The South Park Book Club

Written By: Timothy Fish Published: 9/20/2007

I am a member of a Christian book club. It is the SPBC. We could call it the South Park Book Club, but it already has a better name with those letters. It has membership in excess of nine hundred, but only a very small percentage of that are involved in book club activities. The SPBC is not a typical book club. It does not send books to its members. It does not hold meetings for the sole purpose of discussing the latest novel. It does not order books by the truckload to sell to its members at a discounted rate, but walk the halls of its headquarters and you will quickly see that it is a book club.

The name of this book club is not South Park Book Club, but rather South Park Baptist Church. Walk the halls when the doors are open and you may hear people discussing the latest books that have found there way into the church library. Most of the people who read these books are women and one book passes through many hands.

As I was walking through one of the children filled halls on Wednesday night, one of the ladies in the church stopped me in order to let me know that it was her turn to read Searching for Mom. Our church secretary gave this particular copy to our pastorís wife, who loaned it to another lady, who loaned it to the lady who stopped me in the hall. At least, that is what I think happened. There may have been another step in there that I missed. Before the night was over, another lady came to me and told me that she was next in line to read the book.

From what I have heard, this scenario is playing out in other churches as well. It all begins with one person receiving a copy of my book then handing it off to someone else who hands it off in turn. There are a couple of ways to look at this phenomenon. One way to look at it is to get oneís knickers in a knot and to be upset because people are reading the book without paying for it. If we look at it another way, every time the book gets handed off to another person, that is one more reader, one more potential fan.

Granted, people who read the book without paying for it do not help to pay the bills, but frankly, I would rather have people read my book than to have people buy my book. I want both, but if I can only have one, I want people to read my books. In actual fact, the two things are inseparable. Consider that one of the members of the South Park Book Club reads my book. Perhaps she is the fifth person in line to read the same copy. After finishing the book, she passes it on to someone else, but a few weeks later, she is considering purchasing a birthday present to a friend. Perhaps she will remember my book and rather than something else, she will buy a copy of my book to give away.

I could stand up in front of people and talk until I was blue in the face about why people should buy my book and I might not sell a single copy. I could dump my life savings into advertising and I might not sell a single copy. Someone who has read my book can tell a few friends about it and I am almost assured of selling a few copies. Word of mouth advertising is very effective. Why? Because people donít trust me nearly as much as they trust their friends. They expect me to tell them that my book is good, whether it is good or not, but a trusted friend has no reason to tell them anything except the truth. For word of mouth advertising to work, people have to be free to let their friends borrow their books.