Here are five things I learned or re-learned since the release of my two new VIA books four weeks ago:
1. Strong consist book sales. This surprised me a little. Initial print runs were weighted 4:1 for my Cross-Canada Compendium relative to my Consist Companion. Orders have come in very nearly one-for-one. I'd like to think that customers see the value of train consist information, from the joint points of view of enthusiasts and modellers. It simply is the best documentary information available for a given train on a given day at a given location. With cross-Canada and cross-era information, there is definitely some useful information in here.
2. Price for perceived value, not cost. Related to my first point, I believe sales of the consist book may have been largely due to its reasonable price. All along, I've been as committed to reasonable price as a goal for creating any of my books. From day one. I've said it before - I shy away from books I consider overpriced. An authority on marketing suggested pricing on perceived value of the book not profit vs cost. Well, if I perceive a book's value to be $50, it's still only my perception. It's like the value of a collectible item. Perception of value must translate into finding a customer. If not, it's all perception and no sales. So I do base pricing on cost, with my belief that a reasonable price will indeed lead to sales.
3. Be prepared when asking for feedback. This is a tough one - you really have to be prepared to leave the ego at the door. No news may be good news, or no feedback may be just that...the absence of feedback. Either because there's nothing to say, or maybe there's something that customers don't want to say. Let's just say that when Earl Roberts, editor of Bytown Railway Society's Trackside Guide, emailed me some very constructed feedback in the form of observations and corrections, I was glad to receive it. I might add that the observations (along with additional information updates that Earl supplied on a few topics) outnumbered the corrections. I will be posting errata on this blog.
4. Be responsive, both in terms of time and availability. Don't fire-and-forget. Customers or those simply interested in your book want to communicate, and they may want to do so before placing an order. I don't have a Blackberry, so I'm not checking in constantly. But I have found that good communication leads to more good communication. And I think people have a right to that, when you're making something available to them.
5. Make connections. The connections I've made through this first four weeks, plus those forged with my contributors, have been nothing short of amazing. This is partly because the VIA enthusiast community possesses a rabid interest, and partly because it's a relatively small community, compared to the Pennsylvania Railroad community, for instance. Shorter history, smaller country. But a very manageable interest, with some amazing variety that's been thoroughly investigated by some real diggers and grinders. I'm proud to be in their company, and if these books are even slightly of interest to them, as well as adding text, data and photographs previously unseen to the community information database, I'm very happy to be there.
Thanks to all for your interest in my books,
Check out that unique paint scheme on Angus-painted VIA 1418 at Portage la Prairie, Manitoba 1981.