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?

Book Promotion Overwhelming? Pick the Plums Touching Your Nose

“Your big opportunity may be right where you are now.” —Napoleon Hill

 

Image courtesy of adamr at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of adamr at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Many of us authors dread marketing our books. It’s difficult, time-consuming, and often we’re unsure it works.

The least we can do is open our weary marketing eyes and grab the promotional opportunities directly in front of us. Those ripe plums.

Opportunity Plums

 

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

1.  Fans

When someone tells you they enjoyed your book and why, say thank you and ask them to post a review on various sites. Most, because they enjoyed your work, will leave at least one review. Make it easy for them. Say all they need to write is what they told you about your story. Email them links to the spots to write reviews on online bookstores and reader sites.

2.  “Persons of Influence”

Here are examples of my plums. Notice, in none of these did I seek the plum. Those plums appeared because I worked on friendships or put myself out in the reader world.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

•  A friend in my church invited me to her book club. I thought joining a book club too time consuming, but I accepted her invitation. I learned she wanted me to visit once to introduce me to the local bookstore owner who attended the book club. The owner offered to set up an event for Calculated Risk at her store.

•  I posted about the two women who were the only ones to attend my first local library event. They were involved in eight library book clubs. They suggested I come back. I asked if they’d promote to their clubs a second event. They assured me they would.

•  A few friends asked me to let them know if I ever did a book signing in my former city. I knew I should arrange an event there at a library, a bookstore, or my former church. It seemed overwhelming. Then a librarian friend from my former church emailed me. She wanted to buy a copy of Calculated Risk for the church library. A plum. Who better to help me arrange an event in that city? I asked, and she graciously agreed to help. 

•  A popular author and I have the same agent. Though time-consuming, I’m active in our agent’s email group for her authors. When I announced my contract for Calculated Risk to the group, this popular author emailed me and offered to interview me on her high-traffic blog.

by joncutrer
by joncutrer

3.  Conference Centers 

Many have bookstores connected to them. You pay the fees and do the work to travel to and attend conferences at these centers. Why not ask their bookstores to carry your book. The bookstore rep I called yesterday said they usually carry a few of attendee authors’ books if they asked. And since I’d asked, she’d carry mine.

 

Pluck the promotional plums hanging in front of your nose. Click to tweet.

 So, keep active in writer and reader groups, put yourself into the reader world starting with small events, and be alert to the plums that drop in front of your nose.

 Which promotional plums directly in front of you did you pluck?

Your Author Event Was NOT a Failure

“One fails forward toward success.” — Charles F. Kettering

Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I share the story of my meet-the-author library event for one purpose:

Don’t bemoan the poor response to your author event; look for the hidden successes. Click to tweet.

Act 1 – The Setup

 

I called a library. The event coordinator detailed impressive ways she promoted author events. She said the library was dedicated to helping authors. According to her suggestion, we set up a weekday date from 11AM to 1PM.

Image courtesy of zirconicusso at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of zirconicusso at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Later, I delivered my press release content and book cover poster, which the coordinator displayed at the entrance. It would greet patrons for a month.

We checked whether my MacBook Air would work with their projector. Too iffy. I’d bring my large-screen desktop.

 

The head librarian said 4 to 12 attended these events. No surprise to me.

Act 2 – The Preparation

 

I wanted to add activities different from the normal ones. Of course, I’d wear my Cisney costume from Calculated Risk’s cover with yellow stickies dotting my suit.

Calculated Risk by Zoe M. McCarthy

Cisney3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I prepared and timed activities to fit a 90-minute period, leaving time to settle in and chat. Here’s the schedule titles:

1.  Doughnuts. Bring enough for participants and library staff.

Image courtesy of digitalart at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of digitalart at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

2.  Writing journey with a twist: A String of Nevers. Perform my journey using catchy titles for each journey stage. Raise a NEVER sign each time I utter “never.”

3.  Story behind the story. Keep it to a few entertaining stories.

4.  Story tidbits. Tell about 12 story-related items from my story basket. End each blurb with an intriguing story question.

5.  Scene 1. Give a dramatic reading.

6.  Book Trailers. Ask for feedback on Calculated Risk’s two trailers.

7.  Q & A

8.  Bird of Paradise Napkin. Invite participants to fold a book-related napkin fold.

9.  Drawing. Give away a copy of Calculated Risk.

Act 3 – The Live Event

 

Sometimes, discussed promotion fails to happen. Such was true for this event. But I set up everything and was ready.

Image courtesy of Daniel St.Pierre at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Daniel St.Pierre at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

By 11:00, no one had arrived.

At 11:15, I enjoyed a doughnut, telling God everything was fine, I trusted him no matter what.

At 11:25, I told the mortified-for-me coordinator we’d try again in the spring. I packed up.

A woman came in: “I hear you’ve packed up and will return in the spring.” We chatted. Another woman arrived disappointed I was leaving. So we went on with the show.

 

Successful Reviews

 

1.  For trusting God and refusing to lay blame for no attendees, God blessed me with two women.

2.  The two ladies are active in eight library book clubs. They told me to come back, and they’d promote the event using their connections. They recommended a bookstore where local authors do well in book signings. And they both bought a book.

3.  I’ll use my preparation for this event for future ones. Rehearsing to two women is far better than to my mirror. I’ll tweak my presentation, and I’ll be ready for the next event.

4.  The head librarian recommended the same bookstore the women did and supplied names of contacts.

5.  I had fun.

What blessings have you received from an author event?