Yes, the pandemic has made getting together more difficult. But, one of the advantages of online everything— from family get-togethers to cooking classes – is that proximity has kind of lost its meaning. We have newly discovered opportunities to gather that transcend geography!
Which makes it a great time to start a virtual book group.
- Find Your Bibliophiles. With a focus on people who share your love of books and sparkling conversation, identify your potential members – family, current friends near and far, former coworkers, etc. A good target number is 12, recognizing that everyone will not be able to attend each gathering.
- On Genre. Decide if you want to have a general theme (e.g. nonfiction or fiction only, contemporary works by people of color, 19th century English writers, mysteries, etc.) or if you want to leave it open for each member to choose when it’s their turn.
- Reach your Readers. Invite your prospects to gauge interest. They may want details, but if they are intrigued in general, they can help shape the group specifics.
- Survey Says? Create an online survey to decide logistics with questions like: How often do you want to meet (monthly, every other month, quarterly, etc.)? Which day(s) and time(s) of day tend to work best? Depending on your comfort level, you may want to recommend ideas for structure and “rules” and gauge how people feel about those suggestions.
- How do we choose books? Some groups rotate “hosts” and each chooses the book they’d like everyone to read. Nice because then everyone is guaranteed a turn. Some groups ask members to make book suggestions and then decide by consensus.
- When is it ok to cancel? Not everyone can make every meeting, but to minimize the efforts involved in rescheduling, some groups decide the meeting will go ahead as long as the host and at least two other members can make it. Others are more flexible about canceling or rescheduling.
- Buying v Borrowing? People have different preferences around owning books as well as different expendable incomes. Some groups opt only to choose books readily available at the library.
- How much lead time? In some groups, the host announces their selection at least two months in advance. Some groups schedule the entire year! Others, choose the next selection at each meeting.
- What about structure? Do you prefer a casual book group where conversation is free to wander or do you prefer more structure to focus on the book? Some groups rotate facilitators who are responsible for a bit of background research, bringing a few questions to the gathering, and facilitating so everyone gets a chance to speak.
- Book It! Once you’ve decided your schedule (if your group includes members across the country or around the globe, be sure to include local times), create a calendar that either shares what your group has selected with corresponding dates or a sign-up where members can “claim” the meeting they want to host and include the title they’ve selected. Remember, not everyone has premier videoconference hosting capabilities, so in some groups, one or two people may volunteer to provide meeting links every time.
You’re ready to go!
- For added fun, invite members to bring a snack or libation to the gathering. Perhaps the host suggests a theme? Reading Tolstoy? Blini or Borscht optional.
- Consider asking one person to be in charge of admin: sending reminders, keeping track of books you’ve read together (you’ll want this in years to come!), remembering when it’s time to create a new sign-up, etc.
- Want to skip steps 1-5? Many online book clubs already exist! Search your town for virtual book club Meetups. Look online for virtual clubs, many of which are organized by genre or interest area. Here’s a good roundup to get you started.