How to Create Book Club Questions for your Novel

rj crayton libraryGuest Post
by RJ Crayton

As authors, we want our books read, and what better place than at book clubs? So, if your book is chosen by a book club, one thing you can do to make it easy for the group (besides writing a great book) is give them questions.

Many books published nowadays come with a series of “Book Club” or “Discussion” questions at the end. So, how do you create these questions for your book?

First, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with book club questions. There are sites (like this one and this one) that offer questions that can be used with any book. That’s good for getting a feel of what to ask. Also, you’ll want to look at questions for popular books in your genre. Simply Google “book club questions for (TITLE).” If the publisher created questions for the book, you should get a hit.

Now that you have a feel for the types of questions asked, move on to your novel. Book club questions tend to evaluate themes, characters and relationships, so you’ll want to note the major themes, characters and relationships in your book, so you can create questions that touch on them.

One tricky part with creating questions is that they sometimes include spoilers. Because a potential reader might stumble upon them, or an actual reader might glance at them midway through the book, it’s usually limited to minor spoilage. (This is the only instance where minor spoilage is OK. If someone tells you the tuna salad has suffered minor spoilage, don’t eat it.)

Here’s a publisher provided book club question for the The Help: “Do you think that had Aibileen stayed working for Miss Elizabeth, that Mae Mobley would have grown up to be racist like her mother?” This question clearly lets people know that Aibileen didn’t work for Miss Elizabeth for the duration of the book. But, it’s not such a huge spoiler that someone who glances at the questions says, “Darn, now the entire book is ruined.” The thing with spoilers is to provide the minimum information necessary for the reader to understand what issue from the book you want to explore with the question.

So, now that you understand what’s needed, you can start writing questions relevant to your book. Remember, questions should be open ended so they spur discussion. You can ask things like: Why was the color red so important to the character of Strawberry? How do you think Hansel’s childhood trauma in the forest impacted his all-consuming desire to be the world’s best map maker? What was the significance of Ariel devouring a crab cake in front of her friend Sebastian?

If you want to have really great questions, use reader feedback to craft them. There are multiple ways to do this. You can ask readers which parts of the books they felt most passionate about. If your book is already published, you may be able to glean some feedback from reading reviews. With either method, if the issue keeps coming up (readers tell you it’s the thing that they loved or hated most; or reviewers consistently mention the same plot point), it probably will make great fodder for a question.

Another thing you can do is host (or attend) a book club meeting for your book. Grab some readers (or beta readers, if unpublished) and discuss the book in a comfy setting. The book club I belong to read my book, and the feedback was enlightening, as people had thoughts that just hadn’t occurred to me. Toward the end of the discussion, one person said, “Wow, Susan was some friend, ‘cause I can’t think of a single friend I would do that for.” For me, Susan’s choice in the book was one that was so inherently who she was and so inherently representative of those characters’ friendship, that I never really considered her choice from an outside point of view. The discussion over this issue was passionate (big clue in that others might feel this way, too). After the meeting, I used that notion to create one of my book club questions. So, reader feedback can lead you to lively questions you couldn’t have dreamed of because you’re too close to the book.

Once you’ve written your book club questions, include them at the back of your book. If you’ve done the questions prepublication, great. If your book is already published, add the questions to your website and write a blog post mentioning you now have questions for book clubs. Update any editions of the book you can easily change (this should include all ebook editions; and possibly your print edition).


RJ Crayton is a former journalist turned novelist. By day, she writes thrillers with a touch of romance. By night, she practices the art of ninja mom. To learn more about her or her books, visit her website or her Author Central page.

Author: RJ Crayton

RJ Crayton is a former journalist turned novelist. By day, she writes thrillers with a touch of romance. By night, she practices the art of ninja mom. To learn more about her or her books, visit her website or her Author Central page.

17 thoughts on “How to Create Book Club Questions for your Novel”

    1. That’s great Yvonne. I’d definitely recommend attending a book club discussion of your own book, as they’re quite enlightening. Attendees also tend to be pretty nice. Plus it’s fun to feel like a fly on the wall. People tend to genuinely discuss the book, even with the author present.

        1. It depends on the book club structure. If they’d like to hear a reading, then do it. If they just want to discuss or ask questions about the book, go with that.

  1. Yes, book clubs are great. It gets you several readers (the club members) and encourages word of mouth, because whenever they tell someone they’re going to book club, the person they tell asks, “What book are you reading?” So, very lovely.

  2. Excellent post, RJ, but now my next question is–how do you find book clubs? How do you petition them to read your book? I agree it would be great fun (and very insightful) to attend a discussion of my own books. Thanks!

  3. Melissa,

    Finding book clubs is more difficult than writing book club questions. But, there are a couple of things you can do. Adding the book club questions to the back of your ebooks and print books (as well as in the Table of Contents) is an overt hint to readers that your book is fit for book club. When they go to the next meeting, if they liked your book, they’ll perhaps suggest it as a read.

    Second, if a reader sends you fan mail, respond with whatever is appropriate for that email, but at the end, let them know you’re available to Skype or Google Hangout to appear at book clubs. If they have a book club,you’ve just put yourself in consideration.

    Last– and I haven’t used it, so I don’t know if it works or not–there is a site called Bookclubreading.com where you can submit your book for a fee of $69.95, and your book is included in a newsletter that is sent to book clubs. The submission link is http://bookclubreading.com/submit-your-book/. On the right, it say, Fees & FAQs; when you click through, it explains what you get for your fee. I’m in a book club, my mother is in a book club, and one of the book club members of the book club I’m in is in a different book club too. Of these three book clubs, none of us have ever used this site. So, not clear how many readers it’s reaching. But, that would also be a way to get out there for book clubs.

  4. Even though I’ve taught literature until I was blue in the face, I’ve never joined a book club. Meet-up is a great place to search for writer’s groups as well as book clubs. It’s even possible to email the chief of the group, so that could be a good way to start a conversation about the possibility of a group reading your book.

  5. Great ideas, RJ, thank you! I wrote book club questions for one of my novels and put them on my website. Still trying to get those book clubs to bite, though.

    1. I haven’t found a way to get book clubs to rush forward yet, either. Hopefully having the questions at the end of the book will send the message to readers to consider it.

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