Tips for Running a WaniKani Book Club [WIP]

Introduction

This is an informal guide that contains all the information one may need to start a book club here on the WaniKani forums, or to run the club for a specific pick from the ABBC, BBC, IBC, or ABC. 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.

The guide consists of an FAQ along with useful templates for threads and vocabulary lists. It is not a set of rules that every club needs to follow, but rather a description of how clubs typically do operate and a good starting point for anybody who is considering running a club.

Every bookclub is unique, so if you can’t find the answer to your question in this guide then feel free to ask questions in this thread!

FAQ


What are the ABBC, BBC, IBC, and ABC?

These stand for Absolute Beginner Book Club, Beginner Book Club, Intermediate Book Club, and Advanced Book Club. Each is an overarching structure that organizes which books will be read by the club members. Books can be proposed to the club, and whenever one book is about to finish, people vote on which book to read next.


Who can run a book club?

Anyone! The most important thing is to be enthusiastic about the club pick, book clubs, 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.

In the ABBC, BBC, IBC, and ABC, the person who nominated the elected book typically runs its club, but if that person is unavailable or unwilling anybody may volunteer.


Should I start my own book club, or should I nominate my book in the ABBC, BBC, IBC or ABC?

Typically, you will get more participation if you nominate a book and it gets elected. However, there are several reasons why you might consider starting your own club. These include but aren’t limited to:

  • Your book has a niche topic or genre that is unlikely to have popular appeal
  • Your book doesn’t fit within the constraints of a club (e.g. you want to read a long book at an intermediate pace, but the IBC has a 350 page limit)
  • Your “book” isn’t really a book (e.g. visual novels, textbooks, news, etc.)
  • You have a group that wants to read a book that’s already been read as part of a club (i.e. repeat club)
  • You don’t want to read your book on a schedule but you still want a place for people to discuss

What is the time commitment?

Running a club is not time consuming. It can take as little as 5-10 minutes per week to post threads with 1-2 hours at the start to create a schedule and home thread.


What are the responsibilities?

As the club leader you are responsible for creating a schedule, setting up a home thread, and posting weekly discussion threads. Optionally you may choose to organize live readings and/or create a shared vocabulary sheet.

You should also update the Master List of Book Clubs according to the editing guidelines, and ensure that your book has a Natively entry with a link to your club.

Templates and tips for creating a schedule, home thread, weekly thread, and vocabulary sheet are included at the bottom of this guide.


Should my club have live reading sessions?

Whether or not a club includes a live reading session typically comes down to whether or not you or somebody in the club wants to plan one. They can be fun but time consuming. You also have the option to run a poll in your home thread to gauge interest. If there’s interest in having live reading sessions but you don’t have the time or desire to participate, you can delegate the task to another willing club member.


How do I organize live reading sessions?

Feel free to set a weekly time that works for you, or poll to gauge when participation would be highest (When2meet may be more conducive to this than WK polling).

Live readings take place on a dedicated WK Book Club 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. If you’ve decided there is enough interest in live readings, post a message in the #general channel requesting everything be set up for the new club.

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.


What is Natively and how do I update it?

Natively is a website that allows users to track their reading as well as review and grade the difficulty of native Japanese books and manga. If a Natively entry corresponds to a WaniKani book club book, it will also have a link to that book club’s home thread. If you read Japanese books regularly, I highly recommend setting up a Natively account.

If your book is not already in the Natively database, use this form to get it added within a day or two. If your book is already in the database, use the feedback button on that entry’s page to submit a link to the WaniKani book club thread.


Do you have any other tips for running a book club?

Yes! Follow this advice to improve the book club experience for everyone.

Be available

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.

Generate interest

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. You may also consider reaching out to external communities of Japanese learners to make them aware of the great resource we have here in the book clubs.

Run the club by consensus

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. If 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:

  • Ensure that “show who voted” is enabled (unless there’s a specific reason not to)
  • Multi-selection vs single selection (decide which is appropriate for the situation)
  • Show results after voting (or always visible, depending on the situation)
  • Polls cannot be modified or deleted after 5 minutes (so they will live in your post forever)
  • Discourse limits poll options to 20.

Can I volunteer to run the ABBC, BBC, IBC or ABC? What would be my responsibilities?

If the person currently running any of these threads chooses to step down, you are welcome to volunteer.

