Of course, it was a privilege to have my book chosen and to be invited to meet them, but equally important it was an opportunity to chat to a group of keen readers and see how they perceive the UK publishing industry.
Firstly they wanted to know how you learn to write a novel in the first place. And they have a point because while there lots of creative writing classes and writers' groups, they seem to concentrate almost entirely on short stories and poetry. In my case, learning novel-writing skills was a long process of trial and error. However, there are now more online critique groups, 'how to' books and distance learning courses available.
Then it was onto publishing and marketing and book formats. They knew virtually nothing about kindles or other electronic readers. To be honest, this doesn't surprise me. Most of my friends who've heard of them have done so through me. Only a couple of my friends are seriously interested in them as yet - one because she reads so much and the other because she has sight problems.
Having read my book, they readily accepted that getting a regular publishing contract is neither easy nor straightforward, neither is it much to do with with how good a book is, providing it meets a certain level of competence. I was quite surprised to learn how savvy they were regarding the way all mainstream promotion is bought. Apparently word had got out that a large fee was required to secure consideration of books discussed in a popular TV book club.
A positive from this was the fact that, once they have read a book, readers judge it on its individual merits, not on who published it. I would encourage all authors to look for opportunities to meet groups in this way - or indeed to meet readers in any way. Because for everyone who does, it sets off a chain that chips away at the old ideals of the traditional route being the only way and raises awareness about the growth of indie publishing, hopefully making the way easier for future indie books.