How to Start a Book Club

bookclub article

Writers have a tendency to become homebodies, to embrace solitude and focus on writing and reading alone. Reading is, of course, a solitary act; a subjective journey that we take on our own and into ourselves. Reading isolates you from others: you carry the experience of the book within you, but who can you tell? Who will understand?

Reading alone is not only lonely but makes for a narrow-minded view of literature, which is no good if you want to be a successful writer. Writers must read widely and read often, as we’re always told. We need to find new resources, read reviews, take recommendations. Writers must also learn how to pick apart the books they read, to challenge themselves, to see the stories from new perspectives. We need to add a social element to the solitary art of reading.

Maybe we’re shy; maybe we don’t know where to meet other readers like ourselves; maybe we don’t have time for a social life. That’s why you should start (or join) a book club.

Why start one when you could join one?

At the beginning of the year, in that liminal space between old and new, spurred on by talk of New Year’s Resolutions and new experiences, I started a book club. I’d been conscious of becoming more withdrawn and wanted to kickstart my social life again, and what better way to do it than talk about reading (and writing)?

I knew of a few relevant groups but couldn’t bring myself to squeeze into them without knowing anybody. I searched online for local book clubs and found that they were all for casual readers rather than literary or writerly readers, who need to rip texts apart and learn things from them. I also found that a lot of book clubs were held on weekdays or at times I couldn’t fit into my schedule.

There wasn’t anywhere that I felt, as a writer, I could fit in as a reader. There’s no better way to find what you want (and need) than to create it for yourself, and the great thing about starting a book club is that you have freedom to make it exactly what you want it to be.

Decide what you want from it

When I was on the search for a book club I knew what sort of group I would fit into best. I needed like-minded people; people who were not only readers but also writers; people that would understand what I knew but would also expand my knowledge.

To start a book club you need to have direction, and that means knowing what you want the group to be and what you want to get back from it. If you want to explore new writing, start a group that reads only contemporary books and if you want to fangirl over fantasy then focus your group on genre writing.

You can focus your book club on just about anything:

  • Genre (sci-fi and fantasy, realism and literature, poetry)
  • Gender and Age (male, female, young, old)
  • Author (reading the entire works of a single beloved writer)
  • Publication date (ancient, classic, contemporary)
  • Publication country (American writing, African Diaspora, British Isles)
  • Or don’t specify at all and see where it takes you!

Whatever parameters you choose for the reading, also consider certain ‘rules’ for the meetings themselves. Think about possible locations for meetings (local cafes, people’s homes, or purely online?), whether you want mixed genders or a more ‘girls’ night’ or ‘mates’ date’ kind of vibe, and whether you want group members to be super strict with their readings (comprehensive notes necessary) or more casual (haven’t read the whole book? No worries!).

Establishing the expectations for your group early on avoids disagreements, disappointments, and dodgy decision-making. When everyone knows what they’re in for, everyone’s more likely to join for the right reasons and have a great time.

Getting people together

So you’ve got the concept of your book club settled but you’ve got nobody to attend the actual meetings. Depending on whether you want to catch up with new people or friends you already know, your methods of spreading the word about your new group might vary.

A simple post on social media asking for interested parties might be just the thing you need to get a group together.

If you don’t want to throw your net wide open you can tell a few friends, ask them to invite a friend each, and all of a sudden you have a mix of old and new buddies!

Starting afresh? Try starting a group online through a site like Meetup, posting flyers in cafes and bookstores, or talking to local libraries (or universities, or writing centres) about advertising through their channels.

The way you get your group together depends on how many readers you’re expecting to bring together and how comfortable you are with meeting new people. I’m more on the socially awkward side so I posted through Facebook, got a small group of four together, then expanded with friends-of-friends. The important thing to remember is that not everybody will be available for every meeting, so aiming high can sometimes leave you with just the right number.

How to keep organised

It’s not enough to just start a group and get people together. You need to have excellent communication from month to month (or week to week, or whenever your meetings are planned for!). There will be a lot of decisions to make and confirm with everyone in the group, like what the book is, where you’ll meet up, and who can make it on the day.

Facebook groups are ideal for this because everyone can easily comment and make friends fast with a few clicks (on a site you’re no doubt already familiar with). Other apps like Whatsapp are also great for the tech savvy and for reaching out to members who might not have Facebook (yes, they exist!). Swap emails and phone numbers – you never know when they might come in handy.

The best advice I can give is to plan far ahead in time, like a whole month ahead. At the end of your meeting start discussing the next one, and then get in contact with everyone and let them know the details while they’re still buzzing from the fun times they just had.

What I’ve learned from my book club

As someone who ‘runs’ (or at least, is part of) a book club, and has been doing so for a solid eight or nine months now, there are a few things I’ve learned along the way (in addition to all of the above):

  • Come up with questions and topics – this helps to get the conversation going and helps you to think about the chosen book in new analytic ways (which in turn improves your writing!)
  • Be democratic – make sure everyone discusses the book choice and that everyone gets a say, especially if some members are more quiet than others
  • Get feedback – you want people to have a good time, so find out what’s working and what’s not and tweak your meetings to the best they can be
  • Expand your horizons – other people in your group have fantastic ideas, and the whole point of book club is to swap reading experiences; listen to people’s recommendations, try new things, read from new perspectives

Starting a book club was easily one of the brighter initiatives I’ve had this year. I’ve reconnected with old friends, met new people, read (and loved) books I’d never think to pick up. We’ve had deep conversations about feminism and the authority of the writer and we’ve had excited chats about new TV shows and Harry Potter.

Book club became more than just a monthly meeting; all I had to do was put myself out there, without fear of rejection or disappointment, and I’m so glad that I finally did.

