Book Club Tips: Successful Video Chats with Authors

Have you ever wished an author could join in on your book club meeting? Conversations with authors give readers the chance to learn about the writer’s inspiration and writing process, her surprises or challenges, how she crafted characters or researched the book’s time period, and so much more. And authors love interacting with book club members and hearing reactions to their work.

Book club members and authors shared tips on orchestrating successful video chats.
In advance:

Make sure everyone reads the book! Ask members to prepare questions ahead of time and submit them to a facilitator who edits and organizes them. Author Jillian Cantor suggests having approximately 5-7 questions on hand when the chat begins.

Make sure you have confirmed the correct date, time, and, time zone with the author.

Agree on a timeframe with the author; generally, 30-45 minutes works well. This should allow enough time for preparedness as well as spontaneous questions.

Ask if the author would like to start the conversation, or have the book club begin. Author Eugenia Kim starts with a 5-minute talk about how the book came about or a slide presentation that she says helps to open the discussion and generates questions.
Tech Check:
Set up and test the Internet connection and sound system before your meeting. Author Angie Kim suggests arranging a demo run with the author and the book club member whose computer will be used. Locate the computer monitor or screen so all members of the group can sit facing it. Ensure there is nothing distracting (an open window or a television) facing the screen, and no background noise. Set the microphone to the highest volume. Book club member Betsy Lasch advises using as large a screen as possible (either the computer or smart television) and testing to make sure the device has a high volume capacity. Finally, have a back-up plan in case the technology fails.
Appoint a facilitator:

Author Eugenia Kim appreciates when one member of the group moderates the discussion. The designated facilitator opens the chat with introductions and a short statement and offers the author a chance to make an opening remark. During the discussion, the facilitator cues members as they take turns posing questions to the author, summarizes points, clarifies questions, and keeps an eye on the time.

Sandwich the video chat:

Set aside time for discussion both before and after the video chat session. Author Jillian Cantor says she likes to wait to join in at least 30 minutes into the meeting so the members have time to settle in and discuss the book on their own. After video chatting, the group can debrief and wrap up.

After: Remember to send a thank you to the author!

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