ook clubs have grown in popularity during the past decade. When starting a book club it is important to take several key steps to insure a successful book club. Follow these 12 ideas to start and run a successful book club.
1. Include a diverse group of members.
When you are looking for people to join your group, advertise in a number of different places for new members. For example, do not limit yourself to only emailing people you know. Put up flyers and information sheets at local places of business, college campuses, schools, gyms, etc. Online networking is also a great way to find new members. Advertising in a multitude of places will encourage people of different backgrounds, experiences, and viewpoints. Also, encourage people to bring friends and relatives to the group.
2. Organize yourselves.
An initial meeting to map out the details of the book club is a must for any successful book club. This meeting should be held annually and should not be a time to discuss books. Instead, use this time to discuss the aspects of the book club from where the club should meet, to the annual holiday party details. Invite all of the members for an initial, informal meeting. Ask each member to bring three (3) book ideas they would like to include during the upcoming year. Look over everyoneís list. If three or more people are interested in reading the same book, jot it down in the "to be read" list.
"If you have some members who are not very dedicated to the club, you might ask them to re-consider their commitment to the group."
3. Use themes.
Themes can keep the book club fresh and exciting. When planning your reading schedule, consider the time of year. If you are looking for a winter classic, try reading Charles Dickens "A Christmas Carol." You might also consider a theme where you read books only from the best sellers list, classics, mysteries, romance, etc. You might consider reading classics one year, a series (i.e. Harry Potter) the next year, etc.
4. Re-evaluate the success of the book club once a year.
Revisit your organizational meeting to evaluate the success of the book club. Use this time to work out details for the upcoming year. This includes what books will be read, where the club will meet and when, who will be in charge of the snacks for each meeting, additional meetings for movie nights, social get together, and charity or volunteer work (ideas and time schedules). Be willing to make changes as the club grows and changes. Part of running a successful book club means being flexible and open to growing and changing. The interests of members may change including the types of books being read and the way the conversation goes during the meeting.
Another area to review is the membership. If you have some members who are not very dedicated to the club, you might ask them to re-consider their commitment to the group. Then consider opening their membership slot to other people interested in the book club.
5. Choose a central location.
If some of the members have to travel great distances (especially in cold or inclement weather), membership may drop. Homes, coffee houses, libraries, churches, schools, and bookstores are all possible places to hold a book club. Keep in mind where members work and live and try to accommodate as many people as possible. If your group is a large one, you might have trouble securing a space to meet in public every week. If your group wishes to meet at certain coffee houses or book stores, call a few weeks in advance and ask the manager to reserve space for your meeting. This is the best way for your group to secure seating, preferably in a quiet area with enough room for everyone. If you will be meeting at memberís houses, be sure there will be enough parking and chairs for the meeting. If members of the group have small children, consider chipping in to hire a babysitter or two to watch the children during the meeting. Maybe consider asking the babysitter to read to the children so they can have their own book club.
6. Stay in contact.
Use email to stay connected in-between meetings and events. Use a blog or invitation-only group online (such as Yahoo! Groups) to stay connected. You can use this to post schedules, upload reading guides, remember birthdays, organize snacks, and share other pertinent information. Meetup.com allows you to keep track not only of scheduled meetings, but group members can let everyone know they will be attending, or that something has come up and they will not be at the meeting. This website also allows other potential members from the local area who share the same interests find you and get to know the group before meeting up.
"Handouts help keep otherwise busy people organized."
7. Use movies made after books youíve read to enhance the discussion.
After reading a book which was used as the base of a movie, consider adding an extra meeting to the schedule and make it a movie night. Make it extra fun by including the families of members. If the movie is for adults only, hire a babysitter to show children their own movie based on a book. Have everyone chip in for dinner and plan to get together on a weekend for higher attendance.
8. Use handouts when assigning reading.
Conduct some research before the meeting to assign the next book and put together a handout for book club members. Handouts help keep otherwise busy people organized. Handouts can include a slip of paper at the end of each meeting detailing the name and author of the next book to read. Check the back of the upcoming book for book club questions and suggestions. Include these in the handout with room for people to write their thoughts and reactions. If the book your group is reading does not have a section for book clubs, do an online search for the information. Try looking at the authorís website for information on the book. Devise your own questions based on articles and interviews found online to give out to book club members.
9. Use food to enhance the reading.
Is your book club reading a book based in Russia? How about serving some gazpacho at your book club meeting when reviewing the book? Are you working on the Harry Potter series? Consider serving some tea and biscuits as a snack. The food you serve may depend on where you are holding your book club meeting. If you are holding your meeting at a coffee house, consider sending each member home with a goodie-bag including a bag of tea and crumpet. Goodie-bags work when you have to meet somewhere other than a book club memberís house.
Food and snacks allow members to be creative and curb hunger and make people comfortable. Something about having a drink (even water or soda) can make people feel more comfortable talking and keep them from fidgeting in their pockets. When making a schedule of book club meetings and deciding which books to read, make a list of possible snacks to go along with each book. Ask different members to contribute to the food and beverages. Split these details up so not all food and beverage choices land on the shoulders of one club member each week.
"Continuing to invite new members will keep the book club alive and healthy."
10. Give back to the community.
Use your book club as a chance to introduce other people to the love and joy of reading. At your organizational meeting, decide on ways group members can give back to the community outside of the book club. Members can take turns reading to children at the local library or offering an adult literacy class. Other ways for your club to give back to the community include bake sales for charity, book drives, book sales, and volunteering at local charitable organizations.
11. Continue inviting new members.
Do not feel as though you have gathered a group of people who work well together as book club members, you have to stop allowing and inviting new members. Peopleís lives and schedules change. This means members who used to make every meeting suddenly have new family commitments, education and work schedule changes, and other reasons for not making the group any longer. Continuing to invite new members will keep the book club alive and healthy.
12. Socialize with other members outside the book club.
It is tempting to talk about personal lives, families, issues, and interests during your book club meetings, but this will get the group off topic, getting away from the reason for the club. Socializing outside of the book club meeting times will give members a chance to get to know each other and build friendships. Hold non-book club related meetings at certain times of the year. You may wish to invite book club member families to join the festivities. Social activities include holiday parties and cook outs. Decide what activities you would like the group to hold during your organizational meeting. Ask certain members to work on these activities outside of the meetings so you can stay on topic during your monthly or weekly meetings.
Book clubs are great for meeting new people and learning about books and authors. By assembling a variety of members, properly planning, and incorporating families into the club, a successful book club is within reach!
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Tina Marie Frawley is a freelance writer living in Huntersville, North Carolina with her husband Jerry, and their yellow Lab, Buck. For more information about her writing or copywriting services, you may contact Tina Marie through her website at www.tinamariefrawley.com. You can also visit her blog, The Freelance Writers Lounge, at www.thefreelancewriterslounge.blogspot.com.