I’ve been running a book club for four years now. I often get asked how I set it up so here is my advice on creating a book club of your own.
Way back in 2014, I was searching for a book club in Newcastle. I found a few – one at the library, one run by a local charity and some ad-hoc ones at bookshops. They either didn’t reply to my enquiries or had a reading calendar that didn’t interest me so I took the decision to set one up by myself.
I sat one Saturday evening in December, a glass of red in hand and Strictly Come Dancing on the TV, leafing through magazines that told me what next year’s top reads would be. I realised that not only did I want to read them all (an annual affliction), I wanted to discuss them all with other people who’d also read them. So, I took a big gulp of Rioja and embarked on a journey that would change my life forever…
That may sound a bit dramatic but my book club has really brought great changes into my life. From new friends (always hard to find as an adult) to fantastically bookish experiences, it’s opened a whole other world of opportunities to me.
Here’s how I did it:
1. Pick a name
I started off my thinking of a name for the book club. I went with Book and Brew as it epitomises what I wanted the club to be about: reading and drinking endless hot beverages. As it turns out, it also involves a lot of cake, teacakes and other sweet treats but they would’ve messed with the alliteration and brevity of the brand so were omitted.
2. Get on social media
Name in hand, I set up social media pages on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. I collected a few articles about books, reading and writing – The Guardian, Red and Stylist magazines have a steady supply of literary features – and shared them to fill out my pages. I took a few pics of the books I was currently reading and shared content from local bookshops, too.
I then set up an event on Facebook and posts on Twitter and Instagram detailing the first book club meeting. I reposted it regularly in the run-up to the session in the hope that local bookworms would see it. And, that was it. That’s all I did to send the first Book and Brew book club meeting into the universe.
3. Choose a venue
This is really important and takes more consideration than you might think.
Things you should consider are:
- Transport – is it easy to get to? Not everyone will have a car so look for venues that can be accessed by foot or public transport.
- Space – book debates can get noisy and are often filled with wild gesticulation so you’ll need some space to truly be at ease.
- Catering – even if you don’t have beverages in your book club name, you’ll need a ready supply of hot drinks and sugary treats. We meet on a Sunday morning so a good breakfast/brunch menu was a must for our venue.
- Timing – evenings and weekends are the prime times for book gatherings but decide exactly what time works for you. Many people prefer to go to weekday meetings straight after work while most of us would avoid an early start on a weekend. 11am on a Sunday works great for us – it’s not too early and avoids anyone missing a discussion due to being held up at work.
4. Be brave
On the day of the first meeting, I sat in a coffeeshop on my own wondering who, if anyone, would join me. Despite a few enquiries on social media, I had no idea who would actually show up. It was terrifying. But massively exhilarating.
Setting up a book club from scratch is no mean feat so give yourself credit for getting started. It takes guts to sit there waiting for members to join you but the rewards outweigh those initial nerves, I promise.
5. Connect with The Reading Agency
My biggest tip for any burgeoning book club leader is to connect with The Reading Agency. It’s a wonderful charity that promotes literacy in all its forms and offers a huge amount of support for book clubs.
Firstly, get your book club listed on the Reading Groups for Everyone directory. Not only will this help to promote your club but it’ll give you access to all the marvellous opportunities on the noticeboard. Here, publishers seek book clubs to review their unpublished or new releases and create a social media buzz about their titles. They give you books for free. That’s right, if selected you’ll get jiffy bags and boxes of books delivered to your door from some of the country’s biggest and best publishers. You simply need to review the books and share your reading journey online in return.
And, that’s it. There really is not much to setting up a book club. The hardest part is deciding to do it and waiting for members to show up to the first meeting. Once you have a few fellow bookworms under your wing, you’ll create a book club that works for you and wonder how you ever survived without it.
Good luck and let me know how you get on.