Responsibilities include 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.

Gathering Nominations

Nominating books in the four main book clubs 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 1-5 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.

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 book club 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 Book Club 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.

You will also be responsible for tracking which books score low across multiple polls, and removing nominations with consistent low interest. Each club may have its own rules for which books get removed.


Templates

To use templates, click on the “Edit” button at the bottom of this post. Scroll to the template you want to use and copy everything between the two thick lines into your own post. Delete or edit all highlighted text.

For every template, please add, change, omit or rearrange based on your club’s needs or your personal preferences.


Home Thread

---------------------------------------------- Start Home Thread Template ---------------------------------------------

Thread title should include the name of the book, the words "book club", a relevant emoji (if desired), and up-to-date information about the club's status.

Example: 地球星人 :earth_asia: Book Club ・ Starting June 12!

Start with a link back the the parent club if required, and a link to Natively if desired.
Join the Intermediate Book Club Here!
View this book on Natively!

Welcome to the [地球星人] Book Club!

Consider writing a brief introduction if your book does not have a parent club.

Example: コンビニ人間 is a book about a middle-aged woman who has spent her entire adult life working at a コンビニ. It is a fascinating critique of Japanese social norms and provides a great look into Japanese culture. It was originally read in 2019 by the Intermediate Book Club. This club will follow the old Intermediate Book Club discussions and will target those who are starting to transition from beginner to intermediate level.

Upload a picture of the book cover.

Where to purchase

Try to include at least one digital and one physical option

Digital: [Amazon · Bookwalker · Kobo]
Physical: [Amazon · CDJapan]

Schedule

See the Schedule template

Vocabulary

See the Vocabulary Sheet Template

Please read the guidelines on the first page before adding any words.

Trigger Warnings

Only include if desired, and ensure they are hidden behind a spoiler tag.

Example:

Hansel and Gretel Trigger warnings
  • Violence
  • Child abuse
  • Cannibalism

Live Readings

The next weekly live reading session will be [use the discourse “Insert date / time” feature to create a recurring time that adjusts to the user’s timezone] Join the Japanese Bookclub Discord to either read or listen!

Spoiler Courtesy

Please follow these rules to avoid inadvertent ネトバレ. If you’re unsure whether something should have a spoiler tag, err on the side of using one.

  1. Any potential spoiler for the current week’s reading need only be covered by a spoiler tag. Predictions and conjecture made by somebody who has not read ahead still falls into this category.
  2. Any potential spoilers for external sources need to be covered by a spoiler tag and include a label (outside of the spoiler tag) of what might be spoiled. These include but are not limited to: other book club picks, other books, games, movies, anime, etc. I recommend also tagging the severity of the spoiler (for example, I may still look at minor spoilers for something that I don’t intend to read soon).
  3. Any information from later in the book than the current week’s reading (including trigger warnings that haven’t yet manifested) need to be hidden by spoiler tags and labeled as such.

Proper Nouns

Feel free to add to this as new characters / places get introduced throughout the book.

Example:

Name Reading Notes
猫猫 まおまお Main character
玉葉 ギョクヨウ One of the four (main) wives (title: 貴妃)
梨花 リファ One of the four (main) wives (title: 賢妃)

Resources

Use this section to link to any pre-made vocab lists, youtube videos, dialect guides, or anything else you have come across that you think might be a helpful resource for people reading this book.

Membership

Will you be reading with us?
  • Yes
  • Yes, but I might start late
  • Maybe
  • No

0 voters

If there are multiple common versions (e.g. paperback, hardcover, reprints), include them in this poll so you will know what versions you'll have to include in your schedule, and who can help you find the page breakdowns for versions you don't have.
Which version will you be reading?
  • eBook
  • Paperback
  • Hardcover

0 voters

If you participate, don’t forget to set this thread to Watching in order to be notified when weekly threads get posted!

---------------------------------------------- End Home Thread Template ----------------------------------------------


Weekly Thread

//TODO


Schedule

//TODO


Vocabulary Sheet

//TODO


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@NicoleRauch @Phryne @rodan @Micki @seanblue @Naphthalene This took way longer than expected and there goes my Friday, but I had the time so I got it done. The six of you are certainly more experienced than I am in running these things so please feel free to offer any corrections or additions or to tag other experienced club organizers. Thanks @shuly for the idea.

