Announcing The Listener Book Club - in association with Booksellers NZ

Everyone wants to join a book club – so Booksellers NZ and the New Zealand Listener have created one. The Listener Book Club will have an in-store, in-print and online outreach all in one package. It launches on Friday, 2 March.

“Begin a book club” was on the to-do list when Megan Dunn began as Projects Manager for Booksellers New Zealand in mid-2011. “We had support from Creative New Zealand to create a book club platform on a national scale that would increase conversation and engagement about New Zealand and international books,” she explains.

Megan approached Listener Arts & Books Editor Guy Somerset (pictured right) late last year as a possible partner for the venture, and discovered he had been gathering ideas for the magazine’s own book club using its website.

Now Megan and Guy, Booksellers NZ and The Listener are ready to announce the multifaceted Listener Book Club.

Think, talk, tweet!
Working on a four-week cycle, one book each month will be discussed in a variety of ways: the Listener will kick off with a lively interview in the magazine and online with the author of the selected book.

IMAGE: One of four Listener Book Club bookmarks.

In week two, a podcast of three booksellers talking about the book hosted by either Guy or Megan will be available online. The podcast material will live on The Listener website, but Booksellers’ site will carry links.

Carole Beu, David Hedley and Kiran Dass (Unity Wellington) are lined up for the first discussion.

That’s followed (week three) by online written conversation and commentary from a real book club.

The last week sees a reviewer’s take on the book, both in the magazine and online, plus reader comment and reaction on Twitter, other social media and the Listener Book Club webpage, hosted by The Listener with Booksellers New Zealand input. It’s a chance for readers to have a say!

Also in week four, the cycle begins again, with the announcement to the public of the next book club title... and the author interview the following week starts week one of the next month’s activity.

Our book club has one big difference.

Unlike similar book clubs run by newspapers overseas, which feed sales of the book club choice to their own linked e-buying set-ups, the whole emphasis of the Listener Book Club is to encourage people to buy the book selection from their local bookstore.

Stores will be advised a month in advance of each upcoming Listener Book Club title, in time to order extra stock if needed.

With the kudos of The Listener involved – clearly the best book review coverage in this country – the book club concept should have a positive effect on retail sales. Think about it – you can convert casual buyers to frequent buyers, offer them your promotions, send them your store’s list of recommended recent releases and more.

Listener Book Club first book selection
Kicking off The Listener Book Club is a title with wide appeal, Before I Go to Sleep by SJ Watson (Text Publishing, ISBN 9781921758980). Not only is it an intriguing read with tension as an amnesiac woman tries to remember her past, but the price point is an irresistible $19.95.

As Megan points out, The Listener Book Club is all about adding value, and it is intended there will be no discounting on promoted titles.

The Listener’s Guy Somerset is the other 50 percent of the creative team, and for him this sort of project is a long-held ambition. “I’ve always wanted to run a book club in the magazine, and last year The Listener’s revamped website with interactive features meant it was possible.

“Megan had laid the ground work and I was keen to build on that. The Listener has a long tradition of talking about books and this just takes it to an extended audience.”

Guy says the first book choice is “A classy literary thriller about identity and what it means to be human. It is something people can get their teeth into with issues that will provoke discussion.”

“Please read the books,” he says in his launch for the book club in the upcoming issue.

“Join in the conversation on our website and Twitter [@nzlbookclub] and keep an eye out for the hashtag #nzlbookclub. Our mission is to always choose books that will give you plenty to think and talk about.” There is also a Facebook page: New Zealand Listener Book Club.

So The Listener is handling the editorial and Booksellers will concentrate on marketing.

As Paper Plus group and Whitcoulls did not take the opportunity to link themselves to The Listener Book Club, this is an opportunity for independents to increase market share on promoted titles. However, it will be easy for the public to buy the chosen titles from those groups’ book stores and to participate in activities.

Retro-feel marketing: FREE for Booksellers NZ members
Megan wanted a slightly nostalgic look for the point of sale campaign, and support from Creative New Zealand meant great branding could be created for The Listener Book Club.

The designers she contracted delivered eye-catching sketches that really live up to the brief.

Two striking A2 posters, four themed designs of bookmarks and book toppers should stand out nicely from other in-store merchandising, giving The Listener Book Club choice real presence in stores.

Win a $100 morning tea for your store - by creating a great display. Read details.

Listener selection will suit indies
The Listener’s Guy Somerset will choose Listener Book Club titles in consultation with Booksellers’ Megan Dunn.

Says Megan: “The title selection will be made to suit The Listener’s demographic. I believe this will fit well with the book buyers who are independent book store customers.”

Who knows, in time Guy Somerset and Megan Dunn may become the ‘Richard and Judy’ of New Zealand bookselling, with the ability to make bestsellers in the local book market. Meanwhile, they are to be congratulated for bringing a great idea to a reality in a short timespan.

PS: Megan is prepared to reveal the choice for April: it is Look at Me (Corsair, ISBN 9781780330990). The title is a recently reissued backlist novel from author Jennifer Egan, whose name you will know from the Pulitzer Prize-winning A Visit from the Goon Squad.

Written by Jillian Ewart, writer for The Read.