Reading books and the stories they tell is a truly rewarding experience. Sharing those stories and the impact they’ve had on you with others is even more memorable. Book clubs are a space where you can do just that. Starting a book club can connect you with people who may differ in many ways, but share an important commonality: the love of reading. This may be why 56% of women over 25 are members of a book club.
People who join book clubs enjoy the experience of discussion, the exploration of new reading and writing interests, and the creation of long lasting relationships with other members. Beyond pure enjoyment, by starting a book club you will have the opportunity to develop your leadership, organizational, and reading/writing skills.
If you’re sold on starting a book club, it can be challenging to know where to begin. How can you start bringing people together? How can you ensure your club is a success? Here are some steps you can take to start your own book club and create a space for sharing insightful ideas and experiences:
1. Think of Your Goals
The first step is identifying your goals. There are many different reasons why you may want to start a book club. Are you looking to share ideas and experiences? Are you looking to explore new reading material? Others may want to use their book club as a vehicle for engaging in community programs such as charity work or educating young children.
Regardless of your goals, think about what you would like to achieve with the book club before you get started. Your goals will determine the types of books you will read, the members you will recruit, and the frequency of meetings.
Many people mistakenly think that book clubs are only good for reading books and sharing ideas on the material. Book clubs have evolved into social spaces, charitable organizations, and even support groups.
2. Determine Your Audience
Your specific goals will ultimately determine the type of members you will attract. Think about if you want an audience of your peers or a diverse audience with varied interests. Remember that the success of your book club will be primarily determined by its members. In fact, many book clubs tend to fall flat because their members are not engaged. As the founder of a book club, you will play a major role in attracting the right people and encouraging engagement.
As you determine your audience, think about how large or small you would like the book club to be. As a general guideline, many book clubs that meet in person have an average of 8-10 members, while those that meet online can easily have over 30. The best approach is to start small and to slowly grow your membership base in accordance with your goals.
An effective approach is to start with 2-3 of your close friends who may be interested. You can also seek out friends who have different reading tastes from you, but share the same overall goals. This is a great way of building up a base for your membership pool. With a solid core of starting members, growing your base will be much easier to accomplish.
3. What Type of Books Will you Read?
The choice of books to read is another essential component of your book club. If you start off with the wrong book, you may end up boring your members. Even before you get started with forming the book club, you should have an idea of the type of books your club will read. You may choose to rotate across different genres every few months or to stick to a particular theme as a core element of the book club.
It is often a good idea to consult your core members with regards to title selections. By using a consultative approach, you can shortlist several genres, authors, or page limits. Encourage your members to think about what they wish to read, and make sure everyone expresses their interests. If dealing with a diverse membership, you can rotate genres on a regular basis and explore new reading interests that you never thought existed.
4. Determine How You Will Meet
Thanks to technology, you can meet with your book club members in many different ways. Determine if online or physical meetings will be better suited for your overall goals. As it currently stands, 89% of book clubs still meet in person. Physical meetings may be a preferred option for your book club during its early days. It helps everyone get comfortable around each other and share their ideas on the latest read.
If meeting in person, make sure you select a quiet, comfortable, and convenient place for your members. Someone’s home, a local coffee shop, or libraries are good places to explore. In addition to physical meetings, don’t be afraid of exploring online meetings as well. As your members grow, this may be the most convenient meeting method available. There is a lot of flexibility with online book clubs, as you can decide to have video meetings or simply type up your experiences on a forum. Determine the best method that fits your goals and the interests of your members.
5. What Role Will You Play?
You should also think about the specific role you will have in the group. Do you want to lead the book club or simply work behind the scenes? Do you have members who can take up various roles? Just because you’re starting the book club doesn’t mean that you have to be the leader. You may have a friend who is better suited for the role of following up with members, coordinating meeting times, and making sure that everyone is on pace with their readings.
Another approach you could use is to rotate who leads meetings in order to give everyone a chance to direct the discussions. You could do this by having the person who suggested a book title lead the meetings, or change the discussion leaders after each month.
6. Agree on a Meeting Time
Perhaps the trickiest part is determining how frequently the book club will meet, and at what times. This may be easier to do if you have fewer members, but it will get more complicated as your membership grows. Make sure you maintain flexibility in determining meeting times. For example, you don’t have to meet at a specific time every week/month.
In most cases, meeting once a month works well because it allows everyone enough time to read and reflect on the material before meeting. You may also find that it works better to agree on meeting times on the go (after every meeting) in order to ensure that all members will be available regardless of other obligations.
7. Create a Structure for Discussions
It’s important to keep the book club objective in mind and stay focused on the reading material at all times. Without a solid discussion framework, you may find the meeting heading towards a catch up session about what has been happening around town or in the news.
While you may put aside some time for catching up, make sure every book club meeting has a structure aimed at discussing the current reading material. Have whoever is leading the discussion come prepared with a list of questions, discussion prompts, or other relevant material.
8. Make Sure you Keep Those Memories!
One of the most rewarding experiences of a book club is the memories that you will all share. Make sure you develop a method of keeping these memories fresh and exciting. It could be through a recorded journal, pictures, or short video clips that are shared with all members. You should also keep a record of all books that you read as well as future titles the group is looking to explore.
With a bit of planning and the right group of readers, you can be on your way to building a successful and lasting book club. In need of some reading inspiration? Be sure to sign up for BookBoro, where you can have the opportunity to read new, never before seen work, for free!