How to Start a Book Club

Maddie Day, author of the Cozy Capers Book Group Mysteries, tells us everything we need to know to start a book club!

We’re partnering with Kensington Books to supply you with enough copies of Murder on Cape Cod for your entire book club! Don’t have a book club? Don’t worry, Maddie Day’s got you covered…

If you like the idea of reading the same book as a group of friends and talking about it over refreshments, a book club is for you. But if there isn’t one already running in your area, or if the ones that are in operation aren’t taking new members, you might as well start your own. But how?

First, you need to decide if you’ll read all genres or only one – say, mysteries. In my new series, the Cozy Capers book group reads only cozy mysteries – and they live on Cape Cod, thus the name. Some groups read everything but mysteries, others read anything in print, and some only read non-fiction.

You’ll want to consider if you’ll audition members or let anyone join. This is going to be a group you plan to hang out with one evening a month and you’ll want to get along. Another consideration is where to meet. If you snag a room in the public library, the meetings likely will have to be open to the public. If you host every month, you can have final say in who joins. And if the members host on a rotating basis, the decisions will be made by the group.

Then you have to find some book lovers. Local libraries are a good place for that. See if you can post a notice on their bulletin board, Facebook page, or newsletter. Similarly, if you belong to a church, a garden club, or a gym, new members might be found there. Be clear about how often you plan to meet and the genre (or lack thereof) of the books. In my series, the members are all residents of fictional Westham, Massachusetts. The head librarian belongs, and the town clerk, the woman who owns the fudge shop, the distiller, the Lobstah Shack owner, and of course, our protagonist, Mackenzie (Mac) Almeida, owner, and proprietor of Mac’s Bikes.

Having a minimum number of members is a good idea, and so is setting a maximum. If you have only five join and two or more can’t come each month, it’ll be a small discussion. On the other hand, if members are going to host in their homes, even twenty might be too big of a group.

Once you have accumulated the right number of people, call the first meeting to plan out the year’s books and the meeting scheme. Will you eat dinner beforehand? Will it be potluck? Will you keep comestibles to wine, cheese, and dessert? Many groups rotate the hosts, and the host provides the food, but your group gets to make up its own rules from the start. In the Cozy Capers Book Group Mysteries, members take turn making a dish from the book the group is discussing.

Love Cozy Recipies: Check out Cooking the Books!

Do you want to meet all year or take the summers off? What day or night of the week or month will you meet? If you’re all retirees, a daytime meeting time might work best. People coming straight from jobs will want a later start and some hefty appetizers. Whatever the group chooses, it needs to be a time when everyone is agrees they are available. The Cozy Capers meet weekly all year round, but that’s unusual. Even more unusual is that they get involved in solving the murder of the man Mac stumbles over (quite literally) on the bike trail on a foggy night.

How to communicate is another thing you want to nail down at the first meeting. A Google or Facebook group? A group email? A group text thread? It’s up to you, but you need to be sure everyone is comfortable using that method. Get a sign-up sheet of emails and telephone numbers and then circulate it to everyone.

Also be sure to hash out expectations for the discussion. Some groups get deep into literary analysis. Others want to talk casually about what they liked and didn’t like in the story, and some members might never finish the book but want a social get-together.

Decide how to select the books. Does the host get to pick? Maybe the choice of who picks goes alphabetically through the list of members and then starts over. Or do you throw titles in a hat and pick twelve? In Murder on Cape Cod, which takes place in early June, the group decides that each book for the summer meetings will take place in a different month, so by fall they’ll have read through the calendar year.

Also, discuss where you’ll get the books. Some libraries have book club kits, with fifteen (or however many) copies of the same book provided in a bag, so members don’t have to buy the read. Such kits would be one reason to limit the group to fifteen, as a friend’s group does. Sometimes the kits come with discussion questions, too.

Finally, be clear from the start that this is a commitment. Sure, you want to have a good time, but members need to stick to the schedule and be serious about showing up.

