Tuesday, December 14, 2010

10 Tips for Starting a Virtual Social Change Book Club

As I mentioned in my post, Community, Beauty, Party, Wisdom: More Reverb 10 Reflections, one of the highlights of 2010 was organizing a virtual social change book club. A few people have asked me how to organize their own virtual book club, so I thought I'd share the process with you.

1. Find a handful of people who want to read the same book as you.  In our case, I wanted to find people to read Half the Sky with me because I knew it would be a hard read.  I sent out a note to the women on the BlogHer Contributing Editor list.  I didn't actually think it would turn into a book club.  It just evolved organically from four people to 11 over the course of the year.

2. Find a time to talk that works for all of your time zones.  We used Doodle to schedule our first few calls, but after awhile, Mondays at 5:30 PM PT/8:30 PM ET kept being the best time, so we've kept it.

3. Meet every six weeks.  Six weeks seems to give folks enough time to read the book, especially if it is a tough one, and to get it from the library, if they don't want to purchase it.

4. Set up a freeconferencecall.com account. 

5. Send out a reminder email a week, or so before your meeting with the call-in number, and 3-5 reflection questions to help guide your chat.

6. Keep your meeting times manageable.  Our discussions last about 60-75 minutes.

7. Rotate who picks the book.  We go in alphabetical order by first name.

8. Create book selection guidelines.  Over time we've come up with the following loose guidelines:
  • It has to be nonfiction with a "social changey" theme.
  • Read a few pages/the first chapter of the book before you choose it.
  • Be conscious of page count.  Everyone is busy (:
  • Choose books that are available as e-books, for people who prefer to read on their Kindle, iPad, etc.
9. Start a Google Doc where people can add ideas for future books

10. Keep asking people if they'd like to join.  Even though we have 11 people on our mailing list, we probably average 6 per discussion. It's nice to have a large list so that you always have enough people at the meeting.

Please feel free to ask questions and to add your virtual book club tips in the comments.  I've also posted a list of the books we read this year to get you started:

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  1. unlike live book clubs where conversation tends to drift, do virtual book clubs actually spend more time discussing the books?

  2. I'm a member of Britt's book club and I'd just like to vouch for her leadership right here, right now.

    In my mid-20s, I was spoiled with an awesome book club and hard as I tried, was never able to duplicate the magic in another book group - until now!

    Britt is very careful about making sure that everyone has a chance to speak - not an easy thing to do when you can't see faces. I get so much out of this group. Sharing different perspectives and hearing various interpretations really helps me absorb the book much more than if I had read it on my own. Of course, it helps to jump in with a crowd of brainy types.

    One tip: If you have a point to make, best to speak up in your clearest voice. Mind reading and facial cues are simply not available so don't be shy.

    Bravo, Bravo!

  3. Zak ~ Yes, I definitely think it focuses the discussion on the books.

    Heather ~ Thanks for your kind words and for being a core member of the book club. I'm looking forward to seeing what books we read together in 2011!

  4. Britt, writing down these steps is a great idea. It reminds me that I still need to write a step-by-step based on the Brita campaign.

    Have you thought about posting this to e-How or a site like that?

  5. Hi Beth,

    I hadn't thought of that, but it's a good idea. Thanks!


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