It’s a special honor this week to feature a man who has worked hard to establish a special connection between readers and authors. Fred St. Laurent, along with his wife, Nora, established The Book Club Network (TBCN) in 2010 with the goal of creating the ultimate online book club.
With its unique and diverse reader groups, monthly giveaways, and book review opportunities — as well as an online magazine now available on Amazon — Fred and Nora have more than achieved their goal.
Fred and Nora currently make their home in Georgia.
What inspired the idea for The Book Club Network?
The original idea was to connect with readers across the country who belonged to book clubs. My wife, Nora, was reading so many books, to find a few good books, to challenge her book club members. Her book club was in a store and she had more than 100 members. These people were not all going to church on Sunday, but they were seeking fellowship and a safe place to discuss the relevant issues that were being brought up in the reading of these wonderful books.
Nora called this Finding Hope Through Fiction and it became Finding Hope Through Reading Groups. We know that Hope is a person and I thought that there might be other groups like this out there. In particular I knew that there had to be other leaders out there, like Nora, who would share the books they loved with each other and possibly cut down on the number of books they needed to read through by networking with each other.
I set out to find them, and did indeed find over 3,000 leaders who make up the core of Book Fun.org where there are close to 7,000 active members today—and just over 500,000 that we send the magazine to each month.
How did you go about organizing what would become such a massive gathering of readers? What have been your biggest challenges?
The platform was the biggest challenge. We wanted to create a safe place where our members would not be assaulted by spammers or even well-meaning authors who do not understand marketing. Social Networking has become a huge hall, full of empty rooms and the idea there is to open all the doors you can, and shout in “Buy my book!” and leave. If you look back at the efforts poured out that day, you find that there are few, if any interactions on the postings done. Add the algorithms that curb the number of people seeing posts, employed by all the large networks and marketing has become a fruitless enterprise.
I have been in sales my whole life and the truth is that very few people buy something from someone that they do not know, or like. Some will but most will not. Social Networking is really about finding the readers and allowing them to get to know who you are. Our network had to provide this kind of safe environment, where this could take place on a sensible level and we believe that we have developed this. We are constantly working to improve on this.