Having lived their road trip dream, Phil and Carol White are experts at dreaming - and doing! First with their trip and now with their book. The Whites are recently retired from the everyday work world, and have begun travel writing as their new vocation. The trip detailed in Live Your Road Trip Dream was a year in the talking, learning, research and planning stages, and a year in the execution of the actual adventure. Carol White of RLI Press offers the following observations.
1. What have been the most successful strategies in your publishing efforts?
CW: Our successful strategies have been:
- Hiring a book coach to get me started since I knew nothing about any of the technical issues of the industry. She helped me through hiring an editor, the interior/exterior design (she is a graphic artist by training), the typesetting, using a print broker to get the bids and managing the printing process and literally hundreds of other details. She made sure that I ended up with a professional, saleable product.
- Reading extensively to understand as much as I could about the industry and how it works and what needs to be done to be successful.
- Having an adequate budget to be able to accomplish my goals - both in production issues and in marketing.
- Networking, networking, networking - this is the single most important thing to being successful. When I talk about book marketing, this is the thing that I stress the most. You never know which contact is going to lead to the "next big deal."
2. What is the future for your publishing venture?
CW: Fame, fortune and Oprah? Oh, maybe not. We actually look forward to a second edition for spring release, 2007, and potentially a second book on a related topic after that.
We think that this book has many good years as a mid-list due to the 78 million baby boomers who are beginning to retire and who list "travel" as their #1 expenditure in retirement. Therefore, we will continue to find other avenues to market the book and find those folks who are dying to live their road trip dream!
3. You have recently acquired a national distributor. Can you describe the process you went through to get one?
CW: This is a great example of networking in action. At our NW Association of Book Publishers meeting, I asked a few authors who they thought highly of/who were they using, etc. Midpoint Trade Books seemed to be high on the list. Susan Foster, Smart Packing, was particularly enthusiastic and said I had to talk to Eric Kampmann, the president.
At PMA University (held in conjunction with BEA in New York City) I had the opportunity to hear a panel discussion that included executives from several distributors. Midpoint showcased their program well, as the audience fired questions at the panelists.
I made an appointment to talk to Eric while I was at BEA. By now, I had secured an introduction and referral from Susan. A nice opening for the meeting.
Our meeting lasted less than 15 minutes. I was prepared to pitch. I had my extensive clips book all organized. I spoke about what we had done in the year that the book had been out, and what our future plans were while Eric thumbed through the clips - national print media, regional print media, broadcast media, Internet media, live appearances, and other advertising we had done.
He closed the book, said "We're interested," and gave me his card; asked me to mail a few things to him and the rest is history. Time will tell how well it all works out, but we never would have gotten there without networking and using those contacts.
4. What sales are you still able to do having your distributor? Are you able to sell from your own website?
One of the things that attracted me to Midpoint Trade Books was their focus. They know what they are doing and that is all they do. They call on the national retailers (Barnes & Noble, Books-a-million, Borders, Amazon, etc.), the wholesalers, and a few other select accounts (i.e. "Books are Fun").
They don't do specialty retailers, they don't do libraries (other than what goes through the wholesalers), they could care less about your website, your "back of the room" sales, your specialty markets. That is what we each do well.
Their sales reps are mostly principals in the business and they have extensive relationships with those accounts, which gives them great credibility and access. It is that direct sales access to the large retailers that we, as small publishers, cannot get for ourselves.
They are an integral part of my marketing plan - but they are not the total marketing plan. That was as important to them as it was to me.
I've also found them to be flexible. I wanted to keep my Amazon Advantage business, as I like getting the reports, controlling the information on my book page, and getting paid in 30 days from sale! I asked if I could keep that business - "no problem" was the answer.
Again, I'm just starting out with them - their book copies and sales kits just went out last week to their reps. We'll see how these next few months go as the book rolls out to the stores - hopefully in time for the holidays!