How would you like to sell 10-15 books at a time, rather than just one? You would?! Well, then keep reading, because Book Club Kits are one of the best-kept secrets of savvy book marketers.
What is a book club kit, you ask? We’re glad you asked! A book club kit is a bunch of your books and some other materials all packaged together in either a canvas bag or a storing box (or something even more fun and creative). The most obvious customers for book club kits are book clubs, but the less obvious (and more fruitful) customers for your book club kit will be libraries. Rarely do book clubs purchase books anymore, since that requires buying 10-15 copies of a single book. Book clubs usually rely on libraries. But even finding 10-15 copies of the same book across multiple libraries is challenging, which is why many libraries stock book club kits to loan out to local book clubs. Rather than loaning out 10-15 copies of a book, they loan out one book club kit. Who sells book club kits to libraries? Authors!
And that’s where you come in. So let’s get started.
Decide how many copies of your book you are going to include
The best thing about making and then selling book club kits is you get to sell multiple copies of your book at once. But don’t get overzealous. If you cram too many copies of your book into your kit, the kit sales price may be too high for some libraries, and the kit itself may be too heavy. Most book club kits range from 8-15 copies, and the number often depends upon the size of the community being served by the library. So how do you decide how many copies to put into your kit? You ask! Visit your local library and ask to browse their book club kits. See how many books are in other kits. Ask the librarian which kits are the most popular. Ask the librarian how many copies he/she would recommend, or what their budget is for purchasing kits. All this information will help you decide how many copies to include in your kit. Remember, your kit doesn’t have to be the same size for every library. You may have one kit comprised of five books for a smaller neighborhood library and another kit comprised of 15 books for a large metropolitan library.
Decide how you are going to package your book club kit
The number of copies you decide to include may determine how you are going to bundle your kit, since a canvas bag doesn’t carry as many copies of a 400-page hardback as a 28” x 18” plastic storing bin. On the other hand, a customized canvas bag (more on that in a second) makes a better first impression than a big bulky bin. Although if you opt for the bin (available in different quantities for different prices on Amazon), be sure to at least create custom stickers to put on the outside of the bin identifying yourself and your book.
Customize your bag or bin
If you opt for a canvas bag, you can customize it by printing either your book cover or your author photo on the outside of the bag, along with its title. You may even want to add “Book Club Kit” onto the side of the bag, too. How do you create custom canvas bags? Through websites like Zazzle or CaféPress. They’re a little more expensive if you do single-units, but they represent the most economic way to start until you grow confident enough to buy larger quantities, at which point you can go to a local printer for a better deal.
If you opt for a plastic storage bin, customize a sticker to put on the outside of the bin (using the same print-on-demand sites mentioned above). The title of your bin is NOT the title of your book. The title of the bin (or bag) is BOOK CLUB KIT. The subtitle is your book title, and your author name.
Create your “table of contents”
The similarities between a book and a book club kit just keep going and going, don’t they? Not only have you titled your kit BOOK CLUB KIT but now you get to create a Table of Contents… and in this case, it literally is a listing of all the contents of your kit. You can get fancy and make this single piece of paper colorful, or artistic, or even laminated, but the ultimate purpose is to specifically mention every component of your kit, including the quantity of each component (especially important in regard to the number of copies of your book). This is how the librarian will ensure kit has been returned without any missing “pieces” after each club borrows it.
Include your author photo and author biography
Book clubs discuss books, sure, but they also discuss authors, so be sure to include your author photograph (8.5×11 on glossy paper, if possible), and your author biography. These are typically elements you’ve already created for your book’s publication, so it’s usually a simple matter of reprinting them for the purposes of your kit. It’s not necessary to print more than one copy of these elements, even if your kit contains 10-15 books. The book club leader or administrator will hold onto the rest of the elements of your kit, including your photo and biography, for display and/or discussion during their actual meetings. You may even want to include more comprehensive and personal information about you and what motivated you to write the book. After all, these are the elements of a book club kit that makes it valuable for book clubs.
Include discussion topics
Most book club kits suggest discussion topics for the leader or moderator of the club as a means for spurring conversation about your book once everyone has read it. One of the most magical things about being a published author is being the creator of your particular “world” in fiction, or the expert voice over your particular subject in non-fiction. Members join book clubs for exactly this insight, so be sure your book club kit delivers. Ask questions about your main characters. Offer alternative endings your considered. Mention particularly difficult choices you, as the author, had to make when writing your book. Summarize the choices you made and why. Ask the book club members what they think about your choices. These discussion topics should “match” your author biography page in the kit, so if you laminated your author bio, laminate your discussion topics, too. Every element of your kit should look professional and branded. Many authors include all the separate pieces of paper in a branded or customized folder, to keep them pristine while rattling around in your kit surrounded by heavy books.
Book club members also join book clubs to learn about new writers and to experience new books. Even if they just borrowed your book from the book club kit for the purposes of their meeting, that doesn’t mean they won’t buy your book after-the-fact. Be sure to include one piece of vital information in every kit: Purchase information and, if you’re open to discussing your book personally with readers, author contact information. Even if you shy away from one-on-one contact, you can suggest to members of the book clubs that you welcome honest reviews on Amazon and you often respond to individual reviewers in the “Comments” section. The possibility that their review could spark a reply from the author may provide enough incentive for your book club readers to compose reviews on Amazon and/or Barnes & Noble (which is always a good thing). If you are the more extroverted type of author, you can even suggest the coordination of a skype or facetime discussion, or offer your time to “appear” on a book club’s blog as a special guest.
Put it all together
Once you have all the components of your kit, bundle them all together in your canvas bag or plastic bin. Then, find your customers. You can do a search for libraries on Google. Price your kit so that it’s a good deal for the library and also profitable for you (the books will typically be priced at the wholesale, rather than retail price). Congratulations! Your book is now part of the book club circuit!