Marketing Meetup Recap: Marketing the Well-Read Black Girl Book Club [4]

The latest Marketing Meetup hosted by the American Booksellers Association covered the different ways participating bookstores can market the Well-Read Back Girl Book Club.

BookWeb.org now features a page under the Events tab [6] with a listing of all past and upcoming Marketing Meetups, along with the Meetup recaps previously published in BTW. ABA’s Marketing Meetups are part of the organization’s aim of delivering educational opportunities to member bookstores; visit BookWeb’s Education Resources section [7] for even more educational content.

The May 9 Marketing Meetup, hosted by ABA on Zoom.us [8], was titled “Marketing the Well-Read Black Girl Book Club,” and featured guest speakers Glory Edim, founder of Well-Read Black Girl (WRBG) [9]; Kimberly Jones of Little Shop of Stories [10] in Decatur, Georgia; Tameka Blackshir of Book Soup [11] in Los Angeles, California; and Deidre Dumpson of WORD Bookstores [12] in Brooklyn, New York, and Jersey City, New Jersey.

Edim began by giving booksellers in attendance an overview of the book club and its community guidelines. Independent bookstores are safe spaces and community anchors, Edim said, and “the primary goal [of the book club] is to have it be welcoming and inclusive. It is Well-Read Black Girl and it will always be Well-Read Black Girl, but the goal is to really expand the diversity of books that we’re reading and amplify the work that I’ve done in the past.”

While there is a list of books for community leaders to choose from, Edim said, they also have the authority to curate their own lists and choose the selections that best suit their group. “We’re just giving people a framework to build off of and community guidelines that have worked for me,” she added. “You know your community best, I’m simply a way to help build that community and serve as an example.”

The community guidelines, she said, are:

  1. Success depends on participation — collectively we should share ideas, ask questions, and engage others in conversation.
  2. Respectfully listen and hold space for others.
  3. Listen to understand, share your unique perspective, and speak honestly.
  4. Be positive, nonjudgmental, and open to new ideas.
  5. Critique ideas, not people. Remember to practice non-defensiveness during the discussion.
  6. Respect each other’s thinking and value their contributions. Everything happens through courageous conversations.

“When it comes to marketing the book club, you are in essence marketing these guidelines and this community feel,” Edim said. “You are marketing the community. I imagine bookstores already have their mission statements, and this is another way to increase your mission, one that says that this is a welcoming, inclusive, diverse space that is reading books by diverse authors whether they are women of color, black women, black men, Native Americans, Latinx. You are just reminding your audience that you have an outlet for people to feel welcomed, and are bringing new audiences into your space, too.”

Social media is WRBG’s primary form of marketing, Edim added, so this is a great opportunity for bookstores to grow or bolster their social media following. Beginning this summer, WRBG will also be promoting a new bookstore and community leader each day.

Jones shared that Little Shop of Stories held their first WRBG Book Club meeting back in April,  which was centered on Lauren Wilkinson’s The American Spy (Random House). To market the meeting, the store primarily used social media, Jones said. She told booksellers that she created a Facebook group for the book club to have a “saturated space to put the information,” a Facebook event page, and she also posted the information in other Facebook groups where she thought the members might be interested. Additionally, she posted on Twitter and Instagram, and spread the information in person by word of mouth.

“We got a lot of really good information,” Jones said, “A lot of people [also] came to us from the ABA map [13].”

Jones added that many people — nearly two dozen — asked what the age group for the book club was because they wanted to know if it was an appropriate space to bring teen readers, and also asked if they could bring younger girls. For July, she plans to run a Mommy and Me-type book club where women can bring their teenage daughters to have a discussion about young adult titles such as Tomi Adeyemi’s Children of Blood and Bone.

Blackshir shared that Book Soup also hosted an initial meeting to gauge interest for the WRBG Book Club, where potential members were able to meet one another in person. “One thing that I’m trying to work on at Book Soup is increasing diversity because it’s a very concentrated neighborhood in West Hollywood,” said Blackshir. “We tend to get a lot of industry types, so film and music. It’s not a very diverse group that we get in the store.”

She marketed this event through all of Book Soup’s social media channels and the store’s newsletter. Additionally, she told booksellers in attendance that she used “her own ecosystem” by encouraging her friends and family to spread the word. She also reached out to Black Book LA [14] to have the information posted in its newsletter, which reaches 25,000 millennials in Los Angeles, California. Many attendees ended up hearing about the event through Black Book LA, Jones said.

“At the meeting,” Blackshir said, “we all talked about how we first heard about Well-Read Black Girl, and we talked about the book itself [15] because some of us have already read it. I expressed how it inspired me to look into the stories that I read over my childhood where I first saw my reflection. That was one of the things we talked about at length.”

Blackshir also said that she appreciates that the WRBG reading list can be curated. “We have a lot of fiction readers, but we also have a lot of nonfiction, current event, and essay readers, [and] I come from a big science fiction and young adult love of reading. So, this will really help me personally, and also because I didn’t get a chance growing up to read a lot of Audre Lorde or bell hooks, so this is really opening us all up and we’ll have a nice balance.”

Dumpson shared WORD Bookstores’ excitement about hosting its first WRBG Book Club meeting at the end of May, where the group will be discussing Octavia Butler’s Kindred.

“I’ve been obssessed with Well-Read Black Girl since forever,” Dumpson said, “so when we found out there was going to be an opportunity to host our own meetups, I immediately said yes. I didn’t care how much work it was going to take. I was ready for it.”

In terms of WORD’s marketing strategies, Dumpson said that the information is posted on the stores’ websites. It will also be shared in the WORD’s newsletter, in addition to a dedicated Facebook group. Dumpson also shares the information through word of mouth in-store and with her friends, and she noted the importance of getting other staff members excited about the book club as well.

“I want that energy to be felt all throughout WORD about us hosting this book club,” Dumpson said. “A huge part of this is clearly making a statement to our community that we want to hold books by women of color, we want to talk about books by women of color, but also, importantly, we want readers of writers of color to feel welcome here and feel like their important is important to what we’re carrying in the store.

She added that WORD Bookstores will be hosting meetups at both its Jersey City and Brooklyn locations; Dumpson will be leading the Brooklyn book club, and a member of the local community will be leading the Jersey City club.

The Jersey City community leader, Dumpson added, was the one to suggest choosing Kindred as the book club’s first selection. “She already had an extensive list of books that she wanted to share with the group, and Kindred was on the list,” Dumpson said. “I decided we should do it [too] because Kindred is a book I felt spanned across generations, not only in the text, but also in the community of readers it could reach.”

“We wanted to make sure from the beginning it was clear we wanted to read the past and the present and get through as many diverse writers as we could,” Dumpson said. “So, I’m really hoping that this group can grow and kind of bleed out into the overall company as a whole and make us all be more aware of how we can be more present and showing up and supporting diverse stories.”

“Our marketing is really trying to share that with our communities, and making sure people know this is why we’re doing this. That’s really important to us, making sure our community knows why we’re doing what we’re doing and hoping it grows from there,” she added. “I’m just really excited we get to do it in the first place.”

Participating booksellers looking for more information on how to host their first Well-Read Black Girl Book Club meeting can take a look at the first chapter from Edim’s Well-Read Black Girl Ambassador Orientation and Book Club Starter Guide [16]. Booksellers can watch last week’s Marketing Meetup here [17].

Booksellers can also find links to the digital assets ABA is providing here [18], along with the list of suggested titles for upcoming book club events. Booksellers who are interested in joining the Facebook group for Well-Read Black Girl can request to be added [19].

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