And then have fun. If you read a book by a local author, contact them to come and visit the meeting where you discuss the book. Most authors are delighted to chat with fans, especially if some tasty food and a glass of wine are included. I know I am! With any luck, your group won’t need to solve a real murder in town instead of discussing the one in the book.


Comment below for a chance to win 15 copies of Murder on Cape Cod by Maddie Day—enough for your entire book club!

To enter, make sure you’re a registered member of the site and simply leave a comment below.

Murder on Cape Cod Comment Sweepstakes: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN.  A purchase does not improve your chances of winning.  Sweepstakes open to legal residents of 50 United States, D.C., and Canada (excluding Quebec), who are 18 years or older as of the date of entry.  To enter, complete the “Post a Comment” entry at http://www.criminalelement.com/how-to-start-a-book-club beginning at 2:00 p.m. Eastern Time (ET) December 18, 2018. Sweepstakes ends at 1:59 p.m. ET December 31, 2018. Void outside the United States and Canada and where prohibited by law. Please see full details and official rules here. Sponsor: Macmillan, 175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010.

Comments

  1. Erika Kehlet

    I don’t have an official mystery book club, but I do have several friends that I share and discuss cozies with, so it might be the perfect time to start one!

  2. Jennifer Kelley

    This sounds like something my book club would enjoy! Thanks for the opportunity!

  3. Shannon

    My book club isn’t brand new but there is a lot of really good tips and information in this article. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Amanda Wilcox

    My book club and I would LOVE to read this! Thanks for the chance!

  5. Juanita Foster

    Thanks for the good suggestions. I have also found that the length of the meeting also important. Is two hous too long? Is one too short? And how to get the shy speaker to participate?

  6. Merry Vogel

    Great ideas

  7. Richard Dominguez

    I have a group of friends we love talking about books we have read and we all live just a couple of blocks away from our local library, the library is always looking for new events to host … This sounds like a great opportunity

  8. Phyllis Sinclair

    Our book club has many who can’t afford to buy books so most are from a lending library. We read all genres. Your suggestions on book clubs are very good. I have a group of friends who read but don’t belong to any book club. I may talk to them about starting another one. Thanks.

  9. Cassandra Rhea

    I am part of a book club and we just celebrated our seventh anniversary. We enjoy reading all genres and our discussions can sometimes get very heated. I love these ladies like sisters so we always end our meetings with a hug.

  10. April Shuffler

    Thanks for all the great tips and suggestions! This would be an amazing win for my book club!! Thank you for the opportunity to win these!

  11. Helen Mooney

    My group would love to read this book. We grew up on wanting to be Nancy Drew.

  12. susan beamon

    My book clubs would enjoy reading this book.

  13. CarolineKarson

    I do hope I win

  14. Jeanne Benedict

    Would love these for our library book club – then we’d pass them on to another Maine library!

  15. Nathan Stolldorf

    My colleagues and I have started a book club! This book is on my list!

  16. Brenda H Griffin

    Our book club would really enjoy this book!!!

  17. Nikki Cogswell

    Oh my goodness! A mystery surrounding a book club! This would be the PERFECT book to start a book club! I already have ideas for a potluck menu. Thank you for the tips and ideas!!

  18. Theresa Casteel

    I belong to a wonderful mystery book club that I will share this info with for some new ideas. I am sure our group would enjoy this book. 🙂

  19. Karen Call

    I belong to a Mystery Book Club. We are 13 grandmothers who meet to discuss one book a month. We rotate among our homes. Sounds like a great book for 2019!

  20. Carole Carlson

    Very timely, as I just joined a start-up book club – and I love mysteries!

  21. Anne L. Rightler

    Great ideas. I have a friend who has a book club and she would love these. Thank you for the opportunity,

  22. Karen Mikusak

    Great tips! Would love to win.

  23. Jennifer Ellenson

    Our book club is made up of lawyers, medical professionals and victim/witness specialists. This book would be perfect for our book club! We would love to have a chance at receiving this book for our group!

