So you want to run a Wanikani bookclub? Or maybe you don’t want to, but the responsibility was foisted on you anyway. Nearly all of the club organizer duties are straightforward and low time-commitment and can be learned by participating in a few bookclubs, but I’ve collected them here as an informal checklist for current organizers and as a way for future organizers to see what these duties entail.
I’ve tailored this guide primarily towards the four “main” bookclubs, but most of the information applies to running any WK bookclub. I’ve also kept things general, as a lot of the specific methods for selecting books, collecting nominations, etc. varies club-to-club and is usually detailed in the bookclub home threads. Also, I expect these guidelines to change as the bookclubs mature, so I implore club organizers to add/edit information as they see fit. This is not a set of rules that clubs ought to follow, but rather a description of how clubs typically do operate (i.e. clubs should not change how they run to follow this guide–club organizers should change this guide to reflect how clubs decide to run).
Anyone! The most important thing is to be enthusiastic about the club pick, bookclubs, or just reading in general. I would recommend having participated in at least one book club first, but this is not a hard and fast rule and there are plenty of experienced club members around to help guide organizers along. Running a club can be an immensely rewarding experience and is easier than you might think, so I highly recommend giving it a shot if the opportunity presents itself.
These are some of the general responsibilities of anybody who runs a bookclub. They do not represent any particular time commitment, just a willingness to engage with the Community. Note that there is no need for any particular level of Japanese skill to run any club, although participation in the club you are running is helpful.
More detailed information about these responsibilities is listed below.
The time commitment is not significant, but it’s very important that it’s consistent. Be timely in putting up threads, and be available to interact with the community. If you know there is a time when you won’t be available, plan ahead (e.g. put up a thread early or designate another club member to create posts). Note that historically it is not required that the person posting threads actually participate in club reading, but it is highly recommended.
The clubs only work because people join them. With more members comes more discussion, a greater knowledge-base, and the capacity to support more offshoot clubs. Every step of the way it’s important to be a club ambassador. This includes both recruiting new members and keeping current members engaged. Keep the WK community as well as external communities of Japanese learners aware of the great resource we have here in the bookclubs.
Polling and Decision-Making
When a decision has to be made, typically it is the club organizer’s responsibility to run a majority-rules poll, and the group consensus wins. However, when the poll does not offer a clear solution it often falls upon the organizer to make a decision or to reframe the question. Stay open to suggestions, solicit feedback, and run the club by consensus wherever possible.
Be sure to familiarize yourself with Discourse polling tools. Some often overlooked points regarding polls:
- Multi-selection vs single selection (decide which is appropriate for the situation)
- Show results after voting (or always visible, depending on the situation)
- Show who voted (unless there’s a specific reason not to)
- Polls cannot be modified or deleted after 5 minutes (so they will live in your post forever)
- Discourse limits poll options to 20.
This community tends to be very welcoming and respectful. Moderation by the organizer is typically limited to things like reminding people to blur spoilers or suggesting a better location for a particular comment. Use your own judgement and follow the normal guidelines for Discourse/Wanikani/Bookclubs.
Often in the bookclubs, people other than the original poster need the ability to regularly modify posts. If it’s a small change, ask the OP to make it. If the post will require regular edits by multiple people or the OP is no longer available, Discourse wikis are the perfect tool. Trust level 0-2 users (i.e. non-Regulars) cannot create wikis, so calling @Mods with a polite request to change a post to a wiki typically gets quick helpful results. (Regulars can create wikis, but cannot change other peoples’ posts to wikis)
Running a General Purpose Bookclub Home Thread
This requires adding nominations to the OP, setting up polls, updating the master book club thread, and occasionally reminding people to nominate things and vote. This is generally pretty easy since it only requires a higher amount of work (around polling season) once every few months (depending on the length of the book currently being read), and even then it isn’t much. However, since you need to change the title of the thread to mention when nominations or voting is happening and what books are selected/coming up, it can be hard to manage if you’re not a Regular.
More detailed information about these responsibilities is listed below.
Nominating books in the four main bookclubs is an ongoing process, and anybody may do so at any time. Specific guidelines for nominations are detailed in each club’s home page. It is up to the community and especially the club organizer to ensure nominations follow the correct basic format.
For the week or so leading up to the vote for a new book, solicit nominations. Make a post in the club thread and change the thread title to include something along the lines of “Looking for nominations!” (Note that only regulars can change Wiki titles, so if you are not a regular you may need to enlist help.)
Ensure that the OP is up to date with all nominations. Every nomination should be listed, linked, and cleanly formatted. In general, the club organizer is ultimately responsible for ensuring that posts stay clean and up to date.
Typically there is a maximum of 20 nominations (because this is the maximum number of poll options that Discourse allows).
