How to Start an Online Book Club
Book clubs have long been considered a chance for people to gather with friends to discuss a book and enjoy a bit of wine. Now book clubs are being founded online too, and it creates an opportunity for like-minded people from all over the world to share their views with people they’ve never met. But how can you make an online club successful?
Before you pick your first book, there’s lots of legwork to do, and that includes establishing what you want your online book club to be. For starters, there’s plenty of ways to organize your club as the avenues on the Internet are endless. You could choose to do it by email, forum, or even on a blog. In the case of a blog, you could post a short summary of the book in a post, and the participants can agree on a time to start sharing their thoughts in the comments below.
Whatever way you choose to establish your club’s presence, the club should be about reading books and sharing your thoughts with them in an online community. Since there won’t be any face-to-face interaction, there are challenges to overcome, such as encouraging readers to finish a book before a deadline and marketing yourself to the world. But all these challenges can be met head on by creating a plan for your club before you go live.
How to Organize an Online Book Club
Start by researching other book clubs. Based on what you see, create a list of what you like and what you don’t, and go from there. The biggest considerations when starting a book club on the Internet include:
- Choose a format. Will it be by email, forum, or blog?
- Build a unique website. Many Internet book clubs have their own website, often built using WordPress. Once you find a website host, customize the look and feel of your site, either on your own or with the help of a website designer.
- Make a profile. Write engaging bio about yourselves and your reading habits. Your profiles should also include what sorts of books the club will be about. Specifically, state what genres the club will cover, from romance to young adult to science fiction, and the list goes on.
- Create a newsletter. One way to find — and keep — readers for an online club is to do a monthly newsletter. You can keep the email blast short but engaging, perhaps with a profile of an author or a book the club will be discussing.
- Choose a book and get reading. Once you have chosen a first book, promote the date you’ll be discussing it online and with your readers. Even better, find a way, such as an evite or Facebook group, to get readers to sign up so that it’s on their calendar.
How to Market Your Club
So your book club is set up, but now you need readers! Only big websites like Goodreads don’t need to market their book clubs. Since you’re just starting out, it’s time to spread the word. Start with friends and other people you know, but also promote yourself to other readers through social sites like Facebook and Twitter, but even more so on sites that target readers, like Goodreads.
How to Make Your Club Successful
Getting readers is great, but you want them to return again and again for all of the different “club” books. Since your club is online, this can be a bit more of a challenge. After all, you still want your readers to find connections with each other.
- Make it personal. This is about more than allowing readers to use their name and where they post to the forum. It’s about allowing them to make connections to others. An online version of the potluck meal, for example, is for people to get the same kind of food from an online restaurant order. This way, it’ll be like you’re all hanging out around the dining table, which may make everyone feel more open and willing to talk because of togetherness.
- Participate too. Don’t just open the discussion and let it go where it may. Have questions prepared to keep the conversation going, and when people make comments respond to them, as if they’re talking to you, rather than just writing on a message board.
- Contact authors. Authors love to hear from their readers. Invite authors to join the discussion. This may be an additional incentive for people to participate in the discussion too.
These book clubs may be on the Internet, but that doesn’t mean they have to be impersonal.
Have fun, meet new people, and, of course, keep the convo going about books!