Tuesday, April 8, 2014

So You Want to Start a Book Club, Part 2 - Starting Your Own Group

Yesterday, I wrote about how to find an existing group to join.  If you aren't able to find a group, you can always start your own.  While starting a book club isn't difficult, there is a bit of work involved.  In my mind, I divide starting a club into 2 parts--getting the group together and then organizing the club.  This post will deal with the first step.

The first thing you need to do is decide, in very broad terms, what you want your group to be.  This is not the time to get detailed--that will come later.  However, you do need at least a mile high view of what you want your group to look like.  Here are some things you should decide on at this point:

  • What sort of books the group will read.  Stick to broad categories--fiction or nonfiction (or both).
  • How many times a year will your group meet.  Monthly is the norm, but I know of some other groups who meet quarterly.
  • How many people do you want at book club get-together.  This is NOT how many members your club will have.  It is rare that everyone in a book club will make a book club meeting, so your actual membership will be higher.  I would say that you should increase this number by 15-25% for your total membership.  

One necessary component to book clubs is other people!  After all, that is the point of it all...

You can either start a group with people who know or with strangers.  In my experience, it works best to first try to start a group with people you know.  Don't worry, you don't need to have a dozen friends who all love to read and all want to be in your book club (although that would be great).  If you have even just a few friends or acquaintances, that is enough--other members will also invite people and then, voila, you have a nice sized group.

But, let's say you are not able to pull together a group on your own.  If you only have one or two other people willing to start a group--or no one else--you can always try to find some "unmet friends" to join.

I'll come right out and say this....Meetup.com is the best way to go.  Since it is easy to navigate for the person looking for groups, it is a great way to get truly interested people.  I've used it on the "organizer" side and found it quite simple to use. The one drawback, however, is that it costs money.  I believe it is $12 per month per organizer--if you run more than one group, then you can spread that $12 among the different groups.  While you will probably want to have your members help cover the cost but, if you are starting a group, you'll have to pay the first bit of money yourself.

If the money part of Meetup scares you off, there are other venues.  As I mentioned yesterday, many indie bookstores have bulletin boards for advertising book clubs.  Grocery stores also frequently have these boards.  I would strongly recommend you NOT advertise on Craig's List.  Because, you know, it is Craig's List.

Whether you choose to use Meetup or some other way to get the word out about your group, you will want to have a date and public location set for your first, and organizational, meeting.  Trust me, it will be MUCH easier if you start out with "this is the date!" instead of trying to find a date after you have enough people willing to join.

But, we'll talk about the organizational meeting tomorrow....

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