Also @Mods sorry for the tag in the OP but could we also make this a wiki?

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My only experience is just from copying @NicoleRauch 's posts and formats whole-cloth for (most of) one book :sweat_smile:

Wikis + pastable templates + quoting mean it’s really easy to just directly copy what’s been done before. I don’t think I ever had to make a post from scratch. And it seems like that’s gone fine.
(the lower difficulty book clubs seem vastly more active and involved than the advanced one I’ve made threads for though)

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That’s been my approach too. And it’s really as simple as that. I think some people who might otherwise be happy to help out shy away because they think there’s more to it than what they see in the posts.

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I fully read the first section and then saw four more equally long sections and stopped reading. I worry that if the point of this is to convince people that it’s easy to run a book club, it may have the opposite effect. :sweat_smile:

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The point is definitely to get more people willing to help out since it’s seemed to be a bit of a potential problem the last few voting cycles as it seems fewer and fewer people are running more and more clubs. I changed some wording to hopefully better emphasize how simple of a task it can be.

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It’s a wiki now!

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Thank you!

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This has been one of my worries…don’t want to end up with a lot of responsibilities and letting people down… as simple as cutting/pasting yadda yadda…but it’s knowing what to cut/paste/etc…how much time does it take to setup in general and then manage per day/week… if it’s 5 min per week then heck I could do that… but it’s the setup / polling / etc… initial getting things going … and wrap up…

Maybe a ‘short version’ these are the steps with detailed drill downs… I don’t know really as I haven’t run one for the reasons mentioned…and also don’t feel like my Japanese level is good enough either… (which maybe be something worth mentioning in the wiki)… I’m sure this isn’t the case but I feel like if I’m running any group, then I should be able to be helpful in providing answers which causes me to feel additional pressure if it’s related to Japanese … For example I would not be comfortable covering the intermediate or advanced, only due to my lack of jp skills.

I have a vague idea of what I’m thinking would be helpful but it’s hard to explain … 1) maybe include a checklist of steps with the detailed instructions under the drop down (leave them as they are)… so it doesn’t seem so scary :slight_smile: especially since it sounds like, most people that have done them in the past say it isn’t hard… 2) call out the actual time commitment per week that’s generally required… is this really only 1 hour to setup and 10 min per week (even if you don’t read along), or is it a 3 hour setup with a 1 hour week commitment etc…

Apologies for the train of thought post :upside_down_face:

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I think there’s a bit of confusion / misleading information here too. There’s two sets of responsibilities:

  • Running a general purpose book club home thread (e.g. beginner book club). 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.
  • Running a specific book club (i.e. a single volume of manga or a book). 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 (took me 5-10 minutes per week back when I used to do this), 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.
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all you level 60 people are :smiling_imp:
…slowly you are convincing me to give this a shot… not yet though :smiley:

edit…
I see you lurking there @MrGeneric (Takagi-san) trying to trick me eh… haha

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If I can do it, anybody can. :wink:

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Good feedback! I reorganized the sections to make the distinction more clear. I also added an abstract at the top of each section giving a broad overview of the responsibilities and a general time commitment (stealing most of your wording–hope you don’t mind). I also reformatted a bit and hid some details under drop-downs.

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most excellent !!! This group is truly what makes learning Japanese awesome!!!

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Continuing the conversation from Make Reading its Own Section

That’s what I was going for with the intro. Do you think the intro should have an even shorter abstract up top? Additionally something as simple as swapping the order of the first two paragraphs could help.

I agree that this is probably the most common use case. I write in the intro that it’s geared towards the “main” bookclubs, but perhaps I should change the emphasis there.

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Yes, I saw that and I think it’s nicely written! However

Pretty much, yes. You basically have ~3s before someone clicks away (or so I’ve been told; I don’t know how standard/accurate that rule of thumb is, but I’m seeing a lot of google results for it, so I guess I’m not imagining it). Swapping the two can help too, indeed, or just using subsections like “Main bookclubs:” and “Independent bookclub:” to make it as fast to parse the intro as possible.

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Sounds good. I’ll do another round of reformatting later this week.

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Should this topic be moved to Japanese Language > Book Clubs as well?

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Started talking about it in that thread then forgot to actually move it. Thanks!

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