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Welcome To SORMAG's Blog

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

WORKSHOP: 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!


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 .


Tee C. Royal said...

Hello everyone! Please post your questions and I'll be back mid-morning to address them. Today is my volunteer day at my daughter's school, but I do plan to check in via my BlackBerry!

-Tee C. Royal
Founder, RAWSISTAZ Literary Group

maxxgrl said...

Thanks for the info. very informative.

Susan C. said...

Hey Tee, thank you for this information. Every group goes through changes but eventually the group will find it's "groove".

When starting a new group, how do you discern who is truly interested in joining a book club, versus the people who want to make it a "Waiting to Exhale" party?? While the social aspects are to be expected, they don't take the requirement to read the book seriously.

Tee C. Royal said...

Thanks Maxxgrl!

Susan, having folks who want to socialize vs actually discussing books is a concern. You could set up some type of fine system for those who don't read the book or set a requirement for the number of books one must read per year (or even quarter) before they are kicked out.


Anonymous said...

I would like to start a local book club in the area where I live. The problem is that I have just recently moved to the area. What are some good ways to find like minded folks without having to deal with any drama? I thought about an online ad, but I wasnt sure how well that would go over. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Anonymous said...

Great advice. How often do you recommend meeting?

Lissa "Naleighna Kai" Woodson said...

Tee, you've been at this for several years now. If there was one thing you would have done differently throughout your journey that would have saved you a world of stress, financial strain or whatever--what would it be?

Shelia said...

As the administrator for two book clubs, I'm trying to decide which social networking is best. In your opinion, if you had a choice of one, would you be on facebook or myspace? Trying to be on both and also do my own thing has been challenging time wise.

Michelle Larks said...

Hi Tee,

Just wanted to stop by and say hey! Good info...


Jaime L. said...


As always thanks for sharing. Your ideas and tips are helpful and I intend to utilize them soon ;)!!!

Jaime L.

Tee C. Royal said...

Whew! Finally made it back! Thanks again for stopping through everyone. I'm going to do a mass reply here, so my apologies in advance for the length.

Anonymous said: What are some good ways to find like minded folks without having to deal with any drama?
As much as I'd like to say you won't have any drama, this isn't guaranteed since you'll be working with lots of different personalities. But, some libraries and bookstores let you put up flyers, so I'd start there. Also, think about places where you already know a few folks you can start off with, like work, church or your child's school. A great mix of folks tends to be better too than sticking with just those you know. You can also do BY INVITE ONLY once you get up and going. This is what we did with ATL-RAW in hopes of getting folks who at least one of us knew and could kinda vouch for.

Deltareviewer said: What are some good ways to find like minded folks without having to deal with any drama?
Hey Monique, thanks for stopping by, sis. This should be determined by the initial group, but once a month works for most groups. Have a set day/time and do your best to stick to it. Like, the 3rd Saturday of each month at 4:00PM. This way, people can try to plan around it as much as possible. Some groups meet bi-monthly, so it really depends what works best for the majority of the group. I wouldn't keep changing it either.

Lissa said: If there was one thing you would have done differently throughout your journey that would have saved you a world of stress, financial strain or whatever--what would it be?
Hey there Lissa! Hmmm, one thing? How about two? LOL. First with members, I wouldn't have been so democratic about everything. Wanting to get everyone's opinion all the time slowed me down in instances when I could've just made the decision and moved forward with it. It took me a while to realize that you'd hardly ever have everyone in agreement. So, then I learned to do things based on majority and keep it moving. Secondly, as far as finances goes, with our first few events, I signed contracts agreeing on a certain number of attendees based upon folks saying "I'm coming" and was left with the bill when they were a no show. So, I had to start estimating based upon who those people were who said they were coming, past year's attendance and an early payment plan. These helped out in following years.

Shelia said: In your opinion, if you had a choice of one, would you be on facebook or myspace? Trying to be on both and also do my own thing has been challenging time wise.
Shelia, I'd definitely say Facebook. I've noticed a lot of literary folks have moved away from MySpace as it seems to be more centered on a different crowd--either those under 20 trying to be cool or musicians wanting you to listen to their music. (This is of course, my observation.) Facebook, however, has worked better for me, though I recently started using it. Our main groups utilize YahooGroups and I love the features involved and have been using them from the beginning. We also have Twitter, MySpace & Facebook, but YahooGroups is where the groups actually reside. We recently started a Facebook Fan Page which allows us to share information and interact with folks, so I like that too. (If you go with Facebook though, do the group over the Fan Page as I think they're more geared toward group interaction.)


Anonymous said...

Thanks Tee! You have presented some wonderful advice and great tips! I do realize that this is a business. I have filed a certificate of formation in my state, but how do I protect the name of my book club from someone else stealing it? Cppyright? Trademark? Once I get a logo, do I get that copyrighted or trademarked?

Book Lover in Cali

Tee C. Royal said...

