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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I feel like I'm at a huge party meeting new people and where the presents just keep coming in the form of new books to explore. I also was unfamiliar with your work and just did a little research on your book "A Stray Drop of Blood." Interesting premise for a book...I never considered the story of Barabbas and how being set free at the expense of our Lord might have affected him and his family. Your book is also being added to my reading list...I'm going to be really busy this summer! Given the subject matter of your book you might be very interested in "The Fisherman's Testament" by Cesar Vidal. It is based on the trial of Peter before Nero and is one of the most powerful Christian books that I have ever read and recommend it to everyone. We offered that one in book club with many agreeing that is was one of the best books that they had ever read. We had to keep ordering more and more copies because people were buying them not just for themselves but for gifts. Cesar Vidal brilliantly crafts a historically correct novel and the only words he has Peter speak are from the Gospel of Mark so the Peter of the book remains true to the Peter of Scripture. A stunning work that should be on every bookshelf.

Roseanna White said:
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 haven't read that one yet--I'm going to put it on my list now!

Sandi Andrews said:
I feel like I'm at a huge party meeting new people and where the presents just keep coming in the form of new books to explore. I also was unfamiliar with your work and just did a little research on your book "A Stray Drop of Blood." Interesting premise for a book...I never considered the story of Barabbas and how being set free at the expense of our Lord might have affected him and his family. Your book is also being added to my reading list...I'm going to be really busy this summer! Given the subject matter of your book you might be very interested in "The Fisherman's Testament" by Cesar Vidal. It is based on the trial of Peter before Nero and is one of the most powerful Christian books that I have ever read and recommend it to everyone. We offered that one in book club with many agreeing that is was one of the best books that they had ever read. We had to keep ordering more and more copies because people were buying them not just for themselves but for gifts. Cesar Vidal brilliantly crafts a historically correct novel and the only words he has Peter speak are from the Gospel of Mark so the Peter of the book remains true to the Peter of Scripture. A stunning work that should be on every bookshelf.

Roseanna White said:
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
Thanks C.J. As I mentioned in the previous emails we exchanged, your book is on the schedule for November and will most likely be the 3rd Tues. I'll let you know when the Book Club coordinates with the church schedule to firm up a possible phone visit. Note to authors: your readers very much appreciate your accessibility whether it be a book signing, phone visit, or perhaps a personal visit if convenient. Note to Book Club Leaders: arranging a connection to the author of a selection greatly increases the participation for that particular month...everyone benefits!

C.J. Darlington said:
Wow, I loved reading this post and its comments. This kind of encouragement is just what an author of Christian fiction needs to hear once in awhile. There are times when we stare at the computer screen wondering if our words are making any kind of impact. Knowing people have been so deeply touched by Christian fiction means so much because it gives an author hope that their words can be a balm to a hurting soul. Thanks for sharing, Sandi! And I'm so honored you chose Thicker than Blood as a selection. :)
Thanks for your kind words and for writing books addressing the issues of soldiers. It shouldn't take Memorial Day for us to think about the men and women in uniform who sacrifice much of their personal lives for the rest of us. We have a very large VA hospital here in Salem, VA and there is a resource center for families of active duty soldiers in nearby Roanoke where my church is located. Our Book Club also does service projects to bless others with books. Perhaps placing some Christian books in these places addressing the issues of soldiers and their families would be a great project for our club to take on.

Cheryl Wyatt said:
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
It's kind of funny...Revell is re-releasing The Unfinished Gift as a trade paperback in a few weeks, thinking a lot of people will read The Homecoming (the sequel) first. Then won't be able to find the first book, since many bookstores take Christmas books off the shelf in January. The online stores don't do this. So it works out that you can get the hardback version online for a whole lot less than the paperback.

If you do decide to use either one, let me know and we can try to set up a phone visit with the group.

Sandi Andrews said:
Thanks for your comments Dan. I'm embarrassed to admit that I was unfamiliar with your work until this network became available. (Thanks again Fred for making this site available to connect authors and book clubs) As it turns out I am looking for a "Christmas themed" book for the December schedule and when I saw that your first book "The Unfinished Gift" was available for a great price on Amazon I added that plus your brand new book "The Homecoming" to the big box the UPS man will have to trudge up our long steep drive this week. Heehee...that's okay, he is used to almost weekly deliveries of books. I will let you know when I finish reading them.

Dan Walsh said:
Sandi,

Thanks for sharing all that goes on behind the scenes in making a book club work. I had a few book club leaders email me about selecting my first book for their Dec meeting, then email me later to tell me how well it went. Very humbling to think about a group of people taking that amount of time to discuss something I've written. Especially to hear how it affected them. When you sit alone writing all those hours, you don't tend to think of a time off in the future when God might use this feeble offering to encourage and affect people that way.

