The 2020 Quarantine Book Club formed just two weeks ago, but it’s already marshaled 1,000 member to read the work of debut authors.
One might think reading would skyrocket during a quarantine like the one the United States is facing. That all reading would rise and, as consequence, it would increase the number of readers for debut authors. A “rising tide lifts all boats” kind of situation.
But think of the situation from a debut author’s standpoint. You were getting ready to go on a book tour. That means lots of book stores. You know, those “non-essential” businesses that sell books. Shaking hands. Standing closer than six feet apart.
Debut Authors Need Help
Debut authors are suffering right now due to a massive lack of publicity opportunities.
Plus, Amazon is not placing a priority on shipping books, which means long wait times for delivery that may turn off some readers.
For any author, readers are their life blood. But for a new author–a debut author–readers are essential to launching their career. A first book with poor sales can ensure you never publish a second book. That’s the nightmare many debut authors are facing right now.
That’s where the 2020 Quarantine Book Club comes in. Founded by author Pamela Skjolsvik, the two-week old Facebook group currently sits at just under 1,000 members.
About Pamela Skjolsvik
Pamela Skjolsvik has been published in Creative Nonfiction, Witness, Ten Spurs, The Moment, The Dallas Morning News’ Death Penalty Blog, Writer’s Digest and in the book Silence Kills: Speaking Out and Saving Lives.
Death Becomes Us, which began as her MFA thesis at Goucher College, won second place at The Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference in Grapevine, TX and was an honorable mention in the 24th Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards.
She has been interviewed on several podcasts (Death! The Podcast, The Drunken Odyssey, The Passionista Podcast and Dan Reads Books) about Death Becomes Us and was featured on NPR’s Think with Krys Boyd.
Skjolsvik’s debut novel, Forever 51, which is about an eternally menopausal vampire on a quest to become mortal again, will be out November 5, 2020 from Fawkes Press.
Facebook Group: 2020 Quarantine Book Club
Q&A with 2020 Quarantine Book Club founder Pamela Skjolsvik
We had the pleasure of stealing some of Pamela Skjolsvik’s precious time to ask her about the group she’s formed, where she sees it going, what challenges she’s faced, and more.
The result was an extremely open Q&A from a gracious interviewee with style and insight. We hope you enjoy it and be sure to check out Skjolvik’s group to show your support for debut authors.
Tell us about the inspiration for the 2020 Quarantine Book Club group?
As a new member of the 2020 Debuts group on Facebook, which is comprised of writers whose first book of fiction is being traditionally published in 2020, I saw so many events cancelled due to the Coronavirus. Because I know how much work goes into writing a book, finding an agent and then finally selling that manuscript to a publisher, I felt compelled to do something. I suggested starting a Coronavirus book club in a thread, thinking I’d get maybe 50 people to join. Well, as of this writing, there are 918 members.
How has this pandemic and quarantine affected debut authors?
For one, the world is focused on something that is big, scary and potentially deadly, so a debut novelist is not getting the usual media or library attention they need to get the word out about their book. Second, there are no live events at bookstores or conferences, so the author isn’t able to reach out and meet new readers. And third, Amazon, which is one—okay, the largest—bookseller in the world is not shipping books out as their first priority to their customers, so there are pretty long delays. On a positive note, authors are learning creative ways to approach their marketing and readers are now ordering through independent bookstores, such as www.bookshop.org
I am excited to be in this group. I love to read and it will be especially nice to interact with others who enjoy books as well.Marilyn Crane
What’s your loftiest goal for the 2020 Quarantine Book Club group?
World domination. I’m kidding! My loftiest goal is for the members, and we’re approaching 1,000, is to either buy or digitally check out the selected author’s book from their local library. In that way, we are making a monetary difference for the author, their agent and their publisher. Many (not all) authors receive an advance that is essentially paid back with the royalties from the sale of that book. If you don’t pay back the advance, you might not get a second chance at another book with that same publishing house. I would love to say that we get more adults reading, which is scientifically proven to increase empathy for others, but everyone who joined the group is already a reader. I think people just want connection with other people right now.
How do you see the 2020 Quarantine Book Club group changing or transitioning once the pandemic has passed?
I would love to have people stay, especially those that are passionate about books. I have always been in a book club that meets in person, so I look forward to see how this is going to work in an online environment. One thing that is definitely different from my in-person book club, is that now we are able to interact with the author which is incredibly fun and insightful!
Thank you for putting this together!! You were fantastic on Fox News the other day. I love quarantine, because it empowers me to say F off to all those other distractions I really enjoy. But you have made it even more fun. Thanks again!Allen Crowley
What’s the feedback been like thus far for the 2020 Quarantine Book Club group?
Well, thus far we haven’t discussed the first book, The Mountains Sing, but the author, Nguyen Phan Que Mai, is just so grateful that people are connecting with her book. A few days ago, she sent me a message. “This book club means so much to me, Pamela. It’s one of the best things that happened since the book’s release! You created something really wonderful here and you should feel so proud!” To hear that from an author who has been reviewed in the NY Times, NPR and in People Magazine makes me feel incredibly happy. My club and its itty bitty influence is small potatoes compared to those giants, but the club does provide connection with real people.
What challenges have you faced thus far and how have you tackled them?
My technological incompetence was the first challenge. While I have Twitter, Instagram, a website and Facebook, I am kind of ignorant about how to use these platforms. I’d rather spend my creative time writing. I’m learning to ask for help and just doing the best I can with the tools I have available. Within the Facebook group, the biggest challenge was how to set up the group. I decided early on to not allow people to post their own threads within the group as it was becoming too difficult to monitor content and keep focus with only two admins.
I’m looking forward to this! So glad you had this wonderful idea.Xanna Williamson
How are authors chosen, and what criteria do you look for?
I reached out to the members of the 2020 Debuts and the authors that agreed to be in the club and interact with our members were selected. There is an official list in the group files. I had a few authors reach out to me on their own, Billie Best, who wrote a memoir that came out on 3/25, her 66th birthday, was included because her book is narrative. Our criteria right now is Adult Fiction with a few Narrative nonfiction titles sprinkled in. We had a cookbook author and a YA author want to be included, but we had to draw the line. I am giving all authors a chance to post in a thread about their books, but sadly I can’t include everyone.
I see you have some giveaways for readers, what other incentives might you say exist for people to join the 2020 Quarantine Book Club?
Prizes are nice, but I think connection with other readers and knowing that you are doing something positive for a debut author during this very novel situation is even more of a boon.
This club is such a cool way to make lemonade out of lemons. I’m loving the book so far!Ricki Tucker
Who is your ideal 2020 Quarantine Book Club group member?
The ideal member is an open-minded, avid reader with a fair amount of disposable income who likes to talk about books and chat up their authors. Is that specific enough? Ha! And I say open minded because some of the books may not be a genre you particularly enjoy, but in my experience, when you open yourself up to something new, you can have surprising, even wonderful results. I remember when my book club in Colorado was slated to read The Life of Pi. I read the description and initially didn’t want to read the book (I’d just show up for the food and wine). I couldn’t imagine enjoying a story about a young man, a tiger and a boat or how it could hold my attention for 300 pages. How wrong I was! That is now one of my top ten books of all time.
Who, if anyone, shouldn’t join?
If you’re just there to market yourself and not participate with the club’s mission to help debut authors, there are other online venues that will better suit your needs. Other than that, we welcome anyone to join.
How Do I Join?
Reading not your thing? Let us know in the comments below what you’re doing to pass the time while social distancing.