Dreams Coming True is a Thursday feature on my blog, a way to highlight those whose goal is to create community. The dream might be a blog, a published book, a small business, volunteering, or even fundraising for a charity. Something that makes the world a better place . . . for others.
“Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin” (Zechariah 4:10, NLT).
Tell us a little about yourself, Becky:
I am a 50ish wife and mother of 3 grown children (at least that’s what they say). I live in a small, middle Georgia town and work part time for my husband who is a veterinarian. As an empty nester, I fill my free time with teaching Bible studies and volunteering at a local transition center for women. I also blog about books—a huge passion of mine. My blog is called By The Book, and I post book reviews, book spotlights, author interviews, and just about anything to do with getting people to read. I also lead two book clubs and co-lead another at the transitional center where I volunteer. That is my favorite group of all, because these women are the ones who really need to know about God’s love and grace.
When did this creative dream begin?
I have always loved reading. My parents fostered this love by reading to me and giving me every chance to read—from library visits to book gifts for birthdays and Christmas. I majored in English in college primarily so I could read! But life after college—marriage, children, and life in general —curtailed my reading time. In 2001, I lost the sight in my left eye due to multiple sclerosis. Heavy steroids and intense prayer gave me back most of my sight and gave me a renewed desire to read all I could. As the women’s ministry director at my church, I started a book club in 2002 devoted to reading Christian literature, both fiction and non-fiction. Many of the women who joined us had never been readers, but wanted to be.
How did this idea get started?
About 4 years ago, I took over the job of librarian for my church. I had absolutely no background for this except a BA in English, leader of a book club and an overwhelming desire to get people reading. As part of the library, I started a blog to let our church members know about events and new additions to our collection. I quickly found that I could get free books for the library by writing reviews. With a limited budget, this was a perfect way to keep our collection current.
Unfortunately my husband and I left that church, and I was at loose ends as to what to do ministry-wise. I decided to continue the blog under a new name (By The Book) and reach out to a wider audience.
What makes By the Book stand out from the crowd?
There are lots and lots of blogs out there. If anything makes mine stand out, it is the emphasis I put on viewing the things I read through God’s lens (His word). Philippians 4:8 has been my guide in reading and reviewing books. I want my readers to find God in the books that they read, no matter the genre. I don’t limit my choices, but instead review everything and anything (non-fiction, suspense, romance, speculative, etc.) as long as it promotes a Christian worldview. I am also very interested in reading books by debut authors or printed by small presses—little gems that may otherwise go unnoticed.
What are the goals and intentions of your blog?
My goals are simple: alerting people to wonderful literature out there that is also focused on God and His love and grace.
How does your blog create community?
I am always amazed at who visits my site. I have visitors from around the world—from places where the books I review may not even be available. I welcome their insights and comments. I want my blog to be kind of like a library or book store where people can browse and get ideas and talk about the things that matter to them.
Many have creative ideas but trouble following through with them. What advice would you give to creative types who start projects eagerly…but then enthusiasm drizzles off?
Blogging is fun, but also is work. You have to establish a routine to writing and posting. It is something that requires consistent attention. I spend some time every day in posting, reading, and tweaking my blog.
Describe the behind-the-scenes effort of your blog.
While I am it as far as the blog goes, I do like input from my readers on what books should be reviewed. Any and all suggestions are welcome!
What’s been the hardest part about getting it off the ground?
The hardest part is not knowing if what you do really matters—is anyone really reading what I post? But as the readership of my blog has grown, I have been so encouraged by the many positive comments I have received. I love that my opinion matters, but I am more encouraged when someone lets me know that a book I recommended touched them in a personal way.
What have you learned?
I was completely tech-challenged when I began 4 years ago. I have learned a lot and am continuing to learn the ins and outs of computers and software. I have also learned a great deal about the publishing industry and book marketing. I have had a behind-the-scenes look that most readers don’t know about.
Have there been any unexpected surprises?
In 2011 I received an email asking me to attend the ICRS (International Christian Retail Show) as media. Wow! That was a huge surprise and so much fun. Although I was a bit like “country come to town,” I had such fun meeting and interviewing authors. I also attended the Christy Awards and was a little star-struck by my favorite authors. But I learned that all those big-time authors also have hearts for God. My interviews could not have gone smoother and the experience was fantastic. I have also participated twice as a judge for the Inspy Awards. A huge responsibility, I loved every minute of the process, from reading the nominee’s novels to discussing the books with fellow judges.
My favorite thing, though, has to be the other bloggers I have connected with. It doesn’t matter how far away they live, through the internet I can connect with other believers who are just as passionate as I am about promoting Christian books.
What are the biggest misconceptions people have about starting your project?
My friends think this is an awesome way to get free books. But there is a big investment of time—from reading to research to writing. I view my blog as a ministry, and as such, I take it seriously.
What are some ways you promote your project?
I am on all the social media sites—Library Thing, FB, Twitter, Pinterest, etc. Anywhere readers congregate!
Creating something is one skill. Marketing and promoting it is an entirely different skill set. How has that gone for you? Shocked by the amount of work marketing takes? Or pleasantly surprised?
I am fairly new to marketing. Because I don’t have a commodity, only my opinions, I am a bit hesitant to be in your face. After all, I am just a wife and mom who likes to read and tell others about it. But I am slowly but surely putting my blog out there for others to see.
Any marketing mistakes you would avoid?
Not doing any marketing at all is a big mistake, but so is trying to do it all at once. Get comfortable with one or two things before moving on to other promotional ideas.
What social network has worked best for you?
Twitter seems to be the quickest, easiest, and most accessible of all the sites.
What advice would you give someone else who has a creative dream like yours?
Go for it! But pray first. If it is something God wants done and wants you involved, you will be in for a fun and surprising ride.
Where do you see this project in five years?
Not really sure what 5 years down the road looks like. It really depends on how the media evolves. But I hope to still be nagging people into reading good books!
Jesus was the master storyteller. He was able to connect with ordinary people through relatable stories. Story is still a great way to tell truth that somehow touches our hearts. I love that about books and am passionate about getting people to hear God’s truth to them through that media.
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Good news! I’m giving away TWO iPads, TWO Kindles, and TWO Nooks to celebrate the release of The Calling! Check out my contest page for more details. Hurry, contest ends 2/8!