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MBM: How Book Clubs Can Help Authors by @CharityBradford

Welcome to the eighth day of MARCH BOOK MADNESS! (Full explanation and schedule here.)

  1. Side note: my book LIFE is free this weekend on Kindle. 

LIFE by Rebecca Belliston

Today my friend Charity Bradford is here to discuss book clubs. Charity and I have met a few times at the Midwest Storymakers Conference. She’s a fun, talented, sweet person, and she writes great scifi and fantasy (check out her books below her bio). So here she is:

How Book Clubs Can Help Authors by Charity Bradford

Charity Bradford: March Madness is here again! I’ve loved Rebecca’s series the last few years. It provides a wonderful opportunity to reflect on where I am in my personal life and how it relates to my writing life. In the past I’ve written about getting the most out of your critique group and last year I made the decision “Writing: A hobby or a career?”

This year I’ve struggled to come up with a solid topic to share with you. Perhaps that’s because I’m finally settling in to my life as a writer/mom?

It’s taken years, but I finally feel like I have a handle on my writing goals and how to accomplish them while still achieving the goal of being a good mom and friend to those I know in the real world. My imaginary friends are happy because they have a time of day dedicated to them and our adventures. This allows me to focus on other things the rest of the day. It’s a really nice feeling.

Having said that, there is something new we can mull over today. Last week I had another FIRST in my writing career.

A local book club stumbled on my first novel, THE MAGIC WAKES (WiDo Publishing, 2013).

By some strange chain of events, one of the club members had the book list for the year on her desk. Her boss saw it and said, “Hey, I know her,” and pointed to my name. The next thing I knew, I was being introduced to the group through an email from him.

It was exciting to know that a random group of people found one of my books and decided to read it for their club. They invited me to join them when they discussed the story in March.

I’ve never been to anything like this. People I know have sat and talked with me about the book, but these were all people I’d never met! They would be honest, or at least more so than my friends, right? I alternated between excited and terrified during the weeks leading up to the meeting. Inside my head sounded something like this:

  1. “They found my book! Without me forcing it on them, how cool is that?”

  2. “What if they hated it? They are going to shred me!”

  3. “No. They found it and decided to read it. That means they must be my target audience.”

  4. “But maybe not. Others have found the book, read it, and didn’t like it. Maybe this is a literary club and they’ll hate it.”

  5. “Stop it. They invited you to come, so even if they don’t like it they won’t be mean about it to your face.”

However, I live in a town that is largely made up of the retired crowd.

  1. “They don’t care what other people think anymore, they might tell you exactly what they think.”

  2. “I want them to tell me the truth. That’s the only way to get better.”

And I did want the truth. I knew I could digest it and eventually handle it. My concern was not crying in front of a group of strangers. 🙂

Nathan Fillion

The day came and my daughter went with me for moral support (At least that’s what I choose to believe. She probably came because we had writer’s group after and she needed her frozen yogurt fix.)

The first few minutes were nerve-wracking for me. I knew two names, but didn’t know which faces they went to. There were about seven people there, and they were quite boisterous. It was obvious this group had been meeting with each other for years and everyone would say exactly what they were thinking. They informed me that they didn’t “talk” about books, they “yelled” at each other about books.

I was terrified again.

Susan introduced me and I asked that they would all introduce themselves by telling me who their favorite classic scifi author was. Wow! That opened quite a debate, let me tell you! I thoroughly enjoyed it. It also helped me relax to find that these were real science fiction and fantasy readers who enjoyed and knew the genre. Even though my book is fairly light on both, I knew they would get it.

They started by asking me questions that led to discussing various parts of the story. I found it easy to relax around these people.

Here’s what I learned:

1. Readers love authors

Readers love authors because they love books. They may not think about all the work that goes into writing a book, but they enjoy the product of all those hours. This gives them an appreciation for authors.

2. Readers have insightful QUESTIONS that will make you better

When given the chance to talk to an author, they have insightful questions that will make you better. They ask why and how come. If you don’t know those answers you didn’t ask enough of those questions when you were writing. We should always be asking why? It’s the most important question for every thought, action and word spoken by our characters. Just remember that it doesn’t all have to go into the book.

3. Readers will put up with a lot of imperfection if the story is engaging

I know my first novel isn’t perfect. It was a relief to find non-relatives or personal friends who still said they were impressed by my first efforts. They enjoyed the story and look forward to the rest of Talia’s journey.

4. Write what you know

Everyone loved Keeta. It amazes me how many people bring up the little pet that joined the story last minute. Perhaps it’s because Keeta is based on a real puppy I had for a few short months. She had a genetic problem and didn’t live long, and I think my emotions for her came through when I talked about the treeb. Write what you know people!

5. Finally, relax and enjoy the ride!

People are good. Most of the time they know how to be respectful even when disagreeing. As a writer, I understand not everyone is going to love my writing. That’s okay, but sometimes you might get lucky and find a group of strangers who totally “got” what you wanted to share.

REBECCA’S THOUGHTS: Great thoughts, Charity. Love you’re sense of humor, too. The first time a book club did my book, I about died, so I’m glad it’s not just me. 🙂 There’s something about hearing about your book from complete strangers, face to face. But you’re right. People are good, and readers are immensely helpful to authors. They see the book differently, more from a story standpoint than from an adverb standpoint, if that makes any sense. Getting their feedback is so helpful. Book clubs in general are just a lot of fun. Thanks again for your thoughts, Charity!

Have you ever joined a book club that read your book? How did it go? OR Have you ever invited an author to your book club when you discussed their book? Why or why not? Comment here.


Charity Bradford has been a voracious reader ever since her 5th grade teacher introduced her to the world of books with the WHERE THE RED FERN GROWS and SUMMER OF THE MONKEYS. She soon lost herself in the worlds created by Card, Bova, Asimov, Bradbury, Nagata and Niven. She writes a mix of science fiction and fantasy and lives in Northwest Arkansas with her hubby and four kids.



Magic Wakes by Charity Bradford

Steller Cloud by Charity Bradford



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