Here’s What You Need to Know Before Starting a Book Club

While we’re talking all about how to create a support system to help you out at home and the office this week on Episode 138 of the podcast, today I want to dive into something near and dear to the launch of my new book, The Joy of Missing Out!

The topic? Starting a book club!

Now, for many people, a book club can be another avenue to seek and gain the support that we’re talking about on the episode this week–which is excellent, but for me, they’re not only a space that can embody a supportive culture; they’re also an opportunity to meet like-minded individuals, to discover new and exciting books to read, and a place to have A LOT of fun.

And who couldn’t use some more fun and excitement in life, right?

With JOMO launching this October, you may have heard through the grapevine of social media (and maybe you caught wind of it on my Instagram page or on the book site, joyofmissingout.com) that I have a plan in the works to start a book club specific to my book… but here’s what you may not know:

SO MUCH goes into beginning a book club, that I will admit the process so far has been a bit daunting to navigate. And I think it’s because so often we think of something “fun” and “enjoyable” as being something easy and relatively straight-forward.

But here’s some tough love: this isn’t always the case! Success, no matter the project at hand, takes hard work, planning, and dedication.

So for the sake of lending insight into my own experience getting a book club off the ground and running, I thought it might be helpful to share a few things that I have learned along the way so that if any of YOU should decide to start (or to join!) a book club of your own someday, you’ll have all the tools you need to ensure that your club is as successful as possible.

Let’s jump in!

 

5 Ingredients to a Successful Book Club

 

It Has a Purpose—

No matter the goal you’re taking on, it’s crucial that you first understand why you’re taking it on in the first place. This is especially true when considering a creative project, like a book club!

 For your club to attract members and to become as successful as possible, begin with the reason behind the book club’s launch.

What is the underlying reason for the group? Is it to get other new moms together, for example, or to connect with neighbors? Is it to branch out and meet new people (maybe other book lovers) from your community? Is it to help grow your brand or business? Is it to promote your newly completed creative project? To keep in contact with friends?

The list can go on and on!

A few things to consider beyond the underlying reason for your club include the overall tone and theme of the group (is it more social or academic or is it something else?), whether it will be held online or in-person (say, at your house or a community center) or a combination of both of these platforms, and so on and so forth.

The clearer you are in terms of your direction, the easier it will be to put all of the remaining puzzle pieces together before your club launches!

Not only that, but the more organized you are, the more likely others will want to jump on board!

 

It Has Structure–

After you’ve arrived at the reason for your club, next comes time to map out what the structure of the group might look like.

A few things to consider here include whether your club will be of the book-a-month or bi-monthly variety, for example; how often you choose the books that the group will discuss (note: it’s easier to map out a few book choices at a time, rather than to decide on a full year!); whether there will be a rotation of themes or book genres, that the group will explore in more depth; the breadth of the books themselves (i.e. whether they’ll be specific to personal growth, marriage and parenting, and so on); etc.

Other structural items to think about might involve the type of host setup that your club will enjoy. Will you, as the group’s founder, be the sole host of each meeting, or will you employ a rotating host schedule that allows other members to take the lead on group discussions? Will you provide discussion guides for each session, or will you adopt a go-with-the-flow environment?

The more structured (and again, organized!) you’re able to be when it comes to your club, the less stress you’ll experience in the long-run. Trust me!

(Note: For more tips on the structural components of starting a book club, check out my YouTube video this week that is specific to Starting a Book Club!)

 

You’ve Considered Who the Members Might Be—

 Another high point to consider when you set out to start a book club (or any club for that matter) is what your group members might “look like” on paper.

What this means is that you should consider what type of members–or in this case, readers–you want to bring into the fold of your club.

Again, ask yourself whether you’re looking to stay connected to friends (i.e., people you already know) or whether you’re looking to branch out and make your group as inclusive as possible.

Will you invite people from your work circle, your social media groups, or the group that you hang out with at the gym during your Yoga class each week?

And, how about the size of the group: will it be an intimate gathering that will allow members to dive in deeper to books and to explore feelings specific to each book you discuss — or will it be a larger, more open group where anything goes?

