Wednesday, March 21, 2012

In Praise of Book Clubs

Barbara here, with a special word of thanks to book clubs everywhere. Spring has arrived, both in the air and in my spirits.

For what seemed an eternity, I’ve been confined to my solitary writer’s garret, wrestling with obstructive characters and unwieldy plots, trying to hammer out the best story I could in my latest Inspector Green novel. It gets dark and claustrophobic in that garret sometimes, and it’s easy to become caught up in gloomy thoughts. Every day there are new stories about the book industry under siege. Beloved independent bookstores are closing, politicians are undermining copyright protection and fair compensation. The market is being flooded with so many cheap and free ebooks that soon no one will believe an author should get paid anything for their work. That is, if the reader can even find the author amid the millions of books on offer. Amazon is trying to drive out the competition, the US Justice Department thinks the publishers are price-fixing as they try to maintain decent payment for their product, newspapers are canceling their book review sections and publishers are cutting back on their lists, print runs and advances.

No one knows where this crazy ride will go, or who will be left standing at the end of it. It’s a scary time, and in the midst of that solitary struggle in the garret, it’s easy to get discouraged. To ask why on earth we writers put ourselves through this? Each time a new book comes out, there is a flurry of exciting events – launches, bookstore signings, readings, interviews – that remind us of the joys of connecting with readers. Between books, especially if it’s a long interval (in my case it’s almost a year and a half since my last Green book, with another year to go), that connection fades. The public spotlight shifts to newer books, and we authors must be content with memories and with hopes for the next book.

This is where the book club comes in. Like most authors, I love talking to book clubs. Invariably the women (they are almost universally women) say wonderful things about the book, and are wise enough to keep any nasty thoughts to themselves. They discuss the characters and plot twists with enthusiasm and insight, and allow the author to see the book through other eyes. They love books in general and eagerly compare and contrast with other books. Last night I had the honour of meeting a book club, and that evening surrounded by good food, drink, laughter, camaraderie and praise went a long way towards reminding me why I love to write. And why, despite all the naysayers, books will never die. It was just what my spirit needed at the dawn of spring.


Aline Templeton said...

Barbara, I heard of an author who was offered a derisory royalty by her publisher because 'authors don't write for money, they write because they have to.'

Barbara Fradkin said...

Ouch, Aline. I hope she threw the contract in their face and found a publisher who at least respected the author as the creative soul of their business.

Rick Blechta said...

Aline, that’s really just to horrible for words.

Rick Blechta said...

Umm, that should be "too horrible for words."

hannah Dennison said...

I love Book Clubs ... although I recall being put in the hot seat about my first book when I was focusing on my fourth and couldn't for the life of me remember the plot.