January is the time of year when people join things like health clubs, garden clubs, classes to learn a musical instrument; you get the idea. We’re all ready for something different, something to get us off the couch and out meeting new people.
But when I moved here it was October, and I wanted to join things right away. I’d always belonged to a book club, but the local one was described as more eating and drinking than reading, which is not the direction I really wanted to go. Goodreads.com had a local thread where I learned that several people were trying, albeit unsuccessfully, to coordinate a date and place to get a club going. But how do you get five people to pick a place, date, and time that fits everyone? You don’t.
So I contacted one of these posters who seemed more interested than the others, and she and I picked a date to meet at Barnes and Noble on a Wednesday at 7 p.m. I brought a friend, and voila! …We had a three-person book club. That was in November. Our third meeting is in January, and we’ve read three books and have 11 members. How did we do this? Actually it was easier than you might think.
Meetup.com is a tool that is perfect for getting clubs going. My knitting club in Florida was started through Meetup and they have over a hundred members. I just filled out the forms to make an instant website, but then clicked off to wait for the next day’s offer for a half-price special. That’s important because it is not free or even cheap to start a Meetup,
and you don’t want to ask members for money. Even $5 for a year’s membership, right out of the gate, will turn some people off.
Because I’m not a member of any social-media group, I used things like cards on the ever-disappearing bulletin boards in grocery stores, signs on the table during the meetings for others to join in, calling cards advertising the club left at coffee shops and libraries, and of course word of mouth. Since now our mouths are firmly affixed to our keyboards, I put up an ad on Craigslist.org in the “groups” section, though I don’t think anyone has yet to see it.
I believe the quickest way to get people to join anything is to keep it simple. The biggest draw to our book club is our “no guilt” policy. If you can make it, great! If you can’t, we’ll miss you. No questions. No intrusions into anyone’s life or schedule.
We all decide which books to read, and the selection is unanimous before we leave the meeting. We don’t change the dates or times to accommodate anyone because the book club is about getting people to read more, not just show up and give their opinions. Once we hit a membership of two dozen or so, we’ll have at least six members at each meeting. That’s an average of 25% and makes for a good-sized group.
The best part is I’ve made three really good friends from this new club. One of our members is on the board of the local community theatre and has her finger on the pulse of the cultural activities in the area. Another is a weaver who gives classes in her home; something I’ve always wanted to try. And still another is a Photoshop instructor at the local community college who prompted me to sign up for her class, which, to my surprise, is costing me a grand total of $5 because I am OLD! And while I was there I signed up to some equally inexpensive watercolor classes, a place to hone my painting skills and make new friends who just might want to join the book club.
Please visit our group, www.meetup.com/hickory-readers to see how this works, and if you like, feel free to join, read the selections, and post your comments on your page or join in on the discussion page. We’d love to have you tag along.
Note: Next week I plan to post a list of tips on how to start and manage a book club. Hint: The older I get, the less interest I have in “rules.”