Traditional Publishing

Books club sales in North America – increasing the odds

By Denise Hamilton
Ink Tree Ltd – Monday August 23, 2004

What is a book club sale? It is actually a rights sale or a licensing agreement: you are granting permission to a book club the right to "borrow" your work. You have written a book, and now you are allowing a book club to print and distribute your book to its members.

You allow the book club to reprint your book in a specific language, in a specific format, for a specific period of time, in a specific geographic territory, to a specific group of people. You ensure in your contract that you maintain ownership of the copyright and of all other intellectual property rights, such as electronic, movie, other languages and territories, and serial rights – to name a few. Always seek good legal advice before signing a contract.

There are many book clubs, but most of the major clubs fall under the bookspan umbrella ( To find other book clubs that are appropriate for your book, do an internet search: on your browser, type in +(your book genre, e.g. cooking)+book+club.

The chances of having your book selected by a book club are roughly one in ten, which is really quite good. Imagine if your chance at winning the lottery was that great! It is important to know that book clubs are always looking for new ideas to entice their members, so if your book is well written and edited, has plans for professional graphic design, anddemonstrates a unique slant on your topic, your chances of being selected rise considerably.

  • Tip #1 for increasing the odds: In saying that, it is important for you to know that the earlier you submit your book, the better.
  • Tip #2 for increasing the odds: Book clubs are much happier receiving a typed manuscript six to twelve months in advance of your publication date than receiving a bound galley or finished book close to the publication date. A book club likes to introduce your book to its members near your publication date in order to take advantage of the reviews and publicity that you will be generating when your book is launched. The bigger the media splash you make, the better everyone's sales will be.
  • Tip #3 for increasing the odds: There are many categories of book clubs, so be sure to submit your title only to the appropriate clubs. Do not send your book to every book club that you can find. Each club's membership has specific interests so be sure to submit your book only to clubs that might buy – you will again increase your chance of being selected.
  • Tip #4 for increasing the odds: For instance, if you have a humour book, it's unlikely to be of any interest to a cooking club or to a mathematics club. If your book is regional, it will not likely appeal to a general interest book club, so submit that regional title to suitable specialty clubs.

There are rules to follow when submitting your book to the book clubs, so following them carefully should avoid unnecessary rejections.

  • Tip #5 for increasing the odds: Follow the rules:
    • 1. Send your manuscript to the Editorial department at the appropriate club(s).
    • 2. Include a cover letter that details the following information:
      • summary of the book contents;
      • description of the book (size, binding, hard/soft cover, black & white or colour);
      • expected selling price;
      • number of pages;
      • number and type of photographs and/or illustrations (indicate if black & white or colour);
      • notation if the book will be part of a series;
      • which volume the book is in an existing series and a sales history of the series;
      • intended publication date; and
      • plans for publicity and promotion, and your intended budget.
    • 3. Include a brief author biography written in the third person. Be sure to talk about any previous books published and their sales histories.
    • 4. Send photocopies of some of the illustrations and photographs. Do not send original copies – they will not be returned to you.
    • 5. Don't forget your contact information and website if you have one.

Unfortunately, you cannot contact book clubs to follow up on your submission. It's a case of "Don't call us. We'll call you". Book clubs
receive too many submissions to allow follow up calls or letters. If they are interested, they will call you, usually within two to six months.

Do you think that a book club sale is worth pursuing? Absolutely! For very little effort you can achieve the sale of thousands of copies of your book. You will likely be paid a minimum sum per copy, but you will also not have any production costs, and a small sum multiplied by thousands can equate to a very nice cheque. Your only effort will be to sign a contract, provide your book on disk and collect that cheque – and just think of the free publicity! Thousands of book club members will read about your book. You can't buy that kind of publicity!

Article courtesy of Ink Tree Ltd.
Phone: 1-403-295-3898
Fax: 1-403-730-3492

Copyright 2004 Ink Tree Ltd.