Some time ago, a woman called Marie got in touch to say that her book group was going to read my novel – and would I join them to discuss it?
I loved the idea! Perhaps you’d like it too: a kind of mini literary festival in somebody’s house.
So we put a date in the diary, and several months passed…
Then with one week to go, I thought – what have I done?!
Was this actually a good idea?
- an author (like me), or
- a reader (also like me),
you may want to consider what happened next before you think about inviting an author to your own book group.
I asked for advice
I asked authors who’ve joined book groups in the past, including some authors who are extremely successful.
And I asked friends who run their own book groups.
What I learned was quite a surprise – but entirely obvious, now I think about it:
Book groups like to be able to discuss books honestly.
Sometimes that means individuals saying they didn’t enjoy the book very much. Or even hated it.
I get that.
I’m just the same. I love some books, and others… not so much.
But I can see how this might make things awkward.
If an author turns up in your house, or at the pub, or in a restaurant, as your guest – and somebody starts dishing it out, saying the book’s a stinker…
…you might feel like crawling into a hole, and the author too.
Abandon the idea?
One novelist, whose book was a bestseller in 2017, told me she had vowed never to do another book group, having endured painful feedback in the past.
But I didn’t want to abandon the group that had so kindly invited me.
I just wanted to be sure it worked to everybody’s benefit.
So I made a plan.
I would join the group after they had their honest discussion, and avoid awkwardness for all concerned.
And this would actually be very easy, because the group that approached me was based far away, so I was going to join them online, by Skype.
They could say whatever they needed to say about my book, in my absence…
…then switch on their guest author (in this case, me) and switch him off again after half an hour – rather like watching telly (UK English for TV, in case you’re wondering).
There would be no train fares.
But there was still a problem
How could we be sure the “meeting” felt right, if I it was happening over Skype?