Try to catch nominations that break nomination guidelines (e.g. too long, objectionable content) early, or this could cause headaches come vote-time.
Note that nominators are typically expected to participate if their nomination wins, and ideally would also run the club (although this is not a requirement).
Running the Vote
Votes typically take the form of a multi-selection poll. The exact format is specific to the club. The vote should occur approximately 6 weeks out from when the next book would start (which is typically one week after the current selection ends). This allows time for inexpensive shipping as well as for more potential members to decide to join and manage their schedules.
Calculate the difficulty for each selection and display it next to the title in the poll. This is as simple as assigning numeric values 0-5 to the nomination’s difficulty poll and taking the average.
Look back through the threads for older polls to use as either a template or guideline for your own post. If you do use a template, ensure that all information is up to date before posting.
Advertise! Change the title thread accordingly (e.g. to include something like “Now Voting!”). Post across all potentially interested clubs and offshoots. Tell your friends. Tell your Mom.
Selection polls are typically scheduled to close after a week at a maximum, but the organizer may choose to close the poll early once voting has dried up. Most clubs choose to also select the second place winner as the follow-on bookclub pick if the first place pick is “short”. Short generally means that reading the first place pick would necessitate an immediate poll for the next club (i.e. it would take less than ~6 weeks to read). Book length and expected club pace should be taken into account when deeming a book “short”.
Updating Bookclub Home Thread
Update the club thread title to reflect the upcoming pick (e.g. Coming soon: ~). Ensure that the next book (ideally with a picture of the cover) is indicated below the current pick, as well as any follow-on book if one was selected.
Updating Master List of Bookclubs
Go to the Master List of Bookclubs thread and update it according to the editing guidelines.
If you read Japanese books regularly, I highly recommend setting up a Natively account if you do not already have one. Check to ensure that the winning selection has a Natively entry. If it does not, use this form to get it added within a day or two. If there is already an entry, use the feedback form on that entry’s page to submit a link to the WK bookclub thread (you may choose to hold off on this step until the book’s home thread is created)
Running a Specific Bookclub for a Book or Manga Volume
This requires more regular attention since you (generally) need to create a thread every week and link it back to the previous week’s thread and the home thread. It’s not time consuming and can take as little as 5-10 minutes per week with 1-2 hours at the start to create a schedule and home thread, but it’s tedious and can be hard to remember to do depending on how active you are in the book club discussions and what else is going on in your life. Copy and paste is your friend here, whether you’re working with your own templates or those of previous bookclubs.
More detailed information about these responsibilities is listed below.
Setting up a Home Thread
First of all, remember to advertise! As the club start date approaches, spread the word across other bookclubs that may have interested members.
The organizer should post a club home thread as soon as possible after a book is selected to allow the most possible time for members to get the information they need to join. Not every element of a home thread post needs to be in order before posting. There are certain elements that every club post requires (or at least are ubiquitous across the four main clubs and most others), and others that are recommended or optional. Be sure to look at other home threads for formatting guidance and inspiration. Certain sections of a home thread (e.g. vocab sheet, page numbers for other book versions, live reading session organization) can certainly be outsourced to other helpful club members. These suggestions are not exhaustive, so feel free to add anything else to your home thread that you think might be fun or useful.
The Basics: A thread title including a parenthetical of the parent book club, the book title, a picture of the cover, a link back to the parent club home thread, and a link to the nomination post
Purchase Links: Not everybody knows how to buy Japanese books, and for those who do having links can still be convenient. Links to Amazon and Bookwalker are recommended at a minimum, but more is better.
Schedule: See “Creating a Schedule” for more information.
Participation Poll: At a minimum the poll should have options for yes, no, and maybe. Ensure that the results are visible.
Vocabulary List: For the Beginner and Absolute Beginner clubs this is not optional. The organizer is not solely responsible for populating this, but they should ensure it is available for those who want to use it. Feel free to use other club vocab sheets as a template, but feel free to modify the sheet guidelines to suit the needs of the particular club. Include additional sections in the vocab sheet if they’re relevant (e.g. dialect guide, proper nouns list, etc.).
Characters and/or Proper Nouns List: This can go in the vocab sheet or in the home post. Having an easy reference for character and/or place names can help reading go a lot smoother, as this can be hard regardless of proficiency.
Live Reading Session Polls/Times: See “Organizing Live Readings” for more information.
Version Poll: If multiple common versions of the book exist, it may be helpful to know who’s reading what (or who’s reading print and who’s reading ebook).
Discussion Rules: Many clubs use the same ones, but feel free to tailor them to suit the needs of a particular club.
Trigger Warnings: If required. Ideally they should be hidden under a spoiler tag.
Additional Resources: These can be particular to the book (e.g. vocab decks) or anything that you think people would find useful.
Reminder to Set Thread to Watching: This can drastically improve participation and prevent people from wondering what they’re actually supposed to be doing as a book club member.
