Creating Discussion Questions for Your Books

Hello all, Katy Lee, here. I’ve noticed lately many of the fiction books I’ve read contain book discussion questions on their last few pages. Discussion questions are no longer just for non-fiction anymore. And if the questions are not in the book, then I’ve seen many authors put them on their websites for readers to grab.

For me, I think this is a great way to encourage book clubs to choose your book for their next read. With so many book clubs now, whether online or in person, it seems like a good thing to do for the readers, especially for the book club director, who would have had to read the book ahead of time to then create the questions on their own. If I was a director, I would sure lean toward the books that already have them created.

Since my debut novel, Real Virtue, was selected for the May read in the Clean Reads Book Club, I offered to create such a list of conversation starters for the discussion that will take place here on June 14th . But since I had never created discussion questions before, I wasn’t sure where to start.

First, I went back through many of my books that I had previously seen questions in to see how other authors completed this task.

Some seemed really difficult to answer and even stumped me. (And these were books I’ve read) I didn’t want my questions to feel like a test to see if someone really read the book. I wanted them to be enjoyable and contemplative.

I then looked online for some basic generic questions that could be used for any book, but they were so generic they could be answered in one word answers with nothing to elaborate on. (Where’s the discussion in that?)

In the end, what I chose to do was go back to my synopsis. (The long one.) For me to form solid, thought-provoking questions that would assure the reader understood the points of the story and where I was coming from, and how they could relate to it as well, I needed to go back to the very source I used to show an editor these same things.

From there I created a handful of discussion starters, not pages worth that could take hours to answer, just around five questions that wouldn’t feel intimidating and something like you felt compelled to tackle. Just the thought of that makes me think of homework and where’s the fun in that?

 

Which leads me to The Unlocked Secret: Keep it fun. Reading is about escape. The discussion should be a way to prolong the escape and keep your characters alive in the minds of your readers a bit longer. Perhaps even to encourage your readers to recommend the book to someone else.

To view my questions for Real Virtue, you can find them here. While there be sure to sign up for my occassional email update or connect with me on Facebook and Twitter for a chance to win a $25 Gift Card to Starbucks at the end of June. See all the ways you can be entered on my site.          

Questions for you: Do you answer the discussion questions you find at the end of some books? Do you even read them? Why or why not? If you belong to a book club, do you choose books that have premade questions over books that don’t?

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24 thoughts on “Creating Discussion Questions for Your Books”

  1. I only sometimes read them. If a book had been really compelling, I naturally want to prolong the experience. The questions do need to be thought-provoking but also fun, you’re right. Who wants to be grilled about a pleasure read? Am I right? :)

  2. I haven’t read a book with discussion questions lately and frankly, it hadn’t even occurred to me to include them in any of my books. But one of my books, a political romance, does naturally lend itself to discussion and I should include those questions.
    Thanks for the inspiration, Katy!
    Stephanie Queen

    1. You are on to something here, I think. Sometimes a book isn’t meant to be discussed, and there are definitely stories that could rile a few discussions on their own, with or without questions.

  3. I never really paid much attention to the questions before I had to write them for my Love Inspired books. I thought of them as just for book clubs. Now, I do look at them when I finish a book. I think they can give greater insight into the author’s message.

    1. I agree, but I hesitated writing questions before publication because I like to think readers are smart people and can figure out my message on their own. I don’t want to beat people over the head with it. :) My hope is my questions aren’t like that and just prolong the experience in a good way.

      P.S. I really like the LI questions I’ve seen lately.

  4. I haven’t read a book with discussion questions in a while, but I do usually at least skim through the questions, because, as you said, it’s nice to prolong the experience. Honestly, though, I wonder if someone other than the author herself ought to write the discussion questions (perhaps a beta reader or critique partner). The author is so close to the work and comes at it from a much different perspective than a reader. JMO.

    1. I LIKE this idea! And as an author, I would be able to see if my message came across correctly. Watch out my precious Beta Readers. You just might have another task to perform. :)

  5. As a reader, I enjoy them. As a writer, I always feel a little pretentious, and I only do it when asked. : )

    1. Totally agree. :) I don’t want to presume the reader will even want them. And there’s a good chance they will never be used. I don’t like wasting my time anymore than the next person, so waiting until you are asked is viable.

