The three E’s and five thousand miles is the short answer. The question: How could just the two of you sell so many copies of Crossings: McCullough’s Coastal Bridges––1,450,–– in such a short time––a year––without the help of Amazon and a distributor.
I will blame it on two Oregon writers that I admire. During my years as an editor/writer at Oregon Coast & Northwest Travel magazines, I got to know them when I reviewed some of their books for the magazines.
William Sullivan, author of many hiking books, three novels, and Listening for Coyote, chosen as one of 100 books significant to Oregon’s history, taught a workshop that I took in 2006 at the South Coast Writers Conference. He talked a mile a minute and provided much advice. What really stuck was the three E’s that you must have (excellence, enthusiasm, and energy), plan on commiting seven years, and write a blog. (In my workshop notes, I had a question mark next to the word blog. I had heard the term, but it didn’t mean anything.)
Bob Welch, author of many books including My Oregon and American Nightingale and columnist for Eugene’s Register–Guard, wrote a column highlighting Conde McCullough and my book last July. While the book was doing very well in Florence, his article just at that time gave me more credibility in the eyes of the wider world and gave me confidence to expand out of my comfort zone to Eugene, up and down the coast, and throughout western Oregon.
Between Dick’s excellent research, Bob’s fabulous cover photo and photos from ODOT and historical museums, and the endless factchecking after I wrote it, I felt we had an excellent product and with the confidence from Bob Welch’s column, I hit the road to spread the word. I had enough energy and enthusiasm to make family and friends start using the O word (obsessed) and they started carefully avoiding any mention of bridges around me. They feared I might get started and never stop!
My obsession sort of explains the 5,300 miles put on my car during the past two years strictly involving the book and that is just in Oregon—western Oregon
During 2010, while I was writing the book, I met occasionally with Dick Smith and later when we had Bob Serra’s Pacific Publishing as our publisher, we met much more often—at times almost daily. Then in 2011, the first year of marketing the book, I really racked up the miles. Placing the book involved actually being at each bookstore, museum, library, and tourist hot spot. This is what distributor’s do, but we didn’t place our book with a distributor.
Because Dick was handling Florence those first months and first got the book into Portland, Corvallis, and Cottage Grove, I made trips up and down the coast to all the other towns. I had some basic knowledge because of my years working at Oregon Coast magazine. So I began by writing down every venue I knew about in each town and then going online and checking town businesses and jotting down phone numbers of anything else that looked promising. It was a slow process. I didn’t even think about libraries in the beginning. With each trip I ventured a little farther and always found new venues to place the book.
When I was writing the book, I didn’t want to get distracted with thinking about marketing. I knew vaguely that I had to help with it, and knew a little about what to do. But I really didn’t have a clue as to what I was in for. Besides the help of two of Oregon’s most renowned authors, I also picked the brains of other recent authors.
I learned as I went, and eventually developed a routine of calling places, sending PR info via e-mail attachment, then stopping by to show the actual book. I don’t leave books on a comp basis like many authors do. If I leave a book, I return for it later. I treat each copy like it’s made of gold.
To booksellers, we almost always sell at the standard booksellers discount of 40% and to most libraries we sell at full price. And we have very few books on consignment. We said we wouldn’t do consignment, but I learned that when on the road, you have to be flexible and do what you think is best. As it has turned out, one of my favorite and best sellers is a consignment location.
I have a binder, which is like a Bible to me, it is so important. The binder has a page for each venue. I note every call as to whether they need books or not, the delivery and invoicing or payment during each trip, and then put the date when payment is made. I keep a copy of every invoice, which is either in a file of accounts receivable (those who owe) or in a file for those who paid. I will eventually carry a laptop with all the info recorded.
At first I carried it wherever I went, but it is so heavy. I eventually learned to carry only a delivery folder that has my PR material, business cards, flyers, and invoices. And before each trip I make sure I have plenty of everything and fill out invoices for known orders and make a copy for myself.
