Forming alliances with booksellers, these new clubs increase not only the sale of individual titles, but bring in a new readership for the newspapers as well.

It's not complicated at all. Clubs are springing up all over the country! Read on and find out how you can establish a club in your own community.


The Oregonian in downtown Portland launched the Oregonian Book Club in 1998. Both the Sacramento Bee and the Contra Costa Times in California started their programs in the spring of '97. Each is thriving.

Not surprisingly, publishers are watching closely. Everyone is looking for an alliance in the shifting scheme of new bookselling and newspaper circulation techniques of the new millennium.

Lynn Carey at the Contra Costa Times told PW that Harper Collins has credited the book clubs for helping to create bestsellers such as Rebecca Wells' Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood. "Readers are signing up in swarms. It's an exciting business," said Carey.

The Sacramento Bee, The Oregonian and Contra Costa Times receive calls from newspaper editors all around the country“editors with an eye for literature and business -- looking for models to form their own local book clubs. Why?


*Lynn Carey, features writer at the Contra Costa Times (with an outreach to 700,000 readers and over 35 participating bookstores), said the response has been amazing. "It definitely gets the paper more involved with the community, our readers, and with literature. We're reaching another audience -- and not least of all, it's lots of fun!"

*"Eight hundred people called in the first week," said Oregonian book critic Jeff Baker, whose paper works exclusively with the Oregon Independent Booksellers Association. "People around here are talking about it. They're enthusiastic."

*According to Jennifer Bojorquez, feature writer and creator of The SacramentoBee's club, its the love of sharing literature with people from diverse ethnic groups and backgrounds that has drawn the overwhelming response. "Thousands of readers participate. We're making it happen, and the paper is winning over new readers."


*It's good news for booksellers. With the newspapers' huge circulations, bookstores can make extraordinary gains. Most newspapers list the names of participating booksellers every few days. There are the Sunday features, the follow up listings. The word-of-mouth gets the store's name out. Sales increase immediately, and phenomenally. It's a community action, and participating stores get first rate publicity.

*Roberta Tichner, owner of Annie Bloom's Books in Portland and president of the Oregon Independent Book Association, sold 165 of Robert Clark's In The Deep Midwinter (Picador), the Oregonian Club's first author selection, within two weeks after the paper launched the regional author for its club. "That's our bestselling title in 20 years of business," said Tichner.

*Ellen Heltzel, TheOregonian's book editor (with a circulation of 350,000 daily, and 450,000 on Sundays) told PW, "The 25-30% discount offered by our local bookstores d sn't hurt in heightening the excitement either."

*With the huge reader base regional newspapers can reach, bookstores are clamoring to court such alliances. The Sacramento Bee started working with local and regional writers, such as Frances Mayes (Under the Tuscan Sun) and Rebecca Wells (Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood), but the club is now opening up to national authors. Bookstore sales are benefiting from the outreach and growth in each case.


1.) Each of the newspapers' editors has designed their club differently, but they share a common strategy. Every month an editor, or editorial board, chooses a book for its readers.

2.) The paper then contacts local stores to stock up on the title. In return, the stores offer a special discount on the title.

3.) The paper runs a feature on the author and the title, simultaneously coordinating publicity in local stores.

4) Club application forms are featured not only in the newspaper, but are also distributed by participating bookstores.

5) Readers are chosen to meet and discuss the book.

(At the Oregonian, the editors choose 8-10 readers for the club who they believe are congenial to the material. With Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni's Mistress of Spices (Doubleday), they had one Iranian immigrant, two Indian immigrants and a book lover who had traveled extensively with the diplomatic corp. "We get them through our own contacts as well as through solicitation for letters in the paper," said Heltzel.)

6.) In addition to online chat rooms and articles, some papers offer a dedicated phone line that readers can call to get a synopsis of the book.

7.) Club readers meet and discuss the book at a planned gathering during the month, sometimes in the bookstore, a restaurant, or the paper's headquarters.

8.) A Web site can be established where readers visit and leave comments on the book.

9) Edited transcripts of the club's discussion are published in the papers' book section at the end of the month. Author appearances are generally organized, both online and in person.

10) At the end of the month, authors often visit the area in person and give a reading. They're available for signings and Q/A sessions.

(The SacramentoBee's audience for the events quickly outgrew the 250 seating capacity at the paper's headquarters. Most readings are now held at the Crest Theater in downtown Sacramento, drawing audiences of up to 600. With a circulation of 300,000 the word gets around fast.)


Of course, it's not only about increasing the circulation of newspapers and selling books. It's a passion. It's a love of literature. Or, as Carey at the Contra Costa Times told PW, "No bestsellers unless we make it one."

"We're looking for books below the radar line," said the Oregonian's Heltzel. "We want to bring our regional authors home, and our readers to new books."

There's Oprah, of course. There are the talk shows. But with the book club trend growing, the featured authors for these emerging clubs won't stay below the radar for long. Not only do the newspapers, bookstores, and authors benefit from the trend -- so d s the community.

"We're creating communities, and we need them -- communities dedicated to the love and nurturing of literature," said Bojorquez. It's a sentiment heard often in Sacramento and the surrounding regions.


Contact Lynn Carey of The Contra Costa Times:



phone: 1-925-943-8112

Or, Jennifer Bojorquez at The Sacramento Bee:

phone: 1-916-321-1133

At The Oregonian you can contact:

Jeff Baker


Ellen Heltzel

phone: 503-221-8066