MONEY QUOTE: In the future, a cli-fi book club held in Manhattan might pay US$750 to have a cli-fi author attend and discuss their novels about about climate issues
The living room in the plush apartment on Central Park West
mioght be filled with all the trappings of a traditional book club. But it's not traditional. It's part of a new trend in book clubs dubbed a Cli-Fi Book Club.
A dozen people, mostly women, but some men, too, will perch on sofas and armchairs with
paperbacks on their laps. A silver carafe of coffee and a tray of
black-and-white cookies will be set out within arm’s reach. Chatter about
weather and children will fill the air before the host clears her throat
and announces that it is time to start the discussion.
There was just one oddity: the presence of the book’s author,
a well-known up and coming cli-fi novelist from Australia.The price for her appearance: US$750.
In a new venture that takes the down-to-earth tradition of a book club
and adds the distinctly New York ingredients of celebrity, money and
literary zeal, cli-fi authors have begun signing up to appear in person at
book club meetings, where they spend an hour or two discussing their
works with eager readers in exchange for a fee.
For club members, it offers a rare opportunity to question authors in
person about the writing process, their intentions as cli-fi storytellers and
perhaps a stray plotline that needs explanation.
For authors, it is a way to talk directly to their readers, hoping to
build word-of-mouth for their books and earning a little money on the
side for an evening’s work. (Of the US$750 fee, US$400 goes to the author
and US$350 goes to the booker.) The service also benefits
publishers of cli-fi novels who view discoverability as perhaps their biggest
challenge, as bookstores disappear and book tours and readings decline
If these events can succeed anywhere, it will be New York. The
city, home of the American publishing industry, has a glut of both local
notable writers and devoted readers, many of them with unusually deep
At the a typical meeting, club members will quiz a cli-fi writer about why
she or he or they wrote the book, what techniques she used and how she dealt with the fallout literary critics and book reviewers, pro and con.
Publishers will also make their own attempts to cultivate cli-fi book clubs as
part of an attempt to reach out to readers directly to market and
At one tony publisher, marketing executives often make authors
available to appear at book clubs via Skype — at no charge. In the
hopes of generating early buzz, the publisher has also sent
complimentary copies of galleys to about 75 book clubs throughout the
country, months before the new cli-fi novels were released to
“They’re the core reading audience,” said the online
marketing director. “They’re the people who are
interested in finding out about something new. They have a book every
month, and they talk about them. They’re the influencers in their
One literary agent is on a roster of available writers. He said that these ventures, if
successful, could spur imitators.
“Between books, writing can be a lonely business, so a quick lap
through a room of interested readers of cli-fi who’ve read your book closely and
prepared to discuss could only be buoying,” he said. “Focused
discussion of a book in a particular community spreads the word and
provokes sales after reviews and publicity die down.”