Decide on the tone and theme of the club.
Are you a die-hard mystery buff? A shameless Anglophile? Or an equal-opportunity bookworm? Decide whether you would prefer to focus on one genre or have an Amazon.com free-for-all, and set the tone, too: a scholarly meeting of the minds, a reason for a get-together, or something in-between.
Spread the word.
Alert friends, family, and coworkers that you’re starting a club; be sure to mention your expectations. Start collecting e-mail addresses. Your goal should be between 5 and 15 people, so everyone gets a chance to speak. New to the area? Post a flyer on the community board at your local bookstore or library, or check out Craigslist.org and ReadersCircle.org.
Figure out the best time for everyone to meet.
Coordinating busy schedules can be the toughest part of this process, but finding a good slot will boost attendance down the line. (After dinner, when younger kids have gone to bed, is a popular choice.) Something to consider: Will the time of the gathering warrant a meal (hello, potluck!), snack, or just refreshments?
Pick a convenient location.
Lots of groups take turns at one another’s homes, but if you want to remove the pressure to entertain, then quiet cafes and restaurants are an easy option. You can even ask for a discount at one spot if you’ll be meeting there regularly. If you want to get really creative, you can vary the meeting place and cuisine based on the setting of the book.
Go over the ground rules via e-mail.
You’ll want to give people an idea of what to expect: how often you’ll meet (once a month is typical), how long the meetings will be (about two hours usually does the trick), and any other need-to-knows.
Finalize how books and moderators will be chosen.
For the first meeting, it makes sense for you to suggest the title and prepare a few discussion questions. Depending on the seriousness level of the group, you may want to do a bit of research on the author, time period, etc. Moving forward, every member should have a voice, with the group reserving veto power in case too many have already read the book or don’t consider it appropriate. Don’t want to deal with the committee selection process? Follow a best-seller list or recommendations from a website that focuses on your genre. P.S.: It’s a nice courtesy for the moderator of the next meeting to send everyone a reminder e-mail a few days beforehand.
Consider starting a blog or an online forum to keep track of the club.
Websites like bigtent.com are free to join, easy to use, and allow all the members of your club to post on a communal site. (You can also try joining Real Simple’s No-Obligation Book Club.) You’ll save time by eliminating the need for group e-mails, and it will come in handy when you’re recruiting new members.