Pointers for Writing Book Discussion Questions

image by geralt
image by geralt

Before you write your discussion questions that appear at the end of your book, keep in mind the viewpoints of book clubs and of authors/publishers.

Book Club Viewpoint

 

image by Unsplash
image by Unsplash

Book clubs care about the following elements for discussion:

  • Readers’ expectations
  • Author’s presence (intrusion, world view, reason for writing book)
  • Enjoyment (how quickly engaged, recommendable)
  • Themes/messages (importance, relevance to reader)
  • Plot (credibility, predictability, page turner, formulaic, twists)
  • Characters (relatable, admirable, real, believable, likeable, memorable, how they change, how their pasts affect them, their new awareness/perspective)
  • Actions (plausible)
  • Setting (importance, as a character, representation of culture and era)
  • Symbols (metaphors, significance)
  • General feeling (amused, sad, disturbed, confused, bored)
  • Book structure (chronological, number of point of views, interlocking short stories, narrative devices, flashbacks)
  • Ending (as readers expected, readers’ satisfaction)
  • Comparisons to author’s other books

Author/Publisher Viewpoint

 

Authors draw from the book-club viewpoint. They’re interested in leading readers and book club members through engaging, meaningful discussions so readers will:

  • image by StartupStockPhotos
    image by StartupStockPhotos
    enjoy the story and characters again;
  • understand how characters changed and how this might help readers grow or have a new perspective;
  • find moments in which readers related to characters or situations; and
  • express their concerns, delights, thoughts, differences of opinion, and emotions.

Tips to Create a Discussion Question

 

1a.  State succinctly a story instance concerning a character, social issue, or event.

1b.  Ask readers how they understood the instance, how they would have reacted or done something differently, how their opinions changed when they learned more, and/or to give similar instances in their lives.

2.  Ask  readers to recall passages they found funny, touching, sad, or made them angry and to express why they felt that way.

Here are possibilities to use for 1. above:

Characters:

  • definitions of themselves
  • vulnerabilities or past hurts
  • methods to deal with their fears
  • choices
  • misjudgments of others
  • sacrifices, temptations, release or fulfillment of dreams
  • offer, acceptance, or rejection of forgiveness
  • growing or deteriorating relationships
  • accomplishments (something they can do at the end they couldn’t do at the beginning)
  • differences in two characters’ beliefs or in how they operate

Other:

  • Scriptures mentioned and how they relate to characters, events, or issues
  • Symbols and metaphors
  • Social causes characters support
  • Social issues addressed
  • Setting’s impact
image by Unsplash
image by Unsplash

Examples:

  • Marshal misjudges Darla’s motives for attending Carl and Cynthia’s wedding. When Marshal blasts Darla, she leaves town, devastated. If you were Darla, what would you have done? When have you misjudged someone else and what were the consequences?
  • Candice mistrusts Michael in his relationship with Samantha. And she’s suspicious of Leo trying to take her job. When was a time you struggled with trust issues? How did you work through them?
  • What did Stephen sacrifice for Marla? Why? What was the result? What is something you have sacrificed for someone? How did your sacrifice affect you and the recipient?
  • Which scenes made you laugh? Which made you emotional?

Tips to write discussion questions for novels. Click to tweet.

What type of discussion questions engage you?

Write Book Endorsements That Help Authors and You

image by ClkerFreeVectorImages
image by ClkerFreeVectorImages

 

Well-written, honest endorsements are a win-win for the book’s author and the endorser.

Win-Win

The Author:

Readers like endorsements because they feel more confident about buying a book when other industry people recommend it, especially those whose work they respect.

Endorsements can increase book sales.

The Endorser:

Even if endorsers are unknown, readers associate them with having expertise in the book’s field or genre and may investigate their books.

Everything displaying the endorsement advertises the endorser’s work.

Where Endorsements Are Used

  • image by OpenClipartVectors
    image by OpenClipartVectors
    Marketing materials – bookmarks, flyers, press releases
  • Book’s back cover/first pages
  • Book’s page on author and publisher websites
  • Emailed book announcements

Writing the Endorsement

  1. Study endorsements on other books. Note the:
  • length
  • structure
  • type of words used
  1. Endorsement length
  • One to two sentences
  • 50 – 200 words

℘ “Beth Vogt hits a home run with her debut novel, Wish You Were Here. Quirky, snappy, and sweet, it’s a story of finding true love that will leave you sighing and smiling.” — Rachel Hauck, bestselling and award-winning author of The Wedding Dress

 

image by OpenIcons
image by OpenIcons

3.  Endorsement content

  • Open with a hook – a sentence or a fragment.
  • ℘ For A Voice in the Wind by Francine Rivers:

“A classic! Francine Rivers has proven that she is one of the great writers of the 20th century.” BARBARA KEENAN, publisher, Affaire de Coeur magazine

  • Use colorful, powerful words describing the book’s essence.
  • Include something that provokes curiosity.
  • End with a stamp of approval.