Creating a Schedule
Making a schedule can be mildly time consuming, and the schedule does not need to be fully determined at the time of the home thread post. In fact, it is typical to get feedback from participants before finalizing a schedule.
Some things to keep in mind when making a schedule:
- Natural breaks between weeks. Ideally these are chapter or at least large paragraph breaks. If breaks are not clean, be sure to annotate this on the schedule.
- Week-to-week consistency. Try not to have wild fluctuations in workload from week-to-week.
- Club consistency. Try to make the pace consistent with previous club picks. Take expected difficulty into account when determining pages per week.
- Ramp up time. For many bookclubs, it may be worthwhile to start out at a slower pace to give people the chance to adjust to a new style. This can help prevent some people from leaving the club after just a week or two of trying.
- Special considerations (e.g. holiday breaks, shuffling or omitting short stories from a collection, etc.)
My typical method for creating a schedule is to go through the book and find page numbers for all clean breaks and then group chunks together based on the the above guidelines.
For formatting a schedule, look at other posts and determine a format that you think gets the information across well. At a minimum it should include:
- Start dates
- End page numbers (for multiple physical versions if required)
- Ebook end percentages/locations (for multiple versions if required)
- Number of pages to be read in a given week
- End phrases
- Chapter starts and/or ends.
Organizing Live Readings
Whether or not a club includes a live reading session typically comes down to whether the organizer wants to plan one. Feel free to set a time that works for you, or poll to gauge when participation would be highest (When2meet may be more conducive to this than WK polling). If interest is high but you don’t have the time to be there, you can always delegate the live reading organization to another willing club member.
Live readings take place on a dedicated WK Bookclub live reading Discord server. Keep in mind that this server is only for live readings, and most substantive book discussion should take place here on the forums.
The format for live readings depends on the wants/needs of the club. There is no set way to conduct them, but typically for manga participants will take on the roll of a character while for books members will rotate reading anything from a sentence up to an agreed upon page limit. Members will help each other with readings, pronunciation, and comprehension. Sessions may also include some translation or book discussion depending on the desires of the group.
Weekly threads should go up every week around the same time. Typically this is Saturday morning JST but there’s no set time so feel free to flex to what works for you, as long as it’s relatively consistent.
As when creating the home threads, look back at other organizers’ home threads to get a sense for how they’re formatted and what works. A good strategy is to have a template that you can make minor adjustments to each week. Like the home thread there are certain “required” elements and certain optional elements. This list is by no means exhaustive.
The Basics: Title with book name and week number, date and/or week number, end page, end percent/location, end phrase, link to the home thread
Participation Poll: At the least there should be options for “reading along” and “catching up”. Additional options are at the discretion of the organizer.
Optional Basics: Page count, link to parent book club, link to next week, link to last week
Discussion Questions: These can either be generic, or particular to the week’s reading if somebody either reads a week ahead or has read the book before. Feel free to copy templates from other clubs or come up with your own.
Summaries: A “story so far” section can be particularly helpful for clubs going at a slow pace.
Reminder to Set Thread to Watching: This can be as important in the weekly threads as it is in the home thread.
Anything Else from the Home Post: Feel free to post anything from the home post in each weekly thread as well. This is commonly used for convenient access to vocab or character lists, or reminders of discussion rules or live reading sessions. If you think something would be convenient for your own use, there’s a good chance somebody else would also find it helpful.
Weekly thread posting checklist:
- Ensure that all page numbers, dates, titles, links, and anything else in the template that changes week-to-week has been properly edited.
- Link the post appropriately in the home thread OP schedule.
- Update past links (e.g. “next week” link from previous thread) to reflect new thread’s existence.
- Set thread to watching.
- Mark your own participation status.
- Post link to new thread as a comment in the home thread.
It’s good to finish a club with a sense of closure as opposed to just letting discussion die down in the final week as people go their separate ways. None of this is required, but doing it is highly recommended. I suggest having these discussions in the home thread.
Put up some conclusive polls. Get peoples’ impressions on their enjoyment of the material, the difficulty, favorite chapters, etc. This can spark some good discussion and it gives people a sense of accomplishment.
Offshoot Club Setup
Particularly if the book is the first of a series, the decision as to whether to continue as an offshoot club is important. There is no specified participation minimum, so what it comes down to is whether somebody is willing to run it given the level of interest. Gauge interest via a poll, and if you don’t want to run it yourself ask for volunteers.
If interest isn’t particularly high or people want to read at different paces, consider starting an unscheduled bookclub so people have a place to discuss or post impressions.
Update the Main Bookclub Thread
It is primarily the responsibility of the organizer running the main thread to keep the OP clean and up to date, but as a courtesy you can move the “current” selection into the “previous selections” section and update the thread accordingly.