Keen readers wanted
01.01.70 | Jodie Mullish
Ah, the reading group reader. A heavy book buyer, willing to take a chance on an unknown author; someone with a network of book-loving friends that meet regularly to discuss their favourite—and not-so-favourite—reads.
Publishers should be falling over themselves to court these valuable opinion-formers and communicators—to find out exactly what they want and the best way of providing it. For the publishers of reading group favourites like Room, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks and The Language of Flowers, it’s especially important.
It is with this in mind that we are recruiting Pan Macmillan’s first Reading Groups Panel in association with the Reading Agency. Our thinking is that nobody knows what reading groups want better than reading groups themselves, so we’re asking for their help in creating extra book club content for select Pan Macmillan and Picador titles.
The panel will be a group of up to twenty passionate reading group members, ideally representing a spread of age, gender and geographical location. Panel members will come to Pan Macmillan towers for quarterly book clubs where we hope that free-flowing wine, cake and conversation will reveal what extra material would be most useful to stimulate debate around the chosen title. Perhaps this will take the form of traditional-style discussion points—although hopefully ones which don’t, unlike some book club reading notes, read like dull questions in a GSCE English exam.
Possibly panel members will ask for group discounts on multiple purchases of the same title, or suggest an online hub, where they can supersize their book club discussions and link with other groups around the country. Maybe author video content, Spotify playlists or recommendations for complementary films or exhibitions will come to the fore. We don’t know yet, but we’re looking forward to finding out.
After the meeting the panel members will go away and write up their ideas, which will be edited by Pan Macmillan editorial staff before being posted on our dedicated reading groups website, included in end-pages of print and e-books, and used in packs distributed to libraries via the Reading Agency for book club-focused marketing campaigns.
In return, each member will receive a monthly package of free books, proof copies of our reading group choices weeks before publication, and invitations to a series of bespoke author events—including cocktail parties, high teas and lunches—that we’ll be putting on just for them.
We’re linking the call to action to sign up with publication of Tell the Wolves I’m Home, a hauntingly beautiful debut by Carol Rifka Brunt. It’s a book that we feel is perfect for reading groups, and we’re interested to see whether our panel, once chosen, agree. The minisite we’ve created to drive recruitment (www.panmacmillan.com/readinggroups) will be relaunched four times a year, re-skinned to promote the current title, and updated to feature the all new content created by our panel.
We see this as a chance for non-industry people who are passionate about books, and perhaps interested in the publishing process and how it’s changing, to get involved in creating the added-value elements that are becoming increasingly important in such a crowded market. For us, it’s a valuable opportunity to move closer to our consumers, to start a meaningful conversation that could evolve in a hundred different directions.
We want to harness the passion of book club members, not only for books but for talking about them. These are the readers that recommend a title they’ve loved to their friends, and can be the essential spark that ignites a word-of-mouth smash hit.
Our editors always strive to publish the most engaging, exciting, enjoyable books for their readers. This project will help us make sure that our extra content is equally perfectly pitched.