After reading what you said, I can easily see how someone might get so much more out of a book reading it with a club than on their own. Especially seeing all the work people like you go through to pick just the right one. Dont envy your challenge, with so many good books coming out now.
Dan,
I'm working my way through that big box of books but I thought I would let you know that I finished reading The Unfinished Gift last night...well done! It is sure to become a classic and I could see it being made into a movie. I added it to our Book Club schedule as the December selection. The Homecoming got moved up to the next to be read...I must find out what happens next! :)
I know this is a delayed response. Not sure how I missed this post. I thought I clicked something so that it might show up in my email. I know we've emailed since this, just wanted to thank you again for the kind words.
Thanks for your reply. "Texas Roads" was also in my Amazon order...it is really a blessing that I am a fast reader. My husband may be interested in your book as well. He lived in Fort Worth in the late '70's and early '80s when he worked for General Dynamics on Carswell Air Force Base. He thoroughly enjoyed his time in Texas and periodically we vacation in Texas to see the Texas Rangers baseball in Arlington, eat at Joe T. Garcia's in Fort Worth, and then venture down to Austin for Salt Lick Bar-B Que. I'm glad that Salt Lick ships their brisket and ribs! We joke that we eat our way through Texas when we go! :)

Cathy Bryant said:
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
Sandi Andrews said:
Golden Keyes Parsons said:
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!
Thanks for your input Golden. I have read both "In the Shadow of the Sun King" and "A Prisoner of Versailles." Both of these are on my "potential books" list is the category of a period piece. I learned a lot about the French Huguenots from your books and am looking forward to the 3rd. I especially loved the character of Pierre...I hope Madeleine continues to grow spiritually and emotionally in the third book to be worthy of his devotion. At times Madeleine still appeared a bit self absorbed. I hope you add more about Jean. He is also a very worthy hero and deserves some pages for his story!
Thanks Dan. I like to offer a Christmas themed book in December (Last year we discussed "The Great Christmas Bowl" by Susan May Warren. I also like to offer an Easter related book at that time of year. Because of this site, I ordered "A Stray Drop of Blood" by Roseanna White ( one of the members here on the network)to consider for our Easter selection. I also like to offer a really good romance for February. That slot is still available so if any author here would like to recommend a romance of their own or a great one they have read I would very much appreciate suggestions.

Dan Walsh said:
It's kind of funny...Revell is re-releasing The Unfinished Gift as a trade paperback in a few weeks, thinking a lot of people will read The Homecoming (the sequel) first. Then won't be able to find the first book, since many bookstores take Christmas books off the shelf in January. The online stores don't do this. So it works out that you can get the hardback version online for a whole lot less than the paperback.

If you do decide to use either one, let me know and we can try to set up a phone visit with the group.

Sandi Andrews said:
Thanks for your comments Dan. I'm embarrassed to admit that I was unfamiliar with your work until this network became available. (Thanks again Fred for making this site available to connect authors and book clubs) As it turns out I am looking for a "Christmas themed" book for the December schedule and when I saw that your first book "The Unfinished Gift" was available for a great price on Amazon I added that plus your brand new book "The Homecoming" to the big box the UPS man will have to trudge up our long steep drive this week. Heehee...that's okay, he is used to almost weekly deliveries of books. I will let you know when I finish reading them.

Dan Walsh said:
Sandi,

Thanks for sharing all that goes on behind the scenes in making a book club work. I had a few book club leaders email me about selecting my first book for their Dec meeting, then email me later to tell me how well it went. Very humbling to think about a group of people taking that amount of time to discuss something I've written. Especially to hear how it affected them. When you sit alone writing all those hours, you don't tend to think of a time off in the future when God might use this feeble offering to encourage and affect people that way.

After reading what you said, I can easily see how someone might get so much more out of a book reading it with a club than on their own. Especially seeing all the work people like you go through to pick just the right one. Dont envy your challenge, with so many good books coming out now.
Oh! I'm delighted that my books are on your potential list. Madeleine does finally ... ummm, shall we say "soften" somewhat, but it's toward the end of Book Three, "Where Hearts Are Free," before she finally comes around. Sometimes a strong woman who has come through the type of trauma that Madeleine had to endure to keep her family together and to survive has problems letting go of control.

I'm loving this discussion and finding out about more recommendations for good books. Thanks again.

Golden Keyes Parsons said:
Sandi Andrews said:
Golden Keyes Parsons said:
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!
Thanks for your input Golden. I have read both "In the Shadow of the Sun King" and "A Prisoner of Versailles." Both of these are on my "potential books" list is the category of a period piece. I learned a lot about the French Huguenots from your books and am looking forward to the 3rd. I especially loved the character of Pierre...I hope Madeleine continues to grow spiritually and emotionally in the third book to be worthy of his devotion. At times Madeleine still appeared a bit self absorbed. I hope you add more about Jean. He is also a very worthy hero and deserves some pages for his story!
Loved your comment about eating your way through Texas! My hubby and I are food connoisseurs (which is just a fancy French word for over-eaters)! We love Joe T. Garcia's, but have never had the pleasure of Salt Lick Bar-B-que. Will add it to the list! =)

Sandi Andrews said:
Thanks for your reply. "Texas Roads" was also in my Amazon order...it is really a blessing that I am a fast reader. My husband may be interested in your book as well. He lived in Fort Worth in the late '70's and early '80s when he worked for General Dynamics on Carswell Air Force Base. He thoroughly enjoyed his time in Texas and periodically we vacation in Texas to see the Texas Rangers baseball in Arlington, eat at Joe T. Garcia's in Fort Worth, and then venture down to Austin for Salt Lick Bar-B Que. I'm glad that Salt Lick ships their brisket and ribs! We joke that we eat our way through Texas when we go! :)

Cathy Bryant said:
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

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