How to Make a Book Club Kit as a Self-Publishing Author

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.

book club

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.

  1. 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.  

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. Go social

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.  

  1. 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!

brent sampson
In 2002, Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Semi-Finalist Brent Sampson founded Outskirts Press, a custom book publishing solution that provides a cost-effective, fast, and powerful way to help authors publish, distribute, and market their books worldwide while leaving 100% of the rights and 100% of the profits with the author. Outskirts Press was incorporated in Colorado in October, 2003.
In his capacity as the Chief Executive Officer and Chief Marketing Officer, Brent is an expert in the field of book publishing and book marketing. He is also the author of several books on both subjects, including the bestseller Sell Your Book on Amazon, which debuted at #29 on Amazon’s bestseller list.

In Your Corner: Be the Life of the Party…Literally!

book club book party coffee tea nature

It can be hard, reinventing the wheel. Every holiday season, the same challenges and opportunities roll around–and every author is forced to decide: this one, or that one? Host a reading at the library, or coordinate a potluck and book sale at home? Or, worst of all, there’s the option of letting the holidays slide–of letting them drift away in a haze of busy schedules and truly important family and social demands–without making use of them as an author.

My suggestion? Host a holiday writing party! This isn’t your plain-Jane reading or book sale, although you could definitely incorporate elements of those tried-and-trues into your new plan. No–a writing party is much more inclusive and much more fun for kids of all ages (“from one to ninety-two” as Nat King Cole would put it). And while you are still the facilitator and secret power-broker behind the scenes of a writing party, you’re not the sole event–and at this time of year, that’s a blessing! No really, one can only pull off the holidays if one is expected to carry every burden. And typically, once the idea of a writing party is broached, everyone is eager to pitch in!

If you’re thinking “Hey! That’s not such a bad idea!” then I have a couple of suggestions, based on prior experience (I love these parties!):

  • Have everyone bring a dish, and in a twist have them steer clear of the typical holiday goodies, which everyone will very soon be sick of from sheer quantity–candies and cookies and so forth. Instead, have them bring something inspired by one of their favorite books! Kids might find something in Redwall to inspire, and there is an entire genre dedicated to “geek cookbooks” online, where you can find cookbooks (official and unofficial) with recipes from The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and Little House on the Prairie, among others … so this is not such a difficult challenge to meet. (And adults: there are endless lists of cocktails inspired by literature out there, so don’t be afraid to crack open that bar after the kids go to bed!)
  • Dedicate a part of your session just to snacking. It’s worth it, and it gets the chatting and the fiddling and the greasy fingers out of the way before the serious work begins. There’s usually a quiet lull in the conversation about twenty minutes in which serves as a nice segway–but again, everyone’s party should be tailored to suit your specific vision! Just make sure that food is stored away from the writing table, since messes do tend to happen–and everybody has a favorite “loud chewing sound” story! (Hot beverages are usually handy at the table, though.)
  • Then, get down to business. You’ll know what this ought to look like when it happens, and when it feels right. Every book club, writing club, and party has its own rhythm, but don’t worry–you’ll know. Sometimes it’s helpful to keep a timer nearby, or to set one up on your phone–breaking writing up into a couple of shorter sessions with quick snack and bathroom breaks in between is one way to keep everyone’s blood moving and energy up. And if that doesn’t cut it, consider leading a couple of breathing activities or even–yes!–yoga moves! Studies indicate significant improvements to focus in intellectual activities when the body is kept active and balanced. (It helps with carpal tunnel syndrome, too. Shake out those cramped wrists and fingers!) Oh–and don’t forget to offer up a couple of writing “prompts” for anyone in need of inspiration, and gear them towards your audience. Adults may want to write fiction–or letters to loved ones at Christmas. Kids might want to doodle or draw, or slay a dragon in five paragraphs or fewer!
  • Wrap up with a quick reflection. Try to steer clear of putting any one person on the spot, but offer up a couple of open questions about books, characters, challenges, and more. At this point, or as the last writing session is wrapping up, you can begin bringing the snacks to the writing table. The goal is for everyone to reach a point of total relaxation and contentment, and holiday joy.

Be inspired. There are so many shapes and forms your writing party might take–it may look nothing like the one I’ve described here–it might be outside, with just a couple of friends, or inside, with a pack of small children looking on. It could be held at the library! Or at your kitchen table. There’s no one way to hold a writing party–but a writing party is the best kind of party. After all, like the adult coloring movement–like Knit Night–like quilting and gardening and origami and yoga and meditating on one’s reading, writing is an activity which triggers serotonin release, calm, peace, and rejuvenation in those who take part in it. We can’t think of a better way to kick the holiday stress than by hosting a writing party!

What do you think? Will you have a chance to host an event this Christmas season? We’d love to hear about it. Drop us a line in the comments section below.

book party grandpa grandfather grandchildren children

You are not alone. ♣︎


ABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 18 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Manager of Author Services for Outskirts Press. The Author Services Department is composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, pre-production specialists, customer service reps and book marketing specialists; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Elizabeth Javor can put you on the right path.

Why Self-Publishing Authors Should Join Reading and Writing Groups

March is National Reading Month and National Small Press Month. In honor of both, now is a great time to join a reading group and a writing group. Both offer many personal and professional benefits. Here is what you can expect.

Reading Groups

Readings groups are also known as book clubs. One of the best ways writers can improve their craft is by reading. A book club will…

  • Motivate you to make time for reading
  • Introduce you to books you may never have read on your own
  • Help you meet new people
  • Allow you to experience books in a new way
  • Give you a glimpse inside the mind of other readers
  • Expose you to new writing techniques

All of these benefits can help you improve your writing. Also, the social aspect could be lucrative after you self-publish and are promoting your book.

Writing Groups

There are many different types of writing groups. Some examples include critique groups, reading circles, support networks, and timed writing groups. The benefits of writing groups include…

  • Receiving feedback on your work
  • Reviewing the work of others, which can be a great way to improve your own craft
  • Socializing with other writers
  • Building a network and support system
  • Setting goals and validating yourself as a writer
  • Brainstorming with others

All of these benefits can help you improve your writing and help you during the self-publishing and marketing process.

Look for a local group in your area or consider joining an online group. I’d love to know, how has a reading or writing group improved your writing?

ABOUT JODEE THAYER: With over 20 years of experience in sales and management, Jodee Thayer works as the Manager of Author Services for Outskirts Press. The Author Services Department is composed of knowledgeable customer service reps and publishing consultants; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process in order to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Jodee Thayer can put you on the right path.