Marketing: Deseret Book’s book club

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.

9 thoughts on “Marketing: Deseret Book’s book club”

  1. Great post, WM. The idea strikes me that if publishers or booksellers are willing to grant substantial discounts for a group as small as 8-10 that a Bloggernacle entrepreneur could assemble their own group and do it online. Maybe Clark with his book clubbish ideas for the RPT Blog Club would be interested in this (although his interests, too, run to non-fiction).

  2. can’t say that i like this. do you have any idea how much they ‘charge’ if you want to get your work included in their ‘club’ newsletter/catalogue? Eeek!

    -lyle

  3. Lyle:

    Charging authors to participate is not an issue for the Deseret Book book clubs — all the selections they choose are titles that they publish. It’s one of the advantages of being both a bookseller and a publisher.

    For the other publishers and booksellers: I don’t know because as far as I know none of them support book clubs. Obviously a publisher-supported book club would only feature titles that the company publishes. It gains nothing by including other company’s titles.

    The wild card in the Mormon market is Seagull Book and Tape. They could put together a book club that includes titles from different publishers. But I don’t know why they’d charge authors to include their work in the club — it’s in the bookstore’s interest to sell copies of the book — that’s where they’ll make the money, not by charging authors and publishers.

    Dave (and by extension Clark):
    If Clark has a particular title in mind and he can drum up enough solid commitments to buy the title, I’d be happy to contact the publisher and see if we can cut a deal.

  4. Hmmm… it’s been quite awhile since I even stepped into a Deseret Book. Any chance they’ll have one of thoes 9 DVDs for 1 cent apiece deals? 🙂 As a joke, I want to get “Cipher In the Snow” for my sister. Every time my sister sees someone acting like a martyr she’ll say: “Look, there’s our little cipher in the snow!”

  5. I’d love to do a book – either fiction or non-fiction. While my book budget is pretty small to non-existent, I’d certainly pick up a book. Of course I’d love to go through with a group a discussion of Blake Oster’s book. I may start doing that anyway. I consider it a must read for Mormon theology.

  6. Clark:

    I’d be interested in taking part in that conversation. I haven’t read any contemporary Mormon theology outside of Nibley. I too have a non-existent book budget — but unless there are a ton of lurkers out there who speak up I doubt that we have the requisite numbers to make a reasonable offer.

    So — why don’t you let us know the timing you’re looking at. A few weeks from now would be better — that way I’ll be able to hit up inter-library loan.

    I won’t know until I read it if I want to work discussion of it it into this site, but at the very least, I’ll post comments on Mormon Metaphysics and any other bloggernacle blog that chooses to discuss Ostler.

  7. william (my first name, btw),

    my bad. however, DB does have some type of club ‘guide’/magazine that advertises books from other publishers. i know…i signed up for their card…and now i get a magazine every month with stuff from all sorts of publishers.

    -lyle

  8. Wm,

    You have some interesting insights. Here’s one problem: Deseret Book owns most of the LDS book retailers (including Seagull Book). I’m getting to launch LDSBookstore.com and would love to get some insights from you on how to run a book club. Email me if you’re interested.

  9. Kent Larsen has extensively documented the LDS retailer ecosystem here at AMV, Brandon. You might check his work out. In terms of insights — I don’t really have any. And in order for me to get some, I’d have to do some serious market research. And then that means that I’d be doing consulting work for you. And I charge for that because my day job, church calling and other projects have gotten to the point where, sadly, I can no longer offer free marketing advice to folks in the LDS/Mormon sphere (like I used to).

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