A little-known fact about me (mostly because I don’t overly publicize it) is that when I’m not writing or editing, I write study guides for fiction novels. And so when Joy approached me about helping to promote her upcoming course on creating a discussion guide for your book, I jumped on the idea. The study guides I write include ten in-depth essay questions, which, believe me, can sometimes be a real challenge, particularly making sure they touch on different aspects of the text and encourage critical thinking. And that’s for a book that I’m approaching with an academic eye—now imagine trying to do it for a book you’re emotionally attached to and know all the ins and outs of.
Which is exactly why Joy is here today—to talk about crafting discussion questions that will keep readers engaged long after “the end.” Take it away, Joy!
Create a Discussion Guide for Your Book
by Joy E. Held
As an author and educator, I believe in the value of reflection as a way to better comprehension. I like finding discussion questions at the back of books, but when it came to creating one for my own books, I couldn’t find any good instructions. I discovered many examples, but no specific guidance on building one. I put on my teacher hat and built a template that any author can use.
When the COVID-19 pandemic made it difficult to gather in person and talk about books, readers, authors, and publishers quickly pivoted to virtual meetings. Zoom, Facebook, Vimeo, Kaltura, Google Meet, Skype, Cisco WebEx, Microsoft Teams, and others filled the void offering free or reasonably priced options for keeping the conversations about books moving forward.
At the time, I was serving in a volunteer role as the vice president of programming for a nonprofit writer’s group with a writing craft book club. I was stunned at how easy it was to get popular authors to agree to meet with a group of writers via Zoom on a weeknight to talk about their books. The practice is still in place today because authors and publishers discovered how easy and valuable it is to connect with readers virtually to extend the discussion about a book. It’s a great way to make published books accessible to more readers when in-person and virtual options are combined to accommodate everyone regardless of location.
This was also the moment I started looking for reading group discussion guides to support our conversations when an author wasn’t available to meet with us. I discovered that guides were out there, but not in the numbers I expected. That’s when my experience as a college English professor reminded me that I had written dozens of reading guides to accompany the literature I taught in my courses. Why didn’t more authors include study guides with their books?
One way to engage readers beyond the last page of your book is to provide a set of discussion questions. Educators, book clubs, librarians, and curious readers appreciate the extra information because a book discussion guide takes them behind the scenes, so to speak. How do you go about developing this tool?
The answer is probably because developing a study guide is not an intuitive process for most people. Authors may know their subjects inside and out, but designing a set of stimulating questions for readers may not seem like an easy process. Because it isn’t. However, there are reader’s guides available from many publishers as their marketing and promotions departments know the value of providing thought-provoking questions for readers to consider after they have read a book. The priceless value is the fact that a discussion guide extends the amount of time and interaction a reader has with a book. Also, a decent discussion guide helps educators assign deeper study of a book and expands the understanding of the message or theme of a story.
Enter the educator (me) with a template to help authors create a discussion guide for their books. Once an author understands learning styles, teaching methods, and how a reader typically engages with text, the process can be replicated for as many books as they write. I created an online course to teach writers how to create a discussion guide for their books.
I’m excited to share this practice with authors, editors, publishers, educators, librarians, book clubs, readers, students, and anyone who wants to encourage deeper engagement with a book. The broad topics of the course include:
- learn the value of book discussion guides to many different consumers of media
- understand research practices that support your knowledge and abilities to create discussion guide
- have the option to share your guides with me/other students.
- receive tools and a step-by-step plan
The course is divided up into these SECTIONS:
- What is a book discussion guide?
- Downloads of worksheets, progress journals, infographics, checklists, a resource list, a sample fiction book discussion guide, and a basic book discussion guide template.
- How and why a book discussion guide will help you and your readers.
- Discussion categories and how to create questions from your book.
- Typical contents of a book discussion guide.
Writing a book is generally about connecting with other people. Authors typically have an intention in mind when writing a book be it fiction or nonfiction. Call it a message, theme, or purpose, writing and publishing a book is one way to reach more people with your story.
You may or may not have a finished or published book at this point. It doesn’t matter because this formula can be put into action at any stage of a book’s life. It can boost interest in a new book and lengthen the shelf life of an older title because of the way a good book discussion guide adds dimension and interest to a publication. Once you have the process in hand, anyone can go from “how do I extend the life and interest in this book?” to increasing sales and expanding engagement almost indefinitely. What do I mean by “expanding engagement?”
Expanding engagement with a book means ways to keep a book “top of mind” for a reader. There is social media, of course, but a good book discussion guide has the potential to do so much more than posts or even paid online advertising. It works the same for any genre and any writing style because once a reader finishes the last page of your book, you want them to keep thinking about the content, wondering about you, the author, and having ways to delve deeper into the book’s meaning, purpose, construction, and more.
“Create a Discussion Guide for Your Book” course provides a step-by-step action plan about the why, how, when, and what of developing a knockout discussion guide to accompany your books. Even poetry! Every published work has a history, a construction period, and more that readers are eager to learn about. The course contains printable worksheets, checklists, text lessons, videos, and progress journals that will give you the tools to design, create, analyze, and share a discussion guide based on your book. Once you have the formula, it is repeatable for every book you publish.
The course normally retails for $197.00, but readers of this site have access to the sale price for a limited time. To get started, click this link and start immediately.
Only $97.00 for a limited time.
My thanks to my book friend MARY DESANTIS for sharing this with you!
All good things,
Women with clean houses do not have finished books. ~Joy E. Held
Copyright 2023 Joy E. Held
One thought on “Guest Post: Create a Discussion Guide for Your Book by Joy E. Held”
Joy is wonderful to work with!