Creating A Discussion Guide For Your Book

This post, by Lisa Lickel, originally appeared on the AuthorCulture site on 12/9/13.

Love em, Hate em, want them in the back of the book or not—discussion questions do add a new dimension to your work.

I’ve had publishers tell me they don’t want them in the book, and know of some publishers that require questions. I’ve put them in one of my books, and have designed them for several of my books as well as for other books in my book club when I’ve been the discussion leader.

Why questions? Questions are good for personal reader reflection, but especially for a group discussion guide. I think that questions in the back of the book make your work look serious. Readers can skip them if they want. A discussion guide may mean inclusion in book clubs. Why do I want book clubs to read my book? First of all, these questions give me a place to do some explaining that I can’t inside the text; it also gives me an opportunity to point out my subtle genius points that may have been, sadly, overlooked. Think of it like watching the TV show Lost with JJ’s subtexts. Secondly, sales, library sales and borrows, word of mouth, my friends. Possible author face time. Feedback. Book clubs are always looking for fodder, and while it’s annoyingly true they tend to choose NYT bestsellers, there’s no reason to think yours can’t make a list or two.

The larger publishers like Random House often have author pages with all kinds of goodies-author interviews and background for the books, and discussion questions. Read some of them for some pointers.

ReadingGroupGuides website is one of the top ones to go to for great discussion questions, but they’ve gone from a $100 to $20 fee to have your material placed there. However, if you can get in on other readers’ group blogs, and especially GoodReads, an Internet search will bring up your name and book. I’ve placed questions on GoodReads for my books. Don’t forget to put them on your own site, Amazon and BN author pages and forums.

How to devise your questions for either fiction or non?

Foremost, never make them yes or no questions, or lead to obvious answers. If the questions are in the book, you can refer to page number, such as, “On page 142 Cala Lily has a breakthrough. What is it and how did it affect her feelings toward Reed?” However, it’s best not to be that specific due to readers having different versions.

How many questions should you write?


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