My two book clubs are very different from one other – and I love them both! Here’s what I’ve learned – my tips for starting and running a book club for writers. Thanks to Tumblemoose for prompting me to write this article!
Before the book club tips, a quip:
“The proper study of mankind is books.” – Aldous Huxley
Fellow scribes, if you want to be successful writers, you need to know about your fellow man. And as Huxley says, one way to learn about mankind is to study books. If you want a book club journal (I love the one my husband gave me!), click on Books I’ve Read, a Reader’s Journal by Write it Down Series. And, read on for my tips on starting a book club for writers…
8 Tips on Starting a Book Club for Writers
Here are the most important points to decide on (or at least consider) before launching your club:
1. Who’s on first? Both of my book clubs have an “organizer” who emails reminders regarding location, special activities, and even book titles a few days before meetings. One of my clubs – let’s call it Book Club A – asks members to RSVP whether they’ll attend the meeting.
2. Schedule and location. Will you meet once every two weeks, or once a month? Will you meet at someone’s home, a library, or a coffee shop? Will you rotate locations, or stick to one place? Both my book clubs meet at people’s homes, and everyone gets a chance to “host.”
3. Swills and snacks. Yum…both my book clubs involve a spread of sweets and light appetizers brought by everyone. Whoever hosts Book Club A provides a couple bottles of red and white wine; Book Club B sticks to decaf coffee and tea.
4. Book selection. Will you read famous authors, unknown writers, non-fiction books, novels, classics, newly published bestsellers, themes, poetry, regional writers, Canadiana, audiobooks, or Oprah’s Book Club Picks? When you’re starting a book club, decide in advance what or who your focus is – but be open to change as time goes by.
5. Meeting structure. Book Club A has a loose structure: discussion of the book bobs up and down in a sea of gossip, personal revelations, and life updates. A facilitator presents on some facet of the book: author interviews, critical reviews, editorial reviews, or background. On the other hand, Book Club B has a social time with a definite end point, a facilitator’s presentation and discussion time with clear start and end points, and another social time before everyone goes home. Book Club A encourages snacking and swilling throughout the evening; Book Club B doesn’t.
6. Membership. If this is a book club specifically for writers, you might want to decide on a common definition of “writer.” And, will you cap membership at 6? 12? 25? Remember that it’s a rare night when all members actually show up. I think both my book clubs have about 22-25 members, but only 6-15 attend meetings on a given night.
7. Facilitator preparation. The most important tips for facilitating a book club discussion: relax, enjoy yourself, and share the type of information you most like to learn! For instance, I love author interviews and am less interested in critical reviews. So I’ve played interviews on my laptop during meetings, so members can see the author in action. If this is a book club for writers, then you’ll probably want to focus on the writing process, techniques, style, and so on.
8. Member preparation. Though I don’t really “prepare” for either of my book clubs (unless I’m facilitating), I do jot notes and try to read the whole book before the meeting. Both my book clubs welcome members who haven’t read the book, but I find I get a lot more out of the discussion when I know what we’re talking about! A book club for writers would be more valuable if you’ve thought in advance about the author’s style of writing, voice, themes, symbolism, etc.
And you? If you have any tips on starting a book club for writers – or questions – I welcome you below!