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Article Via https://writersedit.com/fiction-writing/handy-tips-on-how-to-start-a-book-club/

2017 Longlist Announcement | The Bath Novel Award

The Bath Children’s Novel Award 2017: Longlist Announcement

The Bath Children’s Novel Award is an annual international prize for emerging novelists.

During 2017 writers in 39 countries submitted 750 manuscripts. From these, 26 have been longlisted with an even split between novels written for middle grade (7-11 years) and young adult readers (12 years plus).

Amongst the contenders for this year’s £2,000 prize are writers from Australia, Grand Cayman, England, Ireland, Scotland and the USA.

Adventure, mystery and fantasy proved especially competitive genres within middle grade, with a notable rise tricksy villains and themes about drawing strength and wisdom from the past. Trends amongst young adult submissions included the centrality of family, the search for authenticity, and choosing your best path in a divided world.

For the next stage of the competition, our panel of Junior Judges, aged from six to seventeen years, will select a shortlist which will be announced January 5th 2018.

As all our judges read “blind” we’ll be keeping the longlisted writers’ identities under wraps until the overall winner, as chosen by SALLYANNE SWEENEY is announced February 8th 2018.

In the meantime, huge congratulations to the writers of these 26 standout titles:

Agatha Brown and the Witchfinder General
Elsetime
Fig Swims Round the World
Hattie: or, A Thousand Miles Up the Nile
Illegal is not a Noun
Jack Dark and the Figment Hunters
Me Two
Milton Hits the Headlines
Psigns
Sixteen Again
Storm House
The Agency’s Last Case
The Badly Born
The Boy Inside my Head
The Case in Locker 62
The Curse of the Weird Wolf
The Darlington Miracles
The Door in the Dark
The Firestone of Avisriel
The Ivory Rite
The Legend of Star Arrow
The Reinvention of Rolo Rawlings
The Vessel
The Waggledancing Dragon
Voxmort: The Stone of Death
What was Left Behind

 

Congratulations to you all!

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The Bath Children’s Novel Award is sponsored by

CornerstonesLogo

Via 2017 Longlist Announcement: The Bath Novel Award

Don’t Underestimate Reader Recommendations | Mads Holmen

Reading people

The web has grown to become the main source of information and discovery for many people, and they depend on it to help build their perception of the world. However, at the same time the amount of information available has exploded.

Just think of Spotify’s 30m music tracks – there’s enough content just there to fill hundreds of human lifetimes. YouTube receives more video in a minute than you could ever watch and Facebook must choose from an average of 2600 relevant posts when you fire up your feed.

So, to manage the constant stream of potential information from overloading us, we all daily interact with recommender systems now. Some well-known examples include Facebook and Instagram’s Feed, Spotify’s Discover Weekly, movie and book recommendations on Netflix and Amazon – but recommenders are everywhere, assisting you to do everything from booking your travel to dating or ordering food.

However, there is one problem. Diversity.

The public discourse has now accepted terms like filter bubbles, echo chambers and fake news, but we’ve still done preciously little to consider the systems design that caused this new trend.

I heard a panelist in Amsterdam last week say that he genuinely believed Facebook and Google could incidentally cause the next global conflict by virtue of creating a more polarized media landscape. They didn’t plan to, but by rewarding attention-grabbing content that drives engagement, these companies have created a perverse incentive structure for content creators.

Ev Williams, the founder of Medium and Twitter, often uses the car crash analogy. The current systems rewards extremes he says. Say you’re driving down the road and see a car crash. Of course, you look. Everyone looks. The internet interprets behavior like this to mean everyone is asking for car crashes, so it tries to supply more of them.

It interprets what we do, as the person we are.

When popularity and engagement drive the publishing industry, we lose sight of what gave the industry its privileged status in society in the first place – trust and human aspiration. So, while it is tempting for businesses to interpret popularity as a signal that people simply want more of that stuff, that would be a mistake. People also want diversity, because it serves a different purpose in our lives – that of our better, future self. In the recommender systems space, we call this problem exploitation vs exploration.

One of the editors on our blog, Sam Lay, wrote beautifully about why diversity is an important counteract to popularity – and why the reason is human aspiration.

“Every Monday my unambitious and unsophisticated musical choices stare me in the face. I can clearly see why Discover Weekly is choosing the songs it does and that’s slightly embarrassing.…My saves, shares and playlist adds on Spotify indicate my aspirational self, the music I would like to be associated with, whilst what I actually listen to often serves a practical purpose or satisfies a guilty pleasure.”

In short, he argues that there is a difference between what our actual self may do in the moment and what future our aspirational self is trying to steer us towards – and that any product that helped him be more of the latter would be worth more to him. Daniel Kahneman calls this the difference between our experiencing self and our remembering self.

The problem is often that aspiration and long-term product satisfaction cannot be measured as easily and immediately as popularity. However, we know from research that users actually tend to be more satisfied with diverse recommendations, i.e. being exposed to a wider variety of content, which can prompt the experience of serendipity — discovering something new when we were not expecting it. Those sorts of discoveries have disproportionate value.

So, if our ugly actual self stares us in the face every time we open Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, the best business opportunity around might be to cater more for our better selves. We know from countless branding studies that aspirational brands can charge a premium on their products and services (think Apple vs Dell), so I see no reason to assume that this shouldn’t be true in the publishing space too.

When speaking to friends about this article, one thing that kept coming back was how bookstores like Foyle’s in London are offering superior value by having diverse staff pick tables and an aspirational store environment. People buy an experience, not just a book. It might feel counter-intutivie when you’re chasing short-term clicks, but that experience will become ever more valuable if it reaches out to our better selves, rather than just re-circulating our current tastes.

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The original article is here: https://www.thebookseller.com/futurebook/dont-underestimate-readers-when-it-comes-recommendations-642661