  6. I rarely read the questions at the end of a novel, Katie, unless the author is a friend, and I want to see what she wrote! I’m not part of a book club, but I imagine having questions would sway a club to choose your book over another, question-less book. And i like your rule of thumb: keep it fun! Hey, that almost rhymes! Bless you as you write for His glory, Jen

  7. For White Rose Publishing/Harbourlight Books, discussion questions are a mandatory part of the “editing” process of putting a book together. I have to admit. With my first few titles, the task was daunting–but you’ve hit on the most important key: Make it enjoyable for the reader…something within the message of your book upon which the reader can draw, discuss and dive into further. Discussion questions for Pelican Book Group titles can always be found and downloaded from the purchase page on the PBG website, which, as you observed, Katy, makes it quick and easy for book club leaders/readers to find, use and hopefully enjoy. Great post!!!! <3

    1. Wow, mandatory! Yikes, the pressure is on for you to get this right. :) Thanks for confirming what I said, and thank you for stopping by, my friend!

  8. This is very timely, Katy. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. I wondered if I should go ahead and make up the questions and put them in the back of each of my books. As an indie author, that’s not hard to do. i might start by putting them on my website first and see if I get any interest from book clubs. I’ll definitely check out what you did with yours. I also like what Suze said about having someone else suggest the questions. it might seem more organic and less like a teacher/student thing. Thanks for the inspiration!

  9. Katy, this is a thought provoking post. I ask questions at my blogs endings. I learned that from the 7 scribes, so thanks. Now I want to increase traffic to my site, so I am beginning to invite professionals that do what I do and are interested in my writings. But before I do, I must develop questions, questions that will interest my readers. The folks that I am working with who work on blogs said I must have good questions. I am not sure what that means. For example, I will invite interior designers, architects, artists, writers. I need to be creative here. Tough assignment. create “good” question. For books, I never noticed questions, but Tom has and thinks the questions are trite.

    1. And we don’t want trite, that’s for sure! :) That’s not serving any purpose. I guess we’re in the same boat with finding “good” questions. Best of luck with yours.

  10. It depends on how well I liked the read whether or not I read the questions. I don’t have them in my novel, but a retired school teacher liked it so well she asked if she could write a lesson plan. I gave her permission since I am interested in the homeschool arena. I haven’t made it into the book club arena yet. I would like to.

    Blessings,

    Tom Blubaugh, author
    Night of the Cosack
    http://tomblubaugh.net

  11. If I come across discussion questions at the back of a novel, I do tend to glance over them. I included a list of them in the back of my book simply because I wanted to make it very easy for book clubs to choose and discuss the book at one of their meetings. I think the best questions revolve around the past experiences of the readers. For example, my book was a romance so one of the first questions discussion questions is, “Can you remember some of the first romances you ever read?” That kind of a question invites the group to talk, laugh, share their experiences, find common ground and get talking. I think the questions to AVOID are the ones that are so obvious that no one feels moved to reply, or those that can be answered with a single word.

    1. Awww, so maybe questions that aren’t necessarily related to the book, but more about where the reader is coming from. If you leave them with a nice memory when they close your book, they will equate that feeling with your book. :) Nice.

  12. Since I belong to several book clubs and am an occasional leader at the acfw online club, discussion questions are a way of life. I have them for every book (oops- except my newest), just becasue book clubs are a great marketing forum too, and I love to do more. There are two sets of generic questions available from readinggroupguides.com, and book-clubs-resources.com for non-fiction and fiction. It costs a lot of money to upload your questions and book info onto some of these sites as they’re also great marketing tools, but I have questions on my web sites and good reads if my particular publisher didn’t want them in the book. Yes, fun questions, but also discussion-sparking and thought-provoking makes readers want to tell others about your book, and that’s KEY to marketing. A nice memory…sure, but a strong desire to SHARE this great book is what you want to go for.

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