Nora St. Laurent runs three book clubs outside of Atlanta and has established a successful model that has made her a resource for others who would like to establish clubs. To Nora, Book Clubs are a Ministry that revolve around relationships and through this, the Lord would love the women that He put in her life extravagantly. She facilitates a safe environment where women can enter into relationships. She says it best: "This is not about what church you belong to or how well you know the Bible. It also is not a matter of whether or not you go to church. God has called you into relationship with Him and with me and the other ladies in this group to love, to be loved and to encourage each other." She has a vision to duplicate the model to reach as many people as possible and is writing a book about how to do just this. Visit her blog at http://www.psalm516.blogspot.com/
CREATING AN ONLINE BOOKCLUB
Gas prices too high and can’t get to a book club? Have no fear; I have an Online Book Club for you. Not all online book clubs are created equal. Check out part of my interview with Melanie Dickerson, the ACFW Book Club coordinator, to see why.
Melanie how did you get to run an online book club? How long have you been doing it? Do you think this is a new trend? What is the name of the online book club you run?
Hi, Nora! Our book club is the ACFW Book Club. ACFW is American Christian Fiction Writers and the book club promotes ACFW member authors by showcasing them to readers.
I was a member of the book club, and when the book club needed another volunteer, Mary Connealy suggested they ask me. Mary was my mentor at my first writer’s conference. She thought it would be a good experience for me, and she was right.
To be honest, I can’t remember how long I’ve been helping the book club—a couple of years I think. When the coordinator stepped down last spring, I took over her duties.
I definitely think online book clubs are a new trend.
Had you been a part of a book club before this online experience? If so, how different is it? Which do you prefer? What are the advantages of each (live as opposed to online)?
I’ve never really been a part of a book club before. I like the ease and convenience of an online book club. You don’t have to put on makeup, get into your car and drive anywhere! The only drawback is you don’t get to have in-person interaction.
Please explain the book selection process. How do you choose the books that your club reads? Do your members vote on books, or do you pick books by some other method?
Members of ACFW submit to me their recently published books to the book club. Every month I compile a list of all the submissions that fit into that month’s genre—for example, January is Historical month. Two months ago, I compiled a list of all the historical novels that had been submitted, along with a brief synopsis of each book, and sent it to the book club members. I created a poll on Yahoo! and the members were able to vote for the book they wanted to read. And the winning book became our January selection, which was Courting Miss Adelaide by Janet Dean.
Do you have authors that speak to your group online? How does that work? Please describe this process for the benefit of those who haven’t experienced it before.
As I said, the authors are usually members of the book club, so they pop in with comments from time to time. Also, we have a live
chat with the author after the discussion of their book is over. The live chat is always at 7:00 Central time and usually on the first Monday night of the month.
How many book club members do you have? Is there a charge to be part of this book club group? Can anyone sign up for your book club online? If so, can you tell us how to join your group for those who want to jump into the fun you are having?
The ACFW Book Club has over 700 members. The group is absolutely free and anyone interested in Christian fiction is welcome to join. Just go to the Yahoo! groups site and search for acfwbookclub, or go to http://groups.yahoo.com/search?query=acfwbookclub and click on the link to sign up.
With so many members in your group how do you keep track of things? How do you keep it running smoothly?
The book club doesn’t require a whole lot of maintenance. People occasionally have a question, which I answer, and sometimes we get spammers signing up for the book club. But since I moderate a member’s first message to the book club, spam rarely ever slips through. I kind of like squashing those e-mails! If it’s obviously someone who wants to advertise their product, I delete the message, then block that person from sending any more e-mails to the group.
Sometimes it is a little hard to remember all the things that need to be done every month! Most of my duties come at the beginning of the month. For instance, I make out the poll the first week of the month. Later that week or the next week, I have a drawing for the giveaways (authors donate four copies of their novel to give away to book club members). I also have to communicate with the authors whose books have been selected, and I have to send all the information about the new selections to the ACFW Webmaster, Carl Nasal, so he can post it to the ACFW Web site.
Thanks for sharing with us, Melanie. See you online.
I have been apart of a “live” book club and one online. Each type of club has its own benefits. Having Melanie coordinate the ACFW Online book club has made the online experience a pleasure for me. She works hard at making sure we stay on track and everyone’s vote is counted for the book of the month. Thanks, Melanie, for all you do online at book club.
For the complete interview pictures, check out my blog at www.psalm516.blogspot.com.
Until next time.