  24. Sandra Mettler

    This is exciting! My book club (The Bluestockings) has 11 members, and we have so many awesome discussions!

  25. Cheryl Koch

    This sounds like a book that my book club would enjoy reading.

  26. Pearl

    My book club would enjoy this intriguing and unique book greatly.

  27. Anne

    An ideal choice for our book club for all to appreciate.

  28. Felicia Steele

    I think this would be a great book for our book club. We started it 3 months ago and absolutely loving it.

  29. Marie

    Would love to win.

  30. filkferengi

    This book sounds like lots of fun!

  31. Karen H

    I would love to get my book club to read an interesting mystery!

  32. Dixie Dylla

    I’m in a few more Norine vookclubs, but I long to have a wonderful face to face club… when I retire next year, that’s just what I plan to do. I’ve got at least 15 friends that would love a free book copy! Count me (and my girls) in!

  33. Andra Baley

    I have a bookclub but we haven’t read a mystery yet. We’ve read thrillers, historical fiction and just fiction. This would be a great way to start. We are a small group of 8 or so. Thanks for the chance

  34. Shari Heinze

    This would be so much fun. Need to find some peoples.

  35. Jill K. Porcop

    A book club mystery is just right up our alley! Good luck to those who enter this contest!

  36. Ilene Harris

    I love the idea of a book club mystery, can’t wait until I read it.

  37. Emma Cazabonne

    Thanks for the great advice and the opportunity to win these copies

  38. Jeannette

    Book club is one of the highlights each month. Thank you for all the great suggestions.

  39. Sharon Larson

    My book club, Killing Time, has been meeting for over twenty years. We still have some original members and have added others over the years. As our name suggests, we read only mysteries and a nice cozy now and then is especially good in Winter. We meet at The Bookworm in Omaha.

  40. Amy Fendley

    We have a very committed group of 6 that have been meeting for years. We rotate who picks the books, and sometimes we meet at restaurants or at each others house to discuss the books. We also branch out from what we are reading.

  41. Lori A. Geise

    My local library has a book 📚 club. We read a wide variety of genres. We’d love to read “Murder on Cape Cod” by Maddie Day.

  42. Mariah Brazil

    Wow! We would LOVE to win this! Our husbands get nervous when they see the titles of the books our group reads!

  43. Dorothy Minor

    What a delight to enter to win books for my book club, Circle of Readers. We have been meeting for a year now and have a lively discussion each month.

  44. ravensfan

    I’d love to win these books.

  45. Lee Nelson

    I run the Murder and Tea Book Club and we’d love to read this book. We’ve been around for about 15 years and can be found on Facebook.

  46. Sandi Sullivan

    I believe it would be a great 1st read for the book club I want to start. Thank you.

  47. Beth Ingham

    I don’t have an official book club but several friend of mine we discuss the cozy mysteries that we are currently reading and we trade books.

  48. Wanda Rasmussen

    I love mysteries and my book club loves new authors!

  49. Nicole seabolt

    Great ideas on starting a book club!

  50. Kathie Newell

    IThis is a great article with so much helpful info about getting a book club going. I have been in a few, but they have just fizzled out for a variety of reasons. And I’ve been think of starting one up at an awesome new coffee shop not far from me. This article may be a sign that I’m meant to do that! 😄

  51. Gg

    Article was helpful but luckily I Am in a mystery/thrillers book group. We meet once a month. Would love to win book for my group. We read various different types of mysteries ( ie. Cozy, first on a series, stand alone, suspense, procedural, cop or PI mystery, etc)

  52. Jo

    This sounds great! I already have a (few) book club(s), and we usually switch off genres based on if the library has enough copies. This sounds like a great title to discuss.

  53. Doris C. Losey

    My book club would love to read this book.

  54. Heidi Rude

    Such great tips for starting a book club! I would love to start a mystery/thriller/true crime book club. Thanks for the opportunity!

