, and insights on your work -- right there in front of you. It makes everything you do come to life. You realize how much people connect with your work, for whatever reason. I even learned things about my book that I hadn't thought about before meeting with Books Are Sexy. It's such a fun, surreal, eye-opening process hearing how your work touched people in good and challenging ways... yes, I love the constructive comments too.
Based on what I've read from the National Book Club Conference site, and from the blogs of a few authors -- Cydney Rax and Tayari Jones -- it sounds like a great investment of time and energy. Something I'll have to consider attending in the future. And something book club presidents and members might consider as they look at books and authors outside their normal range of reading and consideration.