Note: This is a continuing series I’m publishing on the Social-In Network. Part 1, a video on Getting Knocked Down, was followed by a Practical Experience article with Maureen Lang. This is the 3rd post in the series: a Practical Experience accounting where Fred St. Laurent shared his insights as one whose life created a need to start over taking a new direction in writing-related fields. I’m adding this to the On Writing Library here so it’s easily available for everyone. If you missed the earlier articles/video, you can find them here:
1. Part 1: Inspire Me! series video.
2. Part 2: Practical Experience (relating to Part 1) with Author Maureen Lang.
3. Part 3: Practical Experience (relating to Part 1) with COO Fred St. Laurent.
Standing Back Up
Practical Experience 2 Companion to
Inspire Me Part 1:
We started with a video on When You Get Knocked Down. We followed that with practical experience from author Maureen Lang on persistence and how it opens new doors of opportunity. Today, we continue with practical experience from Fred St. Laurent, the COO of Book Fun Organization, who shares his practical experience at Standing Back Up.
What we’ve gotten so far is the certainty that we all get knocked down and it’s proof we were standing–it’s not just us. It’s everyone at some time in their lives, and the proof we were standing and are therefore capable of standing is a good thing. It assures us that we’ve done it. If we did it once, we can do it again, and that persistence opens doors of new opportunities to us. Valuable insights all, but none of which tell us how to stand back up. And that’s what we need to know—how to make it happen. We need practical help figuring it out, and there’s nothing more practical than speaking to someone who’s done it.
So I went hunting and found Fred St. Laurent. He was knocked down in the financial crisis and is now standing tall in a whole new field. Fred didn’t want to get knocked down or to start over. Like so many of us, the need was thrust on him. But his attitude toward it and reaction to it has made his transition extremely successful. I’ve talked at length with Fred about that transition. Interestingly enough, he first got involved in his new career as a way to help his wife. That outreach has resulted in an organization, Book Fun, the Book Fun Magazine, and a network that brings writers, publishers, readers and book clubs together in a safe, family friendly environment. Very successful transition. So let’s get some insights on the details of it through some questions to Fred and his answers.
Vicki: What is the Book Club Network organization and your position in it?
Fred: http://www.bookfun.org is a network of Reading Groups from around the world. We have thousands of members; moms and grandmothers; some are teens; many men have joined. The common denominator is that we all love good books. Our focus is Family Friendly, although there is a club here called “Edgy Christian Fiction,” for the most part we promote reading material and movies that are safe for the family. It seems that our members belong to, lead or want to lead a book club. Many are just seeking a place to find new authors and their books. Others are looking for fellowship, inspiration and ideas to bring back to their groups.
(Note: Fred went from ground zero to his current position in roughly five years. That’s not a long time, and if it sounds like one, stop and think of where you were five years ago. The five years are coming regardless of what you do. The question to ask yourself is how you’re going to spend them. As you have been? More constructively?)
I am the COO of the Corporation. After 25 years of recruiting on Wall Street and writing for different venues (I have articles picked up by Forbes) I stepped into this opportunity and love it. I am also the Editing Manager for www.bookfunmagazine.com .
(Note: He loves it. Remember that your enthusiasm carries over into your work. If you don’t love it, change it until you do. Nothing can substitute for your personal investment (emotional, physical, and spiritual) in the way you spend the lion’s share of your life. Important to imprint on your mind and heart: You aren’t just building a career, you’re building a life!)
Vicki: What are the components of Book Fun and who benefits?
Fred: The Book Fun site is where readers from around the world can connect with each other and get honest opinions of books and movies as well as ideas about how to start or run reading groups. It is also a place where authors and publishers can present their books and products directly to consumers. We have thousands of readers who are actively involved in discussions every day.
The Magazine came about as a way to provide articles and videos to a larger venue. Not everyone wanted to be involved in the groups but still wanted to stay in touch with what we were doing. The last issue was 150 pages, and is brimming with awesome content, videos and interviews. We are very different than anything I have seen because of our focus. Our readers tell us what they want and we do all we can to provide it. There is also a list of more than 200 Family Friendly Blogs that they can visit. It has become a well-used resource for readers looking for safe places to find more information. Our readers love to READ.
Vicki: Exactly how did all of this get started?
Fred: My wife Nora was asked about running a reading group by a friend of hers. She was working in a retail book store and it made sense. Her group began meeting at another book store. Her boss saw the potential for his store and invited her to hold it there. It grew to over 100 members. I was meeting authors through her club and began looking for a way to help support what she was doing.
This was small group ministry in my mind, and I started to see this as a “back door” to the church, in that Nora was creating a safe place for her ladies to come and share about issues that these books brought up. People, who would not come to a church on Sunday, felt comfortable coming to the groups she facilitated. She called it Finding Hope Through Fiction. She knew that Hope was a person. It made me think that there were other people out there like Nora and so we set up an online network, and I went out and found that there were many other groups out there looking to connect. The Book Club Network was born.
