I ran a bookgroup for close to 10 years. At one point I had over 200 members on my mailing list. It was a great experience resulting in new friends, exposure to new authors and some amazing discussions. Almost 9 years after our last meeting, a number of us still stay in touch.
Looking to start your own group? These 5 steps will get you going.
Step#1 – Select a genre, or category
The fun of a book group is having a group of people who want to talk about a book. Select a category of book to build a group with a common interest, making dialog easier. Sci-fi, mysteries, health, or authors from a certain time period; you can even rotate categories from year to year. When I started my group, I was busy exploring lesbian themes. There was a lot I wanted to read and discuss. That brought me to Step #2.
Step #2 – A Reading List and Meeting Schedule
Build a calendar for your meetings, and commit to it. Even if only one person shows up, have the meeting. People need time to adjust their schedules. They also need to discover that your meeting is going to be something they WANT to attend. If members suggest a book, keep a list for future consideration, but don’t change your calendar. Maintain your own control. After all, you’re the one organizing and keeping the group going.
Step #3 – Spread the word
Let people know about your bookgroup. Talk it up at church, at work, with other parents at your children’s soccer games, or daycare. Or hang a sign at the local grocery store, library, or community center. I belonged to a women’s group and placed an ad in their monthly newsletter. Plan on having at least the first three meeting locations decided: your house, a local bookstore, the library, or a park with sufficient tables for everyone to sit together. Rotating locations is great, but can be confusing when the group is new.
Step #4 – Add a “draw”
From themed potlucks to a movie night, to a play reading or author visit, there are many ways to create excitement and peak the interest of potential new members. We did movies during the summer, and enjoyed play readings and an author visit at various times.
Step #5 – Regular Communication
My monthly newsletter included a brief review, our rating of the last book, a sneak preview of the next book, our top 5 list, and a reminder of the upcoming 2 – 3 books so people could plan ahead. When starting something new, it’s easy to forget. Putting something out there as a reminder builds on the fun and excitement of the group. A Facebook page dedicated to your group, a Yahoo Group to stay in touch, or tweeting brief reviews and reminders on group meetings are all great ways to stay in touch.
Book groups are a lot of fun, a great way to expand your personal library, allow you to explore topics and authors you may not approach on your own, and grow your circle of friends.
Oprah’s Guide on Starting a Bookgroup
The American Library Association’s Bookgroup Tips
The book I used when starting my group: The Bookgroup Book