I am the Book Club coordinator for a large church in Roanoke, VA.  Our club started 4 years ago meeting monthly in two discussion groups.  The Tuesday group meets 11:30am-1:00pm at the church and the Saturday group meets 9:30am-11:00am at a Panera Bread. In addition to the club members, many others read from our book list even if they cannot attend a discussion group.  Some of these readers choose to meet in smaller groups or individually with a club member to share their thoughts about a book.

 

Because there are limited spaces for books on the schedule, each selection must meet the following criteria:  first and foremost a chosen book must honor God, secondly, it must be a well written great story offering potential discussion topics. Being aware that the books I choose for the club will be spending the time and money of our readers, only the best of the best make the final book list.  I intentionally seek variety in genres, authors, geographic locations, time periods, and topics. I am personally rewarded when our members are stretched to read something beyond what they would normally consider and I take special delight in introducing new authors to the group.  I actively search for first time authors having found that often a first book has been marinating in the author’s heart for years yielding a carefully crafted story.  An excellent example of this is Linore Rose Burkard’s book “Before the Season Ends.”  Without exception, everyone in both of our discussion groups loved this first book of Linore’s.  So much so that most of our readers ended up reading all three books in her series as they were released.  C.J. Darlington’s first book “Thicker Than Blood” has been added to our fall schedule because not only was it a great story, but she handled some difficult subjects with sensitivity and created likeable characters in spite of their flaws.  I am looking forward to the sequel.  On my stack of books that I am previewing for the club is “Crossing Oceans” by another first time author Gina Holmes.  I can already tell that Gina will join the group of elite authors whose work everyone admires and respects.

 

Much research goes into picking a book for the club.  Obviously each book must be read with discernment of the content.  Twice each year, I have our members anonymously complete a survey about each of the books we read.  Without the burden of putting their names with their opinions, I find the results are candid and very helpful.  Note to authors:  Reader response is not always an accurate reflection of your talent.  For example one of the most talented wordsmiths and story tellers in the business was the most polarizing author on one of our surveys.  The response was almost evenly divided between 10’s (the best) and 1’s (the worst) with very little middle ground.  The added comments revealed that those giving a poor rating totally missed the genius of what the author was trying to convey in the book.

 

I always check an author’s website before selecting their book.  The site does not have to be technically “slick” but information about the author and why they write is very useful.  It also helps to know if they have a personal connection or special knowledge about the subject matter of their books.  I often check the sites of my favorite authors to see what they are recommending and have followed links on their sites to some real gems some of which were added into the Book Club mix.

 

In August before our new “book year” starts in September, our group takes a road trip to a special location with “atmosphere” to enjoy a long leisurely lunch and share what the members have been reading in addition to the club selections.  I take careful notes of the members’ likes and dislikes and always choose one of their recommendations (after reading it myself of course!) to go on the coming year’s schedule.  This is also my opportunity to recommend the great books I read during the year which didn’t make the book list because of space constraints or because the subject matter had already been covered.  While I try not to duplicate content, I do not have a problem with offering more than one book by the same author.  Each book is considered on its own merit.  Also if an author’s previous work did not qualify to be a selection, I will still revisit their new work in the future for consideration.

 

Discussing the book selecting process brings me to another thought about book reviews.  Once a club leader has been at the selection process a while, it becomes apparent which reviews are genuine. The most helpful reviews reveal enough of the content along with information about the author’s writing style to peak interest in the book.  Reviews that simply state whether someone liked or didn’t like the book are interesting but not terribly useful.  On Amazon I always read the top and bottom reviews for clarity.

 

The most challenging aspect of my Book Club leadership role is narrowing the potential book choices down to the number that will fit on our schedule.  This limitation has so disappointed me that I am considering a quarterly “bonus discussion group” that would perhaps meet in the evening over dinner and would include both men and women.  Any thoughts on this idea?

 

Well this is probably enough to get this discussion going but I would like to thank Fred and Nora for making this forum available to link Book Clubs and authors.  I have already found much of the content useful. Having watched trailers and read some of the reviews, the UPS truck will be delivering an Amazon order to my door this week! J

 

 

 

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Sandi:

