I can still remember my first book club experience like it was yesterday. The anticipation. The careful notes I took on character development, plot, and style. The fear I had that I might have missed some significant symbolism and would be ostracized by this serious group of readers.
So, you can imagine my surprise—and dare I say, relief—to walk into my neighbor’s home and have all of thirty seconds pass before I was offered a glass of wine, some appetizers, and a comfy living room chair. This was my kind of book club!
Over the past two years, we have read and certainly discussed many books. But, we have probably done far more socializing, eating, drinking, and sharing information and tips during that time period.
For example, during this month’s discussion of Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff, we started discussing our impressions of the book, but quickly progressed to a winding conversation about the changing role of women in society, the current events in Egypt, and our personal experiences traveling in Rome.
We also talked about the wine, what we were eating (including where to buy it and/or what was in the recipe), and how most of us now owned a Kindle after our book club leader, Molly, first showed hers to the group and let us check it out in person. (Talk about the power of peer pressure and the beauty of a hands-on demo!)
Over the past few months, it has become clear to me that all of these women (and yes, even the few men in our book club) could be considered “influencers”—both within the book club itself, as well as outside in their other social and working environments. I can’t think of a single book club meeting where I haven’t learned something new, tried a new product (usually food or drinks), or shared my own experiences. And I have purchased those recommended products and services—lots of them—and so have others.
That got me thinking…were other book clubs similar? Could this be a marketers dream…a ready-made focus group…a potential gold mine of audience insight? How could we understand the anatomy of a book club and seek to tap into that resource?
To learn more, I pulled together a quick 8-question book club participation survey and implored my Facebook friends to respond and send it to their contacts. Though not a scientific survey, I do think the results provide some potentially useful insight into book clubs.
In the few short days the survey was live, 32 book club members responded—representing an estimated 20 different book clubs across 10 states. Each book club had an average of 7 members (range 4-13). Based on these survey responses, I have outlined the “Anatomy of a Book Club” below.
Anatomy of a Book Club
1.) 63% hold monthly meetings (17% every 5-7 weeks, 20% every other month
2.) 100% discuss the book at least some of the time (Only 13% focused on the book for more than half of the meeting)
3.) 50% have purchased an e-reader—most of which were Kindles
4.) 84% enjoy a drink during the meeting
5.) 94% have something to eat
6.) 86% have bought, or would consider buying, a product or service discussed during a meeting
7.) 58% have discussed specific products and/or services
8.) 81% talk about family, friends, and/or current events
9.) 58% talk about travel, work and/or other experiences
10.) 80% have viewed a movie because they liked or had read the book
It’s hard to know whether these results can be extrapolated to other book clubs. But, if they can, then marketers may want to explore opportunities to reach these influencers who are already sharing their opinions with family and friends. Just as my book club became a forum to give Amazon new Kindle customers, perhaps other companies could find their own entrée into book clubs where they can eat, pray, and market to their heart’s content.
More about books and the book club market
• On Facebook: 1,646,578 people like “books” and 17,175 like the “book club” interest group.
• “Eat, Pray, Love” has sold more than 9 million copies worldwide—generating an estimated $135 million in book sales and spawning a movie and other merchandising (jewelry, food, etc) totaling over $350 million.
• A Time article reported in 2008 that Oprah’s Book Club has more than 2 million members and that her selection of a book can increase a print run fivefold. More than 60 titles have made it into the club.
• Digital Book World estimates that more than 1.3 million Kindles have been sold
Some interesting resources I found in doing this article. (Please feel free to share others you might have!)