While the specifics of your group – who’s invited and who’s not; how many will be allowed “in” at a time, and so on – is entirely up to you as the founder, I do want to point out one thing here:

Diversity is GREAT when it comes to clubs! And I find this true when it comes to in-depth discussions specific to books and other creative media.

So, whatever you do, don’t skimp on the details as they pertain to your group members! In my experience, the more, the merrier.

(And if you find that you have a lot of interest in your group, then an online platform may be worth looking into! I recommend checking into the possibility of using Facebook or Goodreads for more reach in that respect.)

 

Club Meeting Locations are Pre-Determined—

If you want to ensure regular attendance at your club meetings, then another thing that I find imperative from the start is pre-determining exactly when and where each session will take place.

Will you meet on Tuesdays at 7 o’Clock each month, at the library or rec center or at your home? The possibilities here are, again, endless and entirely up to you.

(Note: Do try to be as consistent as possible here concerning your meeting days, times, and location so that your members can plan to be there well in advance!)

If your club is an online-only group, then map out which days of the week you will hold “live sessions” on the Internet (whether this is on Facebook, Skype, or another social media platform).

Make it a point to announce your meet-up intentions as early as possible, and allow your fellow members some flexibility in terms of time so that you’re giving each member a chance to weigh in on when the best time to meet might be.

A great way to accomplish this level of inclusivity is to offer a poll to potential members once you announce your intentions to begin a book club that gives some options for possible meeting days and times (Doodle Poll is a free service that works well for this purpose!).

This way, everyone has a chance to have their voice heard and is not left feeling left out of the mix once the club launches!

If you prefer to host your book club in-person, then you can offer the same survey to potential members about their preferred meeting days and times as well (an excellent place to do this might be at your local library where you can put up a flyer announcing your club) – but keep it simple, to make things easier for you as you work out all of the kinks that could arise before your first meeting rolls around.

Sounds simple enough, right?

 

It’s ENJOYABLE—

There’s nothing worse than hosting a truly terrible party, right?  …Okay, well, maybe there is: Hosting a truly terrible club meeting!

That said, it should come as no surprise that one of the most significant ways to ensure that you’re getting your club off to the right start is by doing what you can to make it as fun as possible – not only for your group members but for yourself too!

While I will be the first to admit that, when it comes to making things as fun and lively as possible, flexibility is key – I do know that there are a few tried and true methods to spicing things up, mainly if you are unsure of where to begin.

Fun group meetings might include: a pot-luck style meal (with a twist!) where you provide the main course and your members bring their favorite sides, snacks, and/or beverages with them; music to listen to before, after, or even during the meeting (if appropriate, depending on your group’s structure); some time set aside, outside of the book discussions, so that you and other members can socialize; etc.

And if you find that your club meetings are starting to fizzle just a bit (which, let’s be honest, can happen if you’re the sole host of each session – it’s a lot of pressure to keep it going alone!) then a few ideas you might try to get things flowing again could include: hosting a book swap or Yankee swap of some kind (maybe at the end of each year around the holidays);  movie night, especially if one of the books you’re discussing has been made into a movie; or even something as simple as choosing shorter books to read, or offering more time in-between discussions to give everyone a chance to read at their own pace so that you can all come together feeling prepared and ready to jump in!

The main takeaway here is to, again, lend yourself the grace to be flexible and to not overthink things.

Remember: There are a lot of ways you can make each session as fun as possible.  And the best part is that the more your group members get acquainted with each other, the easier it will be to figure out what fun activities will work best (and vibe well) for everyone!

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Have experience starting your own club (book or otherwise) or as a member of one? I want to hear about it! Share some of your favorite group activities – what has worked well for your group as a founder or as a member, and what hasn’t – in the comments below…

And tune in to Episode 138 of Productivity Paradox to dive into this week’s conversation that is specific to creating the support system you need to tackle your goals, aspirations, and big dreams in the future!

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Tonya Dalton
Tonya Dalton