℘ For Calculated Risk by Zoe M. McCarthy:

“Dating on the rebound, meddling parents, opposites fighting the attraction . . . with humor and tenderness, Zoe M. McCarthy puts fun, fresh spins on these favorite themes. No risk involved in picking up this romantic read!”—Becky Melby, author of the Lost Sanctuary Series

  1. image by OpenClipartVectors
    image by OpenClipartVectors
    Option: Personalize Endorsement
  • Include elements that resonated with you.
  • List your reactions; choose the most persuading few.
  • Promote the book in relation to your work.

 

 

℘ For Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King:

“Even after having 31 books published … I was able to learn something new about dialogue mechanics from Browne and King. For any author yet to be published, Self-Editing for Fiction Writers is priceless.” – Ovid Demaris, author of The Last Mafioso

  1. Information About You
  • Name and title exactly as you want it to appear

℘ Author Zoe M. McCarthy

  • Current book or series titles – maybe two, but remember you’re spotlighting the author’s book, not yours.
  • Awards, affiliations, offices held

℘ For The Road to Testament by Eva Marie Everson:

“An emotionally evocative novel so well written that we see, touch, taste, and hear the story.” —Gina Holmes, award-winning author of Crossing Oceans and Wings of Glass

Interaction with Author

  • Up front, ask the author about length or possible focus.
  • After completing your endorsement, send it to the author to preview.

℘ Another author and I share the same name. Including my middle initial is important to me. But sometimes it’s left out, even when I provide the content.

How to write a book endorsement that helps an author and you. Click to tweet.

As a reader, what element in a book endorsement helps you?

5 Tips to Diagnose Your Website for Problems That Confuse Visitors

“In an endless jungle of websites with text-based content, a beautiful image with a lot of space and colour can be like walking into a clearing. It’s a relief.” —David McCandless (data-journalist, and information designer)

image by bykst
image by bykst

I think watching what your website visitors do is important.

Tip 1: Make sure your visitors take the action they think they’re performing.

I learned that a visitor had come to my blog and thought she’d subscribed to Follow my Blog Via Email. She had subscribed to my newsletter.

news-634805_1280
image by geralt

About that time, I found out I wouldn’t be able to announce my blog on an email loop. I invited those on the loop to subscribe to my email notifications. Immediately, someone signed up for my newsletter. An aha moment. My Newsletter sign-up was at the top of my blog sidebar. I immediately moved the Follow my Blog Via Email to the top of the sidebar.

Why was this important? After all, I’d acquired subscribers to my newsletter. But suppose they didn’t want another newsletter coming into their inboxes. Not realizing they had signed up for my newsletter, they may mark my Newsletter emails as spam.

Tip 2: Remove events promptly when events you’ve announced on your website have passed.

I have a countdown calendar I use for events. Letting it sit with zeros from the last event, suggests I’ve neglected it. On my calendar on the day after the event, I need to schedule time to change it to my next event. If I don’t have an event coming up, I can set it for the next conference or workshop I plan to attend.

image by Body-in-Care
image by Body-in-Care

The same goes for my Speaking/Events page. Leaving these events on the page for a week past the event date to show what I’ve been doing is probably fine, but after that, my events are old news and my page looks neglected.

Tip 3: Refresh information.

My Home page had a prominent announcement that advertised the availability of my novel, Calculated Risk. It said, “Available November 2014.” The same announcement resided on the page’s sidebar, my Book page, and my Blog sidebar. My husband suggested I change it. As November 2015 approaches, some visitors may see only “November” and think Calculated Risk isn’t available yet.

Tip 4: Try updating, moving, or adding content on your sales page.

On my Books page, I think my endorsements by other authors may speak to readers better than other content. Yet, I wondered how often visitors read to the end of the page where the endorsements for Calculated Risk lie. So, I moved one to the top.

Also, on my For Readers page, the fun book trailer resided after the content, which is a repeat of my Books page content. I moved the trailer to the top for visitors to enjoy.

Tip 5: Cut clutter from your pages.

image by Biedermann
image by Biedermann

Busyness tends to overwhelm visitors. I keep my pages simple and to the point, with plenty of white space. However, after reading today’s quote above, I added a picture to my Book Club and Speaking/Events pages.

5 Tips to stop confusing your website visitors. Click to tweet.

What adjustments have you made to your website that made your content clearer?