  55. Rhoda

    My book club enjoys reading various genres.

  56. Erinn

    This is a most awesome idea! I’ve been looking for a book club but wasn’t sure how to start one, now I have some ideas. Great article!!

  57. Colleen

    Looking forward to reading these books!

  58. Sushi Cat

    The article you have shared here very awesome. I really like and appreciated your work. I read deeply your article, the points you have mentioned in this article are useful

  59. Jean Boe

    The article is very good. My Book Club reads a wide variety of books across many genres. Mysteries are discussed several times during a year.

  60. Pamela Allen-Sanders

    I am a member of Fiction Fanatics and we would love to read your book. We read everything and we a group of women from diverse backgrounds.

  61. Barbara Clark

    I am already in a book club and would love to win copies for my 10 members.

  62. Antwanette

    Awesomeness!!! I would love to win copies of the book. Happy Reading everyone!

  63. Joyce Munz

    Our book club reads all genre, but we would enjoy this! We are in FL, but have 3 members who have lived in Indiana. Ours is a multi-generational group with several mother-daughter-mother in law combos. Always interesting to see the differences, but makes all more aware. We have 15 members, and have been meeting for 15 years so this would be perfect!

  64. Julie Erickson

    I would love to start a book club with these books, it’s my favorite comfy cozy read.

  65. Billie

    I just joined a book club last month. We’re still getting the hang of it, but I’m really enjoying it! This would be a great series for the club. Thank you for the chance!

  66. Wanda Rasmussen

    I belong to two book clubs. One is local and the other is long distance (Alaska to New York.) Love mysteries, especially with added recipes.

  67. Patricia Cekoric

    My preference is to meet at the public library because our presence adds to usage statistics that help with funding, since we are in a poverty area and must struggle for every penny. My group has been together for years, but we are open to these new ideas to avoid being repetitive. My group loves reading books and authors who are new to us, and would relish this opportunity.

  68. Donna

    Our book club is Condo Book Club since we all live at the same condo. We meet at our club house. We would love to win books to read.

  69. Judy Hall

    My book club is a mystery club, through our local library. We are not quite on Cape Cod, but we’re only 25 minutes above the bridge, so we love reading local.

  70. Adrianne Beal

    Thank you so much for all the ideas. I will share them with our book club which meets at the library once a month. We read mysteries, but rarely read cozies, so winning the books would give everyone a chance to try one.

  71. Margaret Mori

    My bookgroup, Armchair Literati, would be thrilled to read this book!

  72. Agnes Zelgert

    This would be a great way to start a book club! I am retiring in February and looking for ways to share my love of books and reading. Thanks for all of your suggestions of how to start a book club.

  73. Janet Womack

    I think my book club would be thrilled with this.

  74. Marilyn Sieb

    I’m facilitator of a library book club. We ‘love’ mysteries and are always looking for new authors to try!

  75. CharleneMcD

    Our Ladies Night Out Book Club has been going strong since 2007. We get all of our books from our local library. I would love to surprise them with a book that they can keep. Thanks for the chance.

  76. Tiffany Coffman

    I was thinking about starting a book club at the beginning of the year! Thanks for the chance.

  77. Valerie Welbourn

    I love reading Cozies! They are my favorite because they combine (typically) sense of place, people, and of course a fun mystery to solve.

  78. Sue Lindsay

    I belong to two book clubs. I enjoy meeting and discussing books with friends. We tried to meet once a month but found out we had to be more flexible with the scheduling because people are busy. We meet when everyone has finished the book. In my one book club, we favour mysteries.

  79. Rebecca J Mensinga

    I run a book club online and it is really fun! We read different genres.

  80. Jennifer Murphy

    I host a mystery book club at my library and we love cozies!

  81. Rachel Carter

    Always wanted to start a book club!

  82. Deb Pauly

    I think our book club would enjoy this mystery. Thanks for the opportunity.

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