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Settling in with a cuppa ...

April 13, 2008 |  5:30 am


When novelist Lisa See reads a good book, she likes to "curl up with a cup of tea." Which is why it seemed a natural when Celestial Seasonings proposed using her latest bestseller, "Peony in Love," to promote its online book club, Adventure at Every Turn.

"I thought it was a really great match," See said. "First of all, tea and China, they kind of go together. And when I read a book, tea is always involved."

For "Peony," just out in paperback, the Colorado-based tea purveyor put together a fetching box of herbal selections compatible with the 17th century coming-of-age story, along with a variety of suggestions for book club discussions, recipes and decorating ideas. See said the starter kits, usually available only to online subscribers, were in great demand at book signings she gave recently.

Turns out the online demand has been so great (15,000 members and counting), there are no more kits for "Peony" or the club’s first selection in December, "The End of the Alphabet" by C.S. Richardson, according to a Celestial Seasonings spokeswoman. And because the promotional budget has been exhausted, club members will have to content themselves with website recommendations for the next selection, "Pomegranate Soup" by Marsha Mehran.

Celestial spokeswoman Alison Hazlinger said the company's online book club grew out of a detailed survey of customers, 70% of whom said that "reading books" was their favorite leisure activity.

The company's outreach to readers is the same thing publishers, including See's (Random House), are trying to do, the author says. "Book clubs sell a lot of books, and they start a conversation. It's not just about selling one book or one cup of tea, you're reaching five to 15 people at once — and you're starting a conversation."

Kristina Lindgren