Lifeless colors and ill-fitting dresses, draped on women with their hair pulled tightly into a bun displaying the tension in their faces. Tightly huddled in a circle discussing the themes in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. The description just given is an example of the many stereotypes that surrounds one’s idea of what a book club is: A tedious hour-long chat about books. However, those stereotypes about book clubs are gradually subsiding with the help of popular books such as The Harry Potter series, The Twilight series, The Pretty Little Liars series, The Vampire Diaries series, etc. These popular books, along with many others in development or in print are transforming the image of book clubs everywhere and what they can be.
Starting a book club can be a daunting task because you are not sure how many members your club should have, what types of books to read, where to hold meetings, etc. Your to-do list for starting a book club can become overwhelming if you are not sure what to do; therefore, I have created a way for anyone interested in starting a book club to do so with ease, and one in which people will be excited to join.
Remember when your parents would take you back-to-school shopping a few weeks before school started? You both would go out and get new school supplies so you would be prepared for the new school year, and new clothes and shoes so you would look presentable the first day or week of school. Sometimes I think, we as children, don’t give our parents enough credit for what they do for us. Our parents knew that having the new school supplies and clothes for the new school year would mean we were putting our best foot forward: Having an appearance that would garner the attention that we were interested in learning and that we were prepared. The same logic is used for business: Owners hire the best graphic designers, website designers, purchase or lease the best retail location, and so on and so on because they know that having a good appearance is what will initially get people interested in their product or service.
When starting a book club, you have to think of it as a business: Your appearance means everything. Just because you are not out to make money from your book club does not mean should neglect your appearance any less. Take time to actually design a nice flyer and business cards as a way of promotion. If you have the extra money to spare, hire a freelancer who will be willing to design everything for you; if you don’t have the extra money to spare, go online and go to www.vistaprint.com. They have an abundance of premade marketing items at low prices. If you want people to join your book club, you have to make sure they know you are well organized. Whether you like it or not, when it comes to clubs or organizations, people do judge a book by its cover; therefore, you want to make sure your cover is as nice as you can make it without breaking your wallet. You can also create promotional items if you want, but I will discuss more about that in the marketing section.
Organization is key if you want your book club to succeed. This is where I say set aside some time to really focus on the structure of your book club and how it will run. First, think about policies and procedures. What will the rules be of the book club? Will meetings be mandatory? Will certain conversations be off limits to prevent offending someone? Will there be an age limit because of the books you will be reading? Will there be a president, vice president, secretary, record keeper? These are just a few questions in which you will build upon when you’re pondering about the club’s policies and procedures because they will possibly make or break your club.
Second, think about how many times do you want the club to meet. Do you want to meet once a week? Twice a month? Every other month? These questions are significant to know because again, it will determine the success or failure of your club. Also, think about where do you want to have the meetings. Are you comfortable at having them at your home and then rotating with other members as time goes by? Do you want to have them at a bookstore? Or would a public library be more suitable where you would be able to use a private room, and have access to the library’s equipment? When thinking about these questions, make sure you consider your members schedules and transportation. Make sure you keep a log or book of your members contact information, which again, will help the book club to run more efficiently.
Marketing and Promotion
How you go about marketing and promoting your book club will also determine the success of your club. I discussed a little in the appearance section about promotional items you can could possibly consider getting for your book club; however, I would not go overboard because everyone knows there is nothing like a good freebie, and you want to make sure you don’t get taken advantage of. What you decide to get is solely up to you: key chains, bookmarks, and pens are a great way to get the message out without breaking your wallet. You could also set up an area (with the business owner’s permission) to have a display table with your club’s information.
For example, the public library is a great place to attract potential members. You could easily ask permission to set up a display on their table advertising your book club, and the benefits for you will be great because the public library is heavy with foot traffic. You could also dedicate some time to actually stay there and discuss with potential members what your book club is about which will make a great impression on those possibly wanting to join. However, you are not limited to just using the library, and you can scout out other places in which you think could bring in members. As a warning when you’re promoting, make sure you know what is your maximum number of members because at the end of the day, the responsibility of the club running smoothly and satisfying your members rest solely on your shoulders; therefore, make sure you can handle a large group of members if that’s how many join. Don’t forget that social networks are also a great way to get the word out about your book club.
Include The Inputs Of Club Members
A great way to keep your book club members is to include their inputs during meetings. If they have suggestions about the next book to read, a great meeting location, what type of food and beverage should be served at the next meeting, etc. Just because you’re the organizer of the club, you don’t want your members to think you’re a dictator. Make sure your members know that their opinions are wanted and valid in order to help the book club grow and evolve.
Plan Trips Around Books You Have Read
Everyone likes to take a trip no matter what their finances are, and this will be a great way to allow your members to see that your book club is not solely about intellectual conversations. Think about having an annual trip based on a book your club has read. For example, if you have read any of Candace Bushnell’s books, then you might consider planning a trip to New York for your book club to visit. Or, you can plan two trips: one based around books you have read as well as a getaway for the members. You want your members to have fun with the book club, and trips are a great way to discuss a book even further as well as getting to know each other better.
Games and Discussion Ideas
There is no right or wrong way to discuss a book once your club is done reading it; however, you can make it so that it’s both intellectual and fun at the same time. One suggestion is that you can put your club members into teams, do a multiple choice game using a buzzer or a bell, and if the they answer a question right, give them a prize of some sort. Another idea is to play a movie trivia game since most books are made into movies, and go with the prize theme for the winning team. Also, you could gather around a table of food and beverages and take turns discussing ideas about the book and what it meant for each individual. Like I said, there are no right or wrong ways for creating successful games and discussions; however, you do want to make sure it’s fun for both you and your members.
Dedicate A Meeting For Socialization
Even though your goal for starting a book club is to share your love of books with others, but you should remember that it is also a social club. Once a month, dedicate a meeting for the sole purpose of socializing. Have picnics, have a dinner party, take a social outing to a movie or bowling ally, have a family’s day if any of your members have kids. It’s fun to discuss books, but you also want to show your members there is another side to the book club. Making your book club a social circle in which people feel safe with one another, and love to gather and just chat. It does not matter what your club decides to do, again, just make sure everyone is gathering and having fun.
Starting a book club can be a fun process if you allow it to be so, and the main purpose of stating a book club is to share your passion and ideas for books. You want to have members, and you want those members to really enjoy being part of your book club; therefore, I would suggest taking some of my points to heart as well as creating your own. There is no right or wrong way to create a book club; however, you want your book club to be one that is fun and has members.