Chip MacGregor

July 11, 2012

Do I need book discussion questions?


Timothy wrote to say, “Some book clubs have asked me for discussion questions for my book. I took a stab at it, but came away sounding like my high school English teacher. What do book clubs like to discuss? Do your clients develop book club study guides, or is this rare enough it can be handled on a case-by-case basis?”

Book clubs are looking for 7 to 12 open-ended questions (i.e., questions that can’t be answered “yes” or “no”) that explore the themes of the book and allow them to either debate the choices made by the characters, or discuss how to apply the situations to their own lives. So for a novel, coming up with questions that foster debate is probably more important than coming up with questions that examine the accuracy of the story. For a nonfiction title, coming up with questions that take your principles and ask people to apply them to their own lives is imperative. Get people telling their own stories and interacting with the text, and you’ve got a great book club.

I’ve had several authors create book club questions. Again, they usually sit down and get about ten questions that all inspire discussion. Some publishers will put these on a page in the back of the book. If yours doesn’t want to do that, here’s an idea to try: Post book club questions on your web site. It will offer readers genuine value, while increasing traffic to your site and allowing you to cross-sell your other books.


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  • Peter DeHaan says:

    Chip, this is most helpful — and I think the best time to come up with the questions is when your writing the book. I’ll try to do that on me WIP. Thanks!

  • I appreciate the questions and I am not in a book club. I like stories that make me stop and think, and these questions help me see what the author was trying to give as take away.

  • Iola Goulton says:

    I like the idea of having the book club questions on the author website. More than once I’ve got to the end of a book very suddenly, because the last few pages are taken up with the discussion questions.

    The worst example had a daily Bible study based on the novel. Worst, because it took about 20 pages. I had thought there was a whole chapter to go, then the story suddenly ended. I felt as though they’d finished the story early just to get the questions in.

  • Ane Mulligan says:

    If I might add a “commercial” of sorts, for a terrific place for authors to learn what book clubs are looking for and what they discuss, check out TBCN – The Book Club Network at There, they connect book clubs with authors, and many of the clubs have a page all about their club. 

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