(Note: Isn’t it interesting that Fred didn’t see this as a new venue for himself but as a way to help his wife. Yet by helping her, he helped himself. And he and his wife see Hope as a person. We know it’s all but impossible to motivate ourselves without hope or the promise of fulfillment of our aspirations. There’s a lesson in that for us all.)
Vicki: What is your mission and goal for the organization?
Fred: Interesting question. Our slogan is “Where Book Fun Begins” and if you look at our vision on the site you will see: “We facilitate this network where people feel safe, have fun, share hearts and embrace, Finding Hope through fellowship in reading groups.”
Even deeper than this is our desire to provide Family Safe options in reading and movies in a world where so many of us have to tape television shows to avoid commercials of shows we would never watch. Entertainment these days, on many fronts, seems to have to increase the shock level as viewer’s hearts become harder. We want to try to provide options to families and reading groups that are safe. We also want to encourage people to meet face to face again. So many people are locked away from others. We are encouraging them to get involved in social media the old-fashioned way. Reading groups are a great way to fellowship and make new friends in the community.
(Note that Fred has a very clear vision not only of what he is doing but what he desires to do and why. It’s a tough lesson to learn, but money is never enough. There has to be a deeper purpose for doing what we do, regardless of what it is. Fred has a vision infused with purpose. That’s a strong motivator to keep going in tough times, to do whatever needs doing, and to not settle but strive to give your best. Those are key ingredients in success soup!)
Vicki: What opportunities are there for authors regarding their books?
Fred: Authors are told to “build a platform” and many new authors seem to solicit other authors. The issue becomes one of many clusters of the same people following blogs and Face Book pages. Over the last five years we have been blessed with an active following of readers and we offer this networking opportunity to Family Friendly authors free of charge. Of course they have to work at building a following there too, but here there are thousands of readers in one place for authors to do so. There is a learning curve, as with anything else, but anyone with relational marketing skills can build a platform here.
(Note the gem in this. Are you building your author platform with authors or readers? While authors are also readers, it is wise advice to expand your horizons and network with lovers of books. The advice is to build relationships and in doing so you build a platform. That’s a treasure of a tip!)
Vicki: What are the top things you’d most like to share about the organization?
Fred: First of all we do try to earn a living from the efforts we put into this over the last five years. We do that by promoting authors and with sponsors like Bethany House, Revell and Elk Lake Publishing. It all comes down to who does the work. If the author or publisher invests the time and energy in building a following in the network, this is free. If they want us to do the work, we charge for it.
Second, we sell advertising in Book Fun Magazine. Most ads are bought by publishers and authors right now, but we are seeking advertisers who see our followers as potential customers for their products outside of the publishing industry. We encourage anyone to look up www.bookfun.org on www.alexa.com. They will find that we are listed as number 155,000 out of over 300 million websites globally and number 49,000 out of all the websites in the US. Our demographics are center of the target for most advertisers and we have many strong, positive reviews from members who love us. In short we are an awesome venue for anyone who wants to offer their products to our audience and at a fraction of the cost of other venues. (At least for now anyway).
(Note that Fred has set goals, specific goals. He isn’t drifting, he’s focused and he’s mindful of his standing in what he’s doing. Alexa rates sites and allows for comparative analysis. That’s important because none of us dwell in a vacuum but in a community with competition. So knowing where we are is imperative to planning our journey to where we want to go. Having specific goals, some say dreams and visions, is also imperative to developing a plan to achieve them. Bottom line: get informed, dream specific and develop a plan to make the dream a reality.)
Vicki: How can writers get involved?
Fred: Writers, publishers and others can contact me for more information on how to get involved. I will be more than happy to offer a tour and suggestions for free or paid options. My contact information is in Book Fun Magazine.
(Note the options–free or paid. I think this is also a key factor in Fred’s explosive growth and successful transition. His welcome sign is hung and the door is open.)
So what can we take away from this practical experience transitioning that Fred has shared with us?
The inciting incident necessitating a transition was the result of circumstances outside Fred’s control. There wasn’t any one person to blame. Fred didn’t waste time or energy on assigning blame but accepted the reality of his situation and instead looked ahead. He retained a positive attitude and looked outside his normal sphere (his comfort zone) to a place he could apply his skills and talents to help another. The result? A successful new organization that embraces the values and family-safe environment he (and many others) value. A place that embraces that which matters most to him, his spouse, his family and the thousands who visit Book Fun daily.
The takeaways are many, including: When life knocks you down, you were standing up—and you can stand again. Fred St. Laurent’s practical experience proves it. And if Fred can do it, so can you!
Vicki Hinze is the award-winning bestselling author of nearly thirty novels in a variety of genres including, suspense, mystery, thriller, and romantic or faith-affirming thrillers. Her latest releases are: Torn Loyalties (inspirational romantic suspense), Duplicity (romantic thriller), Maybe This Time (paranormal romance), One Way to Write a Novel (nonfiction). She holds a MFA in Creative Writing and a Ph.D. in Philosophy, Theocentric Business and Ethics. Hinze’s website:Facebook. Books. Twitter. Contact. www.vickihinze.com Newsletter.