This year I’m continuing to place the book farther afield. In January I made it to Astoria and the Long Beach Peninsula for the first time and in February back to Gold Beach and on to Brookings. In March I visited bookstores in Corvallis, McMinnville, and Lake Oswego as well as various libraries in Clackamas County. In May I returned to the North Coast/Long Beach Peninsula. Later this month I’ll be in the Ashland and Medford area. In July, I’ll visit museums in Clackamas County and other cities and towns in the Willamette Valley. And by the end of summer, I might possibly make it to Bend. In between, I deliver books in Florence and make trips up and down the coast as needed. I’ll mail books, if it is cheaper than driving, but if I have several stops, I’ll drive.
Besides placing the books in new venues and delivering more to old ones, I traveled to about 30 different locations where I gave presentations when requested. Many were in Florence, but also in nearly every town between Gold Beach and Newport as well as Eugene. At each of these, I was able to sell books. I, also, attended book fairs on the coast and as far away as Grants Pass and Portland and sold more books.
So for every single book placement or delivery, every presentation and book fair, and every meeting and other event, I keep a record in my day planner. Then I can make a list at the end of each year and note the total round-trip mileage for tax purposes. That’s why I know it’s 14 miles round-trip to downtown Florence, 100 to Coos Bay or Newport and back, 140 to Eugene or Lincoln City and back, and 350 to Portland or Oregon City and back.
During the year I was writing the book, I put on 500 miles. Last year during the first half of the year it grew to 1800 and the last half of the year as I ventured farther away, it reached 3,000. It adds up.
And my 1999 Camry that I bought new in 1998 still looks good, but it’s showing its age. So far this year I have replaced the tires, the brakes, the battery, and last week it had major work done on the engine. I now expect it to be good for six more years. Then I will have had it for 20 years, and that’s what I said I would do when I bought it.
I didn’t charge for any presentations last year, but this year I’m asking for reimbursement for the gas expense and help in lodging for places that are too far to drive to and from in the same day. I should’ve done this sooner, just didn’t think of it. Still learning!
Promoting a book costs in time, wear and tear on the vehicle, and the expense of gas, lodging, and meals when on the road. I’ve learned to get reimbursed when I can and keep good records for tax purposes. We still have about 70 books from the second printing of 1055 books left to sell before we get into the new books from the third printing.
Then I will probably list on Amazon and possibly go with a distributor to help me get the book out there beyond western Oregon.
So now that I’ve finally got it figured out for Crossings, I’m getting all cranked up for a second book. It will be a guide to major bridges along the coast. Go figure! As my family and friends would say, “When it comes to Crossings, McCullough, and bridges, she’s obsessed!”
Crossings: McCullough’s Coastal Bridges can be yours for $24.95 plus $4.99 shipping. Order from Pacific Publishing at http://www.connectflorence.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. It is also available on the coast in bookstores, museums, and gift shops; in Eugene at the airport, the historical museum, and several bookstores; in Portland at Powell’s and the Oregon Historical Society; in Made in Oregon stores throughout the state; and more and more bookstores, libraries, and museums in western Oregon.
Half hour interview with Dr. Veronica Esagui about Crossings and me for the “Author’s Forum” program on public access TV in the Portland Metro area. It can be seen on YouTube in two parts: Google Judy Fleagle YouTube.
October 13, 11 a.m. Oregon City––The historic Arch Bridge designed by McCullough reopens in Oregon City on the weekend of October 13–14. I have been asked to be part of the festivities and will be giving my PowerPoint presentation at the Museum of the Oregon Territory on Saturday. The actual reopening celebration will be on Sunday. (Dates are tentative. ODOT has until the end of June to set reopening date.)
September 29, 10 a.m.–4 p.m., Florence––2nd Annual Florence Festival of Books–an authors and publishers fair held at the Florence Events Center (715 Quince Street, 1 block east of Highway 101). I’ll be there with two books! (If all goes according to plan.)