Guest post written by Valerie Biel
It all started in a bar . . .
Sounds like the beginning of a bad joke or a dubious romantic comedy, right?
More than four years ago, a few readers were gathered at a brew pub in Columbus, Wisconsin, discussing how they wanted to start a book club. But—they wanted it to be a different kind of book club. They wanted to talk with the authors of the books they read. But this isn’t how book clubs typically work. So the question was posed:
Did they know any authors?
This is when all heads pivoted to me. I was the only author they knew personally. So on April 28, 2015 I was the inaugural guest author at Books & Beer Columbus where the group read my first book Circle of Nine: Beltany. I became the coordinator of the group because as an author I already knew other writers and frequently meet them at writing conferences and book festivals.
At first, we weren’t sure if we’d garner enough interest from authors to keep going for more than a few months but that hasn’t proved to be the case. Nearly every month since April of 2015, a guest author has joined us for a discussion of their book. Some authors have returned more than once.
Now, we have authors coming to us to submit their book for consideration. Authors tell us it is such a unique night for them—to be able to discuss their book with people who have already read it. When you think about it, most events are scheduled to help sell the author’s books and even if a reader is a fan of the author’s previous work, most likely, they haven’t had a chance to read the current book. So all of us—authors and readers—have enjoyed the discussions about specific things like plot and character, but also broader discussions on where their ideas come from and how they began writing.
How does it work?
An interested author submits their book to us and one of our founding members reads it. If they like it, they present it to the group for a vote. (Or if one of our group reads a great book by an author that we hope might be interested in joining us, we also ask the group to vote.)
If there are enough interested votes, the coordinator of our group (me) reaches out to the author for scheduling. (We meet one Thursday per month from 7 – 8 pm.)
We list all of our events on our Facebook page: Books & Beer Columbus
We also promote the event in our local newspaper and place posters around town.
We make sure to have the books available one month in advance so our members have time to read. Each author sells quite a few books and often copies of their other titles if they have some on the night of their visit.
Our discussion is casual and fun with members asking questions of the author. There are usually no formal presentations.
Our members are encouraged to review each book after the author’s visit as a thank you.
Books & Beer by the Numbers:
1 – Author with a TV show based on one of his books: Jim Campbell (The Final Frontiersman inspired the TV series The Last Alaskans.)
1 – Author with books optioned for the screen: Sara Dahmen.
1 – Author who is also a well-known stage actor: Jim DeVita
1 – Author who has been featured three times: Silvia Acevedo
3 – Locations where we’ve met. We started at Hydro Street Brewing, moved on to the Black Kettle, and now are lucky to have a private room at the lovely Cercis Brewing Company. (What’s funny is these locations are all on the same block in Columbus, WI.)
3 – States authors have visited from: Wisconsin, Illinois, and Minnesota.
15+ - Genres read: memoir, young adult, literary fiction, fantasy, women’s fiction, time travel, science fiction, romance, paranormal suspense, mystery, Biblical fiction, murder mystery, nonfiction, historical fiction, contemporary fiction, and more.
30 – Attendees, our highest number at any Books & Beer gathering to date.
45 – Total number of visiting authors as of October 2019, including Amanda Zieba, the host of this blog post today!
Unknown – Amount of beer and other beverages consumed by attendees.
In a category all by itself: The best response ever received from an author when asked if they’d like to be a featured guest was “Beer? I’m in.”
So our little experiment has turned out great! We’re still going strong and happily there’s no end in sight. At the moment there are four authors already scheduled for 2020 and another seven have submitted their books for consideration. Time to get reading!
In addition to being the coordinator of Books and Beer in Columbus, Valerie Biel is an award-winning author, publicity professional, and a highly-rated educator on writing, publishing, and book promotion topics. Books in her Celtic mythology inspired Circle of Nine Series have been finalists for the Kindle Book Award, Gotham Writers’ YA Discovery Award, the Readers’ Favorite Book Award, and shortlisted for the Eric Hoffer Book Award Grand Prize as well as being B.R.A.G. Medallion Honorees. Valerie provides a variety of promotional, editorial services, and online courses to authors through her company Lost Lake Press. Her blog “The Three Rs: Reading, wRiting, and Roaming” was named one of the top 50 writing blogs of 2018 by the UK Writers Hub. You can follow her writing adventures at the links below at: www.ValerieBiel.com/blog.
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