New Novel Network concept connects authors and readers

A San Diego woman has created a new way to connect authors with local readers and book clubs.

The idea is that authors sign up, and local readers and book clubs can search for writers in a database. They can then invite the authors to discuss their books at meetings.

Susan McBeth, of Tierrasanta, will officially launch Novel Network on June 10 after dedicating time to the development of the project for the last three years.

McBeth was inspired to start Novel Network after meeting with New York Times best-selling author Jenna Blum.

"She was telling me when she published her first book, she had no way of spreading the word," McBeth recalled. "Her mom told her to come speak to her book club. It was such a phenomenal success that her mom referred her to other book clubs. Fast forward, within a year, she visited 800 book clubs in the Boston-metro area alone."

Previously, McBeth founded Adventures By the Book, which hosts "multi-sensorial" events and travel aimed at connecting authors and readers in situations other than traditional book-signing events.

She said she has received consistent requests from writers regarding a lack of opportunities to meet with book clubs. She had also heard from book clubs looking for potential meetings with writers.

The format is ideal for authors who want to reach new readers and for book lovers who want to dig deeper into the material they just read, McBeth noted.

"The best way for authors to reach readers is through book clubs, where they talk about the books so intensively that they get more out of it and are more likely to tell other book clubs about it."

Authors must be published by a traditional mainstream publisher, have won a major award or have sold 5,000 print copies of one of their titles, McBeth said. So far, about three dozen authors nationwide have signed up.

One of those writers is contemporary women's fiction author Kristin Rockaway. The New Encinitas woman released her first book, "The Wild Woman's Guide to Traveling the World," last June. The story follows a female travel agent who goes on a trip to Hong Kong with her best friend, who abandons her on the second day. The woman then continues on her vacation and meets a spontaneous, carefree man who is her total opposite and makes her question how she's living her own life.

On May 15, Rockaway had her first experience with Novel Network, when she met with a book club in San Diego County to discuss her debut novel.

The women typically read books with darker themes but wanted to read something different this time around, Rockway said.

"Novel Network was perfect for exposing me to these readers, who probably never would have picked up my book otherwise. It was super fun. They asked me really amazing questions. It's always fun to connect with readers and get insight on what they think about your book."

To celebrate the launch of Novel Network, McBeth will host a Book Club Bingo Adventure at the San Diego Central Library, 330 Park Boulevard in San Diego, on June 10. More than 20 authors are expected to speak and connect with readers in person. The event will also include panel discussions and book signings.

McBeth said her goal is to foster a connection between people through books.

"I really believe we're in a period where we're not as connected as I'd like us to be. Books can bridge that divide," she said.

For more information, visit www.novelnetwork.com. Authors or book clubs interested in joining Novel Network can email McBeth at Susan@NovelNetwork.com.

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