Book clubs are amazing. They connect readers, ideas, authors and friends over a common love (books, obviously) and foster discussions that can radiate widely and importantly from the source material, encompassing the many ideologies, opinions and experiences of the individuals involved. Book clubs are good for humanity.
But they can also be out of reach in our busy day-to-day existence. Carving time for books and reading is a big priority for many of us, and though discussing our reading is very satisfying, it can seem purely aspirational many days. That’s where online book clubs come in, providing an egalitarian, accessible space where the only barrier to admission is a shaky internet connection.
Think you’re ready to start your own online book club? You are! All it takes is a little forethought, some planning and a good high-speed plan. Follow these steps and you’ll be an online book club founder in no time. Have fun!
Do your research.
There are many, many online book clubs out there already, and they can help provide a blueprint for the kind of online book club you want to start. Some of them are massive, and massively popular, and some of them are quite intimate. Look around, get some ideas, and hey, if you find one that interests you, join it!
Decide on your book club’s mission.
There are feminist book clubs and book clubs for knitters, book clubs for sci-fi lovers and YA-only book clubs. What will your book club be? This is when you must figure out the purpose of your space. Is this a book club focusing on a niche or genre? Is it a book club meant to unite a certain type of reader? Or is it simply a place for a group of friends to hang out in the digital world and talk books, because getting together in real life is too hard to coordinate?
Pick your platform.
Where will your online book club live? A Facebook group is probably the best bet for a new book club, as the space is free (in a monetary sense), most people are already there anyway, and the privacy and posts are easily controlled and curated by the administrator(s). There are also some neat things you can do to add video or Facebook Live sessions to make your book club more dynamic. If you are more tech-savvy and invested, you can always create a blog or web page for your book club.
Set some ground rules.
The most successful book clubs, both on- and off-line are governed by parameters that are regular, predictable and well established, so make sure your new online book club is, too. Before you even think of inviting members, be sure you can answer the following questions: Who chooses the book(s)? How often will a new book be read? How long will members have to read a book before the group meets? Will the meetings happen at a regular, unchanging, specific time or will the discussion be ongoing? Who can participate in the discussion and how will that discussion be guided? The answers to these questions may be fluid as your book club finds its footing, but you should have the parameters, as well as a code of conduct to ensure a respectful dialogue, posted on your site from day one.
Put the final touches on your site.
You would never host a housewarming party while you still are in the middle of renovations, so don’t launch your book club until your online home is ready. That means no more construction: your headers are up, images are posted, email accounts or web addresses have been set up and registered (if necessary), your code of conduct is posted and your online space looks welcoming and safe. Substance, as well as a clean navigation style, goes a long way. You want your members to enjoy their visits and to visit often.
There’s no magic number when it comes to the perfect-sized book club, but the parameters can be pushed slightly when you don’t have to consider the size of your living room. You want enough people to support a robust and continuous discussion, but not so many people that a voice gets lost—something that can happen easily when threaded comments continuously push the most recent submissions to the top of the conversation. And when you are thinking about extending an invitation to join your online book club, think not only about the people who share your tastes and preferences in books, but about those who don’t. A diverse discussion with dissenting views is an interesting discussion.
Be a fair and just administrator.
Once you start an online book club, you are responsible for its upkeep. That means admitting new members, approving comments and updating information in a timely fashion. Nothing will kill an online book club faster than an administrator who takes a back seat regarding its maintenance. It will also be your responsibility to keep discussions moving in a robust and respectful way, lobbing questions, adding polls and generally keeping things going.
You’re ready to read! Good luck with your exciting new venture, and continue to innovate your space—readers are influencers and opportunities abound for enthusiastic groups.
Have you ever considered starting an online book club? Do you belong to one now? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!