Oooh, the eternal internal conflict. To book club or not to book club? Whether tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous readings or to take arms against a sea of troubles and, by opposing, ignore them?
Yeah. Sorry about that. I got caught up in the moment.
Seriously thought, there does seem to be some conflict among writers about the value of book clubs – for writers, that is. As artists (who, therefore, have to have a certain amount of ego to survive), we can get a bit arrogant about our art (Let’s face it, we can be divas.), so it can be hard enough to convince writers to join writing circles – let alone book clubs.
Why Don’t Writers Want to Join Book Clubs?
1. What We Read
Just because we’re writers doesn’t mean we always want to read top sellers or even fine literature. We may work hard enough at our 9-5 and then in our hours of writing afterwards, before, and in-between, that we want to read something easy. Something that doesn’t take a lot of brain power – which may or may not even have enough depth to be worth discussing in a group.
On the other hand, the genre could be the problem. Book clubs that focus on Sci Fi or Fantasy can be rarer. Or even ones that vary genres. If you like a lot of variety in your reading, then, a book club that sticks to one genre might feel more like work than fun.
And if you’re anything like me, you have a huge book list to get through in a variety of genres. If none of them are on the book club’s list, that doesn’t up your motivation for joining a book club.
2. Why We Read
I don’t know about you, but reading hasn’t been a social activity for me since my parents read to me as a child. In fact, reading is usually how I escape and recover from whatever social activities.
When reading is your relaxation or your private time, taking that reading into a group experience could seem baffling (or simply odd). It’s no wonder a lot of writers balk at going to a book club?
3. How We’re Trained to Read
Writers know about writing (yeah?). Most of us have taken more than our share of classes in writing and literature, and we also read more than our share of books (statistically speaking). As a result, we tend to have higher-than-average reading comprehension skills.
Don’t get me wrong – there are non-writers with equally high or higher reading comprehension skills. But finding them? And not just one but a group of them who happen to get together and read the exact type of books you’re interested in reading and discussing? Ones that you like or at least get along with?
Yeah. That’s not so easy.
4. When We Have to Read
If you have multiple jobs (writing and whatever else you do), family, and a social life, finding the time to not only read a required book but also meet people to talk about it may seem impossible. Or at least imposing.
I’m not saying it’s impossible, but if you’re on the fence about the question (“To book club or not to book club,” remember?), then, the tightness of your schedule definitely doesn’t go in the “pro” column.
5. The Cost of Reading
Reading is awesome, and the easy, fast, and relatively cheap access to millions of books that we have today is literally awe-inspiring (Yes, I meant literally.).
At the same time, books do cost money whether paperback or ebook. And if your book club reads a new bestseller each month, you’ll need to budget for more than you would for the dollar section at the used book store.
Why Would Writers Want to Join a Book Club?
1. Getting Out
As writers, it’s all too easy to get holed up in our homes or our books. We get involved, and we stay involved.
If you’re the type to forget to take a breath every once in a while, scheduling that breath can help. And when your main interests are writing and reading, then a book club makes a couple of breaths a month – when you read and when you get together to talk about it.
2. Staying Connected
The other side of how we’re trained to read is how most people are trained to read. Think about it. Are people with really good reading comprehension skills your reading audience? Are they even the main part of your reading audience?
If they are, you’re really limiting your target audience.
Getting a feel for what your average reader will understand or miss can be difficult. Reading alongside and discussing a book with a group of average readers can be extremely revealing. I can’t guarantee that it’ll be a magic cure for the issue, but it can definitely give you some ideas about what will work and what won’t.
Every genre has its own common tricks and techniques. When you read a lot of one genre (like many people do), then, you get more used to specific techniques. That’s good – except when it isn’t.
When you want ideas for how to make your story fresh and interesting, reading outside your usual genres can help. I’ve already started to notice trends in the genres that I’m less familiar with, and seeing when those techniques work (and when they don’t) is giving me ideas that I can use for my books.
4. Sphere of Influence
Ok, we’re not talking countries in this case so much as people. Who you know and whom you can influence (who sees your posts, who responds to them, etc.). It’s also known as networking.
As a writer, I consider networking anything that gets your name out there. That includes clubs, volunteering, and any other activity. In a book club (where people are supposedly interested in reading [right?]), they’re already set up to be interested, so you have the opportunity to extend your sphere of interest that much farther.
What’s the Answer? To Book Club or Not to Book Club?
You tell me.
Yes, there’s 5 on one side and 4 on the other (mainly because my brain got tired). That doesn’t necessarily mean anything. What if only 2 on one side and 3 on the other are viable to you? Or 4 on both sides?
That’s why this is an eternal internal question. The answer for you may be totally different from the answer for me, and even my answer may change as time goes on.
So what’s it going to be? How do you feel about book clubs?