Photo by SomeHoosier

Photo by SomeHoosier

We’re thrilled to have Mollie Lundquist of LitLovers here today, who describes herself as “an English teacher gone mad.” LitLovers grew out of an online course she taught a few years ago. It was so much fun, she decided to go public.

She says:

LitLovers has brought together my lifelong love of reading, writing, and teaching. The site is about WHAT we read, HOW we read, and HOW we THINK about our reading. Approaching literature in that way can change how we see our lives and the world around us.

It’s my hope that readers everywhere will come to the site again and again to explore, learn, and have fun.

Follow  Mollie on Facebook or on Twitter.

The WHYs of Book Club Questions

So. You’ve finished your book (check), found a publisher (check), gone through the editing process (check), and myriad other steps. You’ve reached a sense of cosmic completion. Om….

But then your publisher-publicist-agent (and even your mother) tells you to write Book Club Questions. Wait. Book club questions? On top of all the other hoops you’ve had to jump through?

Let’s step back a bit.

No less an arbiter of style and trends than The New York Times quipped in a recent headline, “Really? You Aren’t in a Book Club?” The “book club boom is nationwide,” says The Times, citing five million as the number of Americans belonging to local reading groups. That number doesn’t include the millions more (25 million for GoodReads alone) who meet online.

As an author promoting your book, why would you ignore an audience so immense and influential?–Influential, because book clubs talk with one another. Just ask Kathleen Grissom, author of Kitchen House.

With an initial print run of 11,500 copies, the book didn’t get traction right away…. In an era when digital buzz is considered crucial to launching books overnight, it was old-fashioned book-club word-of-mouth that prevailed. The book is in its 21st printing, with 254,000 copies in print and 152,000 e-books sold.  — The Wall Street Journal, August 16, 2012

Among the (many) things Grissom did right was to develop a set of questions to help her readers with what is, arguably, the hardest part of belonging to a book club: the discussion. It’s difficult—and I say this as a former college English instructor—to talk about books in a way that stimulates meaningful, lively discussions. We all want to move beyond the “didn’t like her…couldn’t stand him” moments, but it’s not easy.

So help your readers. Show them how get to the gist of your book and promote a thoughtful conversation. The comments I hear over and over on LitLovers is how good discussions change minds—those who go into a meeting disliking a book come away with a deeper appreciation.

LitLovers has 300,000 monthly visitors searching for potential book club reads.There’s no data on the degree to which discussion questions influence final book choices, but I can say that I get emails from frustrated readers if they’re not available.

We have a set of Generic Questions. Please feel free to use them as a guide, tailoring them to the specifics of your own book. Come up with, say, 10 questions about

  • character development and motivation
  • point of view and structure
  • the book’s central idea and whether or not readers agree with the overall premise
  • how the book relates to the reader’s personal experience.

So, dear writers, I hope the message is clear: Go forth and propagate your Book Club Questions.

Have you written questions for book clubs? If so, what kind of questions sparked the most discussion?