As part of its continued Oprahfication, Deseret Book has started a book club. I have long thought that considering how small the market is, LDS publishers and booksellers should team up to provide enticements to book clubs — discounts, reading questions, extended author’s bio, sneak peaks at upcoming titles, background material (drawn from the research the author did in writing the book), etc. The chance to sell 8-10 copies of one title is not one that should be passed up.
Deseret Book’s book clubs are geared towards women and organized online. Participants receive 30% discounts off of each month’s title, free tickets to DB-sponsored events, and a “Discovery Guide” with reading questions and suggestions on what to write about in your journal. In the grand Mormon tradition of Nuskin and Amway, wannabe book club leaders who are able to gather together a full quorum of participants (8-25) receive additional incentives.
So far the three titles selected for the book club are devotional or inspirational nonfiction works. That’s disappointing. I hope that works of fiction are also included in the program — although considering the image DB is projecting for this venture, I doubt that will happen.
The Discovery Guides read suspiciously like the questions at the end of each lesson of the current Priesthood/Relief Society manuals (and other correlated materials). Does that really appeal to DB’s potential participants? Don’t they (they not we — I’m not including myself in this because, well, look at the Web sites I’ve linked to above) get enough self-improvement discourse on Sundays?
Obviously not, considering that devotional and self-help titles sell well in the LDS market. And to be fair, the Discovery Guides don’t seem that much different from what you find with Oprah or any of the other self-help gurus. This seems to be a discourse that resonates with middle-aged, middle class American women.
One thing that DB’s system doesn’t do is allow for those LDS book groups who prefer to choose their own selections and (so far) for those who prefer to throw some fiction into the mix.
This opens up some room for the other LDS publishers, I think — especially Covenant (but also Cedar Fort and others). Covenant should totally team up with Seagull Book and Tape and provide incentives to book groups. They could have a monthly selection, but they should also have incentives and free supplementary materials for all of the titles that are likely to sell well and make those (and the discounts) available to book clubs who come through with a minimum (DB’s starting point of 8 seems reasonable) number of orders. And while much of this could be online or e-mailed, it wouldn’t cost that much to offer print materials through bricks-and-mortar stores as well — i.e. individual bookstores could have special online access to materials and print them out for book club members.
ALSO: One more incentive that I’d offer to LDS book clubs — special notification of and the ability to submit questions for an online chat with the author.