Hello! Welcome to your crash course in starting a book club! Book clubs are an excellent way to start and maintain community, one of our biggest priorities here at Third Place Books, as we have always aspired to be your “third place”. We have loved hosting book clubs in our stores in the past, and more recently virtually, and we want to continue to partner with you as you develop and grow your “third place” in your community through book clubs!
Below I have outlined some questions and suggestions for how you can launch your own literary community.
If you have a book club, or are hoping to start one, we want to partner with you! When you register your book club with us, we'll work to keep your selections in stock and each member will recieve a 20% discount on the book pick for the upcoming month's meeting. To register your book club, please send me (Sarah, Book Clubs Coordinator) an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with your book club name, number of members, and when you meet. We love supporting the local book clubs in our community :)
An important part of forming a book club is understanding why you want one. Book clubs can serve many different functions. Do you want to spend more time with your friends, do you want to learn something, have intellectual debates with colleagues or rivals? It doesn’t really matter what your reason, but it’s important to know what you want to get out of each meeting to make your time more fulfilling.
It doesn’t matter if you’re starting a club to read romance novels with your MLB teammates in order to save your marriage (looking at you The Bromance Book Club), joining the local wine and mystery reads club to avoid your writer’s block and see your college literary rival (I see you, Beach Read), or to disguise your forbidden gatherings from the German occupied forces on your secluded UK island (okay, that last one may be a little inaccessible to the readers of this Seattle-area bookstore blog, but I digress). What does matter is that you know why you want to start a book community.
Example: I want to find people who share my passions and literary tastes.
The book selection can be as important or unimportant to your club as it needs. If your main priority in starting a club is to enjoy the company of your friends while drinking and eating good food, the book selection is just the cherry on the top of a happy tradition, and it may not matter what kind of books you choose each month.
If you care about social issues and want to gather with like-minded folks to learn and grow, the books you choose will probably serve a different function in your meetings, and should be considered differently.
Also consider: Has the book been released in paperback? Is it available on multiple platforms, or mediums? Accessibility is so important when creating community, so consider if the book is available in large print, audiobook, etc.
Example: I want to read werewolf literature.
There are a lot of great resources available for you in your book selection search!
-The individual book club pages on our Book Club page list all the books that the clubs have discussed over their history, so if you’re looking for recommendations for particular genres these are pretty awesome resources!
-Visit IndieBound.com to find their Reading Group Indie Next lists for great recommendations from indie bookstores and booksellers across the country.
-Often publishers release lists and reading guides to accompany select new paperback releases. This is a great way to get an idea of what the book industry is excited about.
-Libro.fm is a great resource for audiobooks, allowing you to download books directly to your devices, and it partners with the local bookstore of your choice!
-Goodreads is really helpful to keep track of what you've read, discover new books, and read book reviews.
-Our Staff Picks Page can be a great place to find exciting book recommendations!
-Many book sites have curated lists and recommendations for a huge variety of topics and subjects, so look out for those as well (such as GetUnderlined.com, Lithub.com, Fantasticfiction.com, ReadBrightly.com, and Shelf-awareness.com).
When you’ve clarified your goal for your club, now you have to think about who you will invite to join. The most important thing is that all the members go into the club expecting or looking for similar things. If you want a club because you want to have important philosophical discussions, but your members just want to hang out and drink wine, you’re going to have conflict. When pitching your club to potential members, make sure to clarify your goal for the club.
It’s important to note that book clubs don’t have to be limited to your friend group. You can advertise your club on different platforms and reach out to different community groups to find new members. Several of the virtual clubs hosted by Third Place Books are community clubs that reached out to partner with us in order to bring in more members of the community. Reach out to your local bookstores, schools, workplaces, hobby groups, etc., and see if there is interest for a club that can be sponsored or advertised through them.
Example: I will invite anyone who loves werewolves. I will advertise on community boards and through word of mouth to my friends and family.
How will your meetings be run? Will food and drinks be provided? Your meeting can be informal or structured, or somewhere in between. Will you select discussion leaders, will each member come with a set of prepared questions? Will you ban sensitive subjects or encourage them? How will conflict be addressed? Again, it’s important to know why you’re meeting to make these kinds of decisions. As long as every member is happy with the agreed plan, and you allow for changes and adjustments to happen when needed, you should be set for a great club.
Example: Each member will prepare 3 discussion questions and 1 book suggestion for the upcoming meeting, and take turns asking and sharing answers. At the end of each meeting, we will vote on the next book selection. Food and drink will be themed for each book selection.
There are many factors to consider when picking a meeting place for your club. Again, you should reexamine your purpose for meeting and make sure your space helps you meet that goal rather than hinder you.
Today, many book clubs are meeting virtually. There are many different platforms available now where you can easily schedule and hold meetings. Virtual spaces are safe, socially distant, and accessible. A virtual space allows for more people to join your club, and more flexibility in scheduling. Plus, you can make your own snacks and you don’t have to share.
If you do decide to meet in person, there are steps you can take to ensure you’re meeting safely and responsibly, including social distancing, meeting outside, wearing masks, vaccinations, etc.
Important to consider: How many members will be attending? What volume will your discussion be conducted at? Are you going to be eating or drinking? Will your discussions be appropriate in a family friendly setting?
Example: We will meet virtually for the time being, and eventually outside in a heavily-wooded park.
This one ultimately comes down to member availability and frequency/speed of reading. Often book clubs meet once a month to discuss one book. Others might assign chapters and meet weekly. Work with your members to set attainable reading goals and base your decision on those conversations.
Example: We will meet to discuss one book on the night of each full moon!
Alright! Now you have a purpose, book picks, people, meetings outlined, a place and a time, the very last thing you need is a name!
Example: Wild About Werewolves
So there you have it! I hope this guide has helped you refine and define your goals for beginning a book club! Please reach out to Third Place Books for questions and help with anything and everything related to book clubs. And don’t forget to register your book club with us so we can support you and your literary cohorts!