As I continue to write books, one of the things I’ve been thinking about lately is how can I as a writer interact more with book clubs? I love the dynamic that occurs when book lovers start talking about a book they’ve all read. There is something magical about watching readers interact with my characters and story.
It’s a mix between oddly terrifying and liberating.
I get to see what you identify that I didn’t know was in my plot or characters. On occasion I get to explain why I wrote something the way I did. But the true magic is in the reality that a book is just words on a screen or page until a reader interacts with them. That is where the transformation occurs.
So how can you launch a book club if you aren’t already part of one?
- Choose a type of book to read…not every book will appeal to each person, so figure out what you and your friends will enjoy. Maybe focus on a genre or rotate among the months. You could do coming of age in January, romance in February, Christmas stories in December, etc. Consider reading one childhood classic a year. I’ve loved reading these with my kids, and it could become a group favorite.
- Select your books ahead of time…give people time to buy or locate the book. I’ve heard of very successful clubs setting the books they’ll read 6 to 12 months ahead of time. That can be one of your meetings. Have people bring a book they want to read or think the group will enjoy. Then vote or let each person select one. There are so many ways to select.
- Include food…make it a time of fellowship. I’ve attended book clubs where they served a full meal, others with appetizers, and still others that focused on desserts. There’s no right or wrong answer. The key is to provide a vehicle for people to connect.
- Consider using book discussion questions, but don’t become rigid...let the conversation free-wheel from the questions in the back of the book. Sometimes those questions aren’t what interested your members. That’s great! Talk about the things that catch your attention. Have someone as a designated leader for each book, and do a little research to have conversation starters when the discussion peters to a halt. Need some help coming up with questions? There are excellent suggestions here. Penguin also has some helpful information here.
- Talk to the author….many of my friends and I love participating in bookclubs. All you have to do is ask. We may join you in person or via phone or Skype. It’s a great way to learn why the author wrote the book…what they learned…research they did, etc. You can ask why they killed characters or didn’t.
- Pay attention to book length… From the research I did 300-350 pages seems to be the sweet spot. I’d love to know if longer books have worked for a book club you’re part of.
- Encourage discussion… agree to disagree on the book and your opinions. Be gentle but firm about actually discussing the book. Spend somewhere between 20-40% of your time enjoying fellowship and food. The rest of the time is about the book. And a way to keep one person from dominating is to use phrases like “let’s hear from others” or pass an object and people can talk when they have it. That one seems so strict, but it’s a way to make sure all participate.
Are you a member of a book club? Have you had an author participate? What would you recommend to those starting a club?
I can’t wait to read your thoughts! And if you’d like to have me join your book club, simply complete this form: