A Simple Guide to Hosting a (Virtual) Bookclub

A virtual bookclub is a simple way to create meaningful social engagement and connection in and around your community or project!

You can use it to connect with existing members, grow your base, find new customers & clients, or just do it because you love it — there’s no right or wrong reason to host one.

On a personal note, it’s also a healthy, consistent, and scheduled activity that can keep you a little bit more sane during our social-distancing efforts! This is why I have a weekly bookclub myself!

Organize It

The first step is easy! You have to decide to create one! A few things that’ll be helpful:

  1. Purpose: What exactly is the reason that you’re gathering? Start here. State why you’re gathering and what you hope to accomplish together. Is it to learn a particular skill? Or is it simply an excuse to gather?
  2. Give It a Name: You know the drill. Don’t spend too much time here!
  3. Logistics: You’ll want to be clear on the size of the gathering as well as how often, when, and the general flow of the meeting. For instance, my own bookclub doesn’t have a top-end limitation on size but I’m very clear on when we meet (Tuesday mornings @ 10:00am PST) and for how long (45 minutes), which helps folks prepare and schedule.

In general, staying below 10-12 folks is usually a safe bet for bookclubs — if you get too big then it’s time to expand! What a great problem to have!

  1. Technology: You’ll want to be clear on the technology that you’re going to use and give a little guidance as to how to set it up. There’s usually enough (supporting) material from each tool (like Zoom or Whereby) that can help.

Share It

The second step is to simply share your #bookclub with the world! Share it here on Indie Hackers or on your blog or on other social media. Inviting folks directly is one of the best ways to start, especially with your friends and people that you already know.

A landing page might seem excessive but it helps if you have a dedicated “place” for folks to sign-up and register. Using something like a Notion or Google Doc is fine as costs nothing to use. Many of the systems, like Zoom, have invitation / registration systems you can use out of the box.

The Book Selection

Of course, you’re going to have to choose the book! You can easily choose one for the group to work through or you could poll your followers and existing community.

Remember, the book selection isn’t nearly as important as the relationships that are building and forming!

Something smaller and more “lightweight” might be useful to start so you can get your so-called sea legs when you first start. That way you can learn the ropes and experiment with your workflows, schedule, and technology.

Read, Gather, and Enjoy One Another

The next step is to simply read material with your book club! Having a dedicated communication channel (e.g. Slack, Discord) might be useful but isn’t necessary to kick things off.

And then, of course, show up to your first event and enjoy the process! Some folks may spend more time sending “reminders” or engaging outside of the actual event, but that’s unnecessary for most bookclubs.

Some folks like to have a more “rigid” agenda during the group meetings but that’s entirely up to you and your community. A few tips for increasing engagement and driving conversation:

  1. Ask specific questions about the book. These are always helpful for to “start” the dialogue and chatter.
  2. What emotions or feelings showed up in the last reading?
  3. What was your favorite moment or idea and why?
  4. Anything shocking or surprising? What made you go “huh…!”?
  5. Anything that you strongly disagreed with?
  6. Is there any obvious (or subtle) application into our own lives?
  7. Would you recommend this book? Why or why not?

And, of course, wrap-up your convo with a reminder that you’ll be hosting it again, at the same time! Make sure if there’s any follow-up that’s necessary that you do that!

Make sure you get that much-needed feedback too!

Enjoy!

[Originally posted on May 6.]