Hi Book Lover in Cali,

For your logo and name, you want to get a trademark. You can get more information via the US Patent & Trademark site at http://www.uspto.gov/


Linda Chavis said...

Great questions and the responses on point ! Thanks Tee for all you do !!!

Ohio Raw Central-Ohio Chapter

Shelia said...

Thanks Tee. Facebook is easier for me to navigate and less time consuming so I'll concentrate on it.

Dyanne said...

Hey Tee,

LaShaunda, I like your new do.


Lissa "Naleighna Kai" Woodson said...

Thanks Tee!

Tee C. Royal said...

@Michelle & Jaime (and everyone), thanks so much for stopping by. I appreciate the support.
@Linda, I'm looking forward to Central-Ohio RAWSISTAZ getting on the map!
@Shelia, definitely stay in touch and always aim for what's easiest for you because this can be a LOT of work.
@Dyanne, Heyyyyyyyyy!
@Lissa, my pleasure!

I'll be out for the next few hours, but if anyone else has questions, please post them!


Ladysilver said...

Thanks for the tips. I have an online bookclub I read with. an attempt to start a club here in Jacksonville did not go so well. No one read the book. I loaned my copy and never got it back.(I have really stopped loaning after this last time). People were more interested in what we were going to drink and eat and complained about the time given to read the book.

Pamela said...

Hello Tee thanks for the info.

One question: How do you keep the energy high with your members? Sometimes I notice lag within the book club...


Tee C. Royal said...

Ladysilver,I think most clubs go through this and early on we had a member question why we were spending so much time planning the menu. LOL. We had a coordinator who handled this, but it did get a bit hectic so we started having the hostess for the month responsible for the meals. It could be pizza, a home-cooked meal, or meeting at a restaurant, and it did help. Don't give up on having a local group as it may just work a second time around. Try to find at least one person interested in books and you'll have an ally to help keep others on track.

Pamela, , this is a great question and trust me our local chapter went through burn out and actually are coming off hiatus next month to resume our meetings. I think sometimes people just get busy with life, they tire of each other and/or maybe they have something more exciting they can be doing. :) I don't know. I personally committed to the group, and love that one time during the month where I can hang out with the ladies, so I'm there, but not everyone will be the same way. I would say mix it up some. Do trips together and things that aren't necessarily book club meetings like plays, bowling, or just time with each others' families--also give prizes & other little tokens of appreciation for your members. This may or may not work. I've found that people are really interested in the book club will be there and will be supportive. I do know that the choices in book selection can make or break a group, so definitely switch it up if you see the interest decline.

Hope this helps!


Dee S. said...

Hi, Tee. C. girl, you stuck your foot in this post and the comments.

I would like to add a note to Sheila. If your group is using Facebook you can embed your MySpace feed into Facebook so that you are funneling information from one social site to another. I'm literally on ten plus sites in one sitting, and so everyone who follows me--wherever they are-- can follow me from where they like to be most.

Author Shelia E. Lipsey said...

Tee, the information you've given is extremely valuable. I use yahoogroups more than anything. I am somewhat ashamed to say that I do not have a facebook fan page. I am a member of many social networks including twitter. Do I have to join facebook to become more successful as an author.

Tee C. Royal said...

Dee , thanks so much for your comments. I've yet to find something that will automatically update MySpace, so if you know of something, please let me know. I've found plug-ins that work wonders with the new site and update Twitter & Facebook for me, so this is the ideal way to go.

Thanks everyone SO MUCH for taking the time to stop by my workshop.


Tee C. Royal said...

Shelia , I wouldn't say you can't be successful without Facebook, as some things work better than others for different people. As long as you utilize something and actually participate and send updates, you'll probably be fine. I'd rather an author NOT have a fan page than have a page and never update it. So, do what works for you. :)


Pamela said...

Tee~Ping.fm is a great way to update a lot of your social media networks. Its simple to sign up and you can make a one post that will got to Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, and other social media networks.

Author Shiela~You can use facebook as a vehicle to update your fans about your new books, booksignings or anything that you would like for your fans to know. Use ping.fm as a way to update all your sites at once and that should eliminate the need to log into some many sites to update them. Keep up with social media takes time and dedication but ping.fm should help. If not, I can send you some more information that may can help.


Toni said...

Hello All, I have really enjoyed reading each post. Questions and answers were spot on. I am proud to say my local book club; P.W.O.C. celebrated 10 years this June. Prayer, dedication, love,and friendship is our key to success. We do several of the things Tee suggested in her answers.

Ladysilver if you are in Jacksonville, FL please contact me.

Where can I find someone who will set up a basic website for my book club which I or one of my members can maintain at a reasonable price?

Tee C. Royal said...

Pamela, thanks so much for sharing the information on ping.fm. I've actually looked into it before and didn't really like how it ends up on the various sites, but I'll give it another look.

Toni, thanks for chiming in! I'd be more than happy to set up a website for your book club. I've done various sites for literary groups & authors. Please contact me directly and we can start working on it.


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