Summer is a great time to dive into that to-be-read list of yours and enjoy some great reads. If you’re looking for a way to connect with fellow book-loving friends, whether they live near or far, hosting a virtual summer book club can be a fun way to keep your reading goals on target and discuss great books. If you’ve never hosted a virtual book club, here are 5 tips for starting one this summer:
- Make a list of fellow book lovers and then send out fun virtual invitations. One of the beauties of a virtual book club is that you can invite fellow book fans to join even if they live far away, so the sky’s the limit when you think about who to invite! Maybe you want to include your best friend who lives out of state; with a virtual book club, you can do that. Once you’ve settled on the list, do an Internet search to find companies that will let you send fun, customizable digital invitations to your group. Then send out your selected digital invitation with the dates and times of your book group gatherings. A personalized email invite is a great way to get book lovers excited to join the book club!
- Take an online poll to see what group members would like to read. You’ll need to get a feel for what your fellow book lovers would like to discuss in your group. One great way to do this is to have members nominate the top three books they’d like to read. Have them submit their nominations to you, then drop those titles into a poll readers can vote on. (There are a lot of online tools that will let you create polls quickly and for free. Just do a quick search to find one that works for you). Be sure to set up your poll so each member votes for a book beyond the titles they’ve nominated. Then send out the poll via email or text messaging and see which title emerges as the top pick. And there you have it: The people have spoken! You have the book you’ll be discussing in your book club!
- Decide on a video conferencing platform and give it a trial run. Everyone may not have the technology needed to use certain video conferencing tools, so before your first meeting—to avoid any hiccups the day of—be sure your fellow group members have had a chance to give the video conferencing tool you’ve selected a trial run. You might even do a quick pre-meeting call a few days before to be sure everyone can log in and work out any technological difficulties that might arise. Then you’ll be set for the book group call the day of your first discussion!
- Have group members prepare questions about the book ahead of time. Let’s face it: moments of silence on video calls can be, well, a little awkward. To avoid any long pauses in the conversation, ask book group attendees to prepare three or four questions about the book you’ve been reading. These questions can be a great way to facilitate group discussion, get people talking about their favorite parts of the book, and help everyone feel connected even as you meet virtually. Everyone has something to contribute, so encourage your fellow book lovers to share their thoughts on the story you’ve been reading.
- Don’t forget about the snacks! Sure, technology hasn’t been invented yet that allows us to share sweet or savory snacks via our computer screens, but that doesn’t mean your group can’t enjoy some book-inspired treats. Like you might do if you were meeting in person, invite attendees to prepare a cup of tea, a snack inspired by the setting of the novel you’re reading, or something else that feels perfect to enjoy during your book talk. You could even send out book-inspired recipes for everyone to try prior to your virtual meetings and encourage your fellow book lovers to prep the same snack each week. This can be a fun way to inspire camaraderie among club members and make everyone feel a little more connected even while you’re apart.
Often, additional resources such as discussion guides, author Q&As, and other supplemental book materials are available online for book clubs. Once you’ve selected a book for your club to discuss, try searching the publisher’s website for free resources your group might be able to access. Here on Crazy4Fiction, we have a number of free downloadable book club kits as well as links to articles by authors, Q&As, and more that can help you facilitate your virtual book group. Click here to find resources for your group.