PUTTING YOUR BOOK CLUB/LITERARY GROUP ON THE MAP
Presented by Tee C. Royal of RAWSISTAZ.com
Hello all, I'm the founder of RAWSISTAZ Literary Group, which consists of an online book club (RAWSISTAZ Online Book Club), a literary hang-out (RAW4ALL), a book review team (The RAWSISTAZ Reviewers), and local chapters in cities across the United States (Atlanta, New York, Memphis, Piedmont-Triad NC, Chicago, Detroit, Northern VA, Los Angeles & Ohio). I started RAWSISTAZ to discuss books with other avid readers, people who could relate to my love of books, authors and all things literary. The review team was started shortly after to share the works of African-American Authors who may not have gotten the exposure other authors receive from national publications and media. Here we are 9 years later and I had no idea things would grow to the extent they have, but RAWSISTAZ has become pretty visible in the literary world and it's been a wonderful and rewarding experience.
There are quite a few resources online for starting book clubs or you can definitely reach out to a book club president for questions. Today I'd like to share with you all some of the things you can do to get your book club or literary group started and then a few tips on how to get noticed onlline and off. I'm going to briefly run through some of the basics for those new to book clubs.
Membership: Find a group of like-minded individuals who are also interested in books. You want avid readers who will not only read the selection, but who will also discuss it past the "I liked the book" stage of things. Also consider how large you want your group to be. Most book clubs start off with 3 to 4 people and some max out at 10-15
members, but it depends on the group.
When, Where & How: Determine when and where you'll meet, how often, and the type of books you'll read. You'll also want to select moderators and or hosts, so everyone can actively participate in the club. This gives folks a feeling of ownership and makes them more likely to feel welcome and to contribute freely.
Goals: Also determine what your initial goals of are for the group, expectations, and any major rules or guidelines. While it's important not ot be too strict, you have to set guidelines or the group will never get off to a good start.
Book Selection: Establish how you'll select your books. Will members nominate them and then the group via a poll or will each member be required to select a book and host for that month? Also, ensure you stress that members MUST read the book. You can't have a discussion if no one reads the book.
The Two F's: Food & Fun! Don't spend more time on planning the menu than actually reading the book, but don't forget the food. If there's a way to relate the menu to the theme of the book, by all means do it. Have fun with your book club buddies, respect everyone and share your opinion without forcing it on anyone. Book clubs are wonderful places to establish life-long friendships, so go for it!
GETTING PAST THE BASICS
Now that you've set the foundation of your book club, it's a lot easier to decide on what additional things you'd like to do with the group and how you want to get the word out.
Branding Yourself: First come up with a logo and then set up your email address and website to represent your book club. You can also order t-shirts, book bags, journals, etc., to use when you're out and about so people notice you as a group. (I've set up a shot at Cafepress.com.) Online, you can join social media outlets to network with authors & other book clubs. Use a brief signature block at the end of your messages to make it easier for people to recognize you and your group's name.
Community Involvement: Decide if you want to become involved in the local community and do some research on activities you can particpate in. The newspaper and libraries are great resources for finding information.
Finding Authors: There are thousands of authors releasing books yearly, so do a bit of research so you can find local authors or those who would be of interest to your members and reach out to them. You can also contact various publicists via the publisher's website to schedule author visits or request review copies. (One note here: If you request a book, follow-through with the review or interview.)
Author Visits, Services & Events: Decide if you want to invite authors to your meetings, provide book reviews or host literary events. While this can be more than some book clubs want to do, when you do them well, you can definitely get the word out about your group, while offering a much-needed service to authors and literary enthusiasts. If you do reviews, be sure to post them in visible places like Amazon.com and other online bookstores, also consider doing a newsletter and posting your reviews to your site and places like Facebook, Shelfari, Black Expressions--basically places where readers reside. (One note here: Don't use another person's group as your own personal mailing list. Be respectful of the group they've established. It's wonderful to share information, but don't make it all about you and what you're doing.)
Be Professional: Always remain professional. You may encounter difficult members, but don't let it disrupt the meeting. Same thing with authors--remember to always be constructive, even when you don't like their book.
Stay committed: Book clubs are a lot of work, but stay the course and you'll find them very rewarding. If you run into problems, regroup, take some time off and also look for new members. You will run through a group of people sometimes before you find a set group of those who are committed as you are. Bottom line: people will attend meetings and participate if they enjoy the group.
Tee C. Royal is the founder of RAWSISTAZ Literary Group (http://www.rawsistaz.com) and its subsidiaries. She is an avid reader, freelance reviewer, editor, and literary agent residing in the suburbs of Atlanta .