Thanks for sharing this information. As a first-time novelist embarking on book two, I found your research helpful. Leah, the protagonist of my debut novel, decides to admit herself into rehab because of her alcohol addiction. But, I don't share anywhere on my website that I've been in recovery for over 20 years. Geez. Thanks!
I will be checking out "Walking on Broken Glass." I wish that authors could quietly slip into discussion groups and see the full effect that their books have on individual people. Christian fiction is more than just great entertainment...it is a special ministry that allows people to learn about and/or identify with a wide range of issues. More times than I can count, because of a book, a reader has been able to share something from their lives that has brought much healing to their hearts. God bless all of you authors who are able to write about painful subjects to give others hope and the encouragement to take steps toward healing no matter what their particular issue may be.
Thanks, Sandi, and you make a great point. In fact, tomorrow I'm going as a guest to my fourth Book Club meeting. Hearing women discuss my novel is both surreal and educational. I learn so much about and through them listening to their views on the characters or situations in the novel. It's also been a blessing to me an author when I know that, in some way, they've learned something about God's grace. They're also quite honest about what they like and don't like, and that's invaluable for me. After all, it's the people who turn the pages that matter.
Sandi,
You are SO WELCOME here!!! This is exactly what I was hoping to see. The ministry side of the book club experience is where my passion is. You work hard to create a safe place where your members can come and share, and God can work through you and your members and a book that comes from the passion of the writer.
I agree and identify with your comment:
"...often a first book has been marinating in the author’s heart for years yielding a carefully crafted story."
Also your comments about Gina Holmes are right on. Many do not know this, but the idea for the network was the result of a visit from Gina several years ago. We were sitting around the table, in the kitchen, and Nora was sharing her passion for book clubs and her experiences with authors. That conversation gave birth to this network eventually.
I look forward to your participation here.
My goal is to reach out to churches and book stores looking for established book club leaders and potential leaders, who see the ministry in these groups. I want to bring them in and support their efforts here.
Thank you for sharing your heart here.
"More times than I can count, because of a book, a reader has been able to share something from their lives that has brought much healing to their hearts." This comment is truly what finding hope in fiction is all about!
Sandi,

Thanks so much for sharing your heart on how Christian fiction changes lives. As a reader who has been touched and changed by amazing stories, I hope to do the same with my books.

Thanks for the reminder of why I write...

Blessings,
Cathy
Wow. Great stuff to know. Thank you, Sandi for posting this. Very helpful. I LOVED what you said about you having found that often a first book has been marinating in the author’s heart for years yielding a carefully crafted story. I think every author would benefit from reading this excellent article.
Cheryl Wyatt
Thanks to Sandi and Christa for sharing about the book club experience. This was my hope for this network. I have seen in countless book club meetings were women share segments from a book marked that touched their heart, changed the way they viewed a matter, situation or type of person. They are so choked up as tears run down their face they've asked me to read the passage they have marked. This is what makes Christian Fiction so powerful. People not expecting God's truth to pierce their heart and move them in a mighty way. Our guard is down when reading and I know myself I've seen the inner struggle myself as God has healed me from the inside out.

Christa I LOVED the way you had your main character come to the relization she had a problem, at the same time you showed that the other people or signifigant other in your life will be NOT be HAPPY with the change. If that person changed things would never be the same. Your book was honest, gutzy and real to life. It's like when we come to make Jesus Lord of our lives NOTHING is the same.

Sandi, thanks for putting into words what happens in book club. I hope that authors will gleam from the book clubs that share here and we can learn from one another. I'm so excited about what God is doing here. Thanks both of you for sharing your hearts.

Thanks to Cheryl and Cathy for confirming the same thing. There is just something very special about christian Fiction it's not preachy, but its natural and touches lives. That's what drew me to reading it and promoting it.

Thanks Fred for making this network happen. You are the BEST partner!! I'm so glad you share my passion, but then again you've ALWAYS been a reader!! :D
Thank you for sharing your amazing efforts at creating a wonderful book club experience for your members. It's great to have the perspective of the book club organizer! Thank you for taking the time to fill us in.
What a wonderful post! One of my favorite things to do is meet with a Book Club that has chosen my book to review. I loved hearing that you like to review first-time novelists' books. And you are right - sometimes those first novels have been resonating in the author's heart and spirit for a very long time. My first book was based on my family genealogy and spiritual heritage of the persecution of the French Huguenots. The third book, and completion of that series, will be released this fall.

Thanks so much for your input!
It's always neat to hear that someone chose your book for their book club. I had that happen with It's Not About Me and it was a hit, so I'm told. There are some good tips here so thanks for writing. Like Christa, one can only be so transparent on a public website. But we all have a little bit of us in each of our novels, right? The trick is sorting the fact from the fiction.
It was so great to get this insight into the passion that goes into a book club--a different side of the same coin we authors experience. All goes back to love of story and seeking God's truth through the written word. I've been privileged to have two online clubs select my book this spring, and nothing has been more rewarding that seeing the different reactions to these characters I poured six years into.

I'm so grateful this group has formed! I can't wait to see the exchange of ideas and insights sure to come. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts, Sandi!

Roseanna White
A STRAY DROP OF BLOOD - December 2009
JEWEL OF PERSIA - coming June 2011
I've joined many a network and knew from the start that this would be different. Exactly the kind of information and support a young author recovering from all sorts of adversity needs.

Whether the story be fiction or not, the prayer is to help someone else avoid the pain of mistakes we have learned from and then to support those who do know the pain but feel they are alone. We want them to know they can heal succefully and books are an affordable form of therapy when one can't access professionally structured intervention.

Thanks to all for supporting the vision of Finding Hope In Reading Groups. I love it!

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Created by Phred St Laurent May 27, 2010 at 11:35pm. Last updated by Phred St Laurent May 31, 2010.

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