Friday, September 30, 2011

Six More Things I've Learned

Here are six more things I've learned about creating a self-published book:

1. Give value for money. By doing so, people will be pleasantly surprised by what they're receiving for what they've paid.

2. Be responsive and nimble. Respond to emails, phone calls, and any other questions - promptly and politely. Be prepared to answer questions on every facet of your book, everything you did and why. Make deliveries if practicable, even to passing trains (this is the fun part).

3. Include more information and photos than you think you should. See also 1. It's very unlikely anyone will tell you there's toooo much good stuff in your book.

4. Think about the logisitics involved: shipping methods, marketing and pricing ahead of time. Never increase costs or prices once set or quoted.

5. Remember the "10% writing, 90% marketing" mantra. This kicks in right around the time your book is released. The writing is very important, but marketing becomes very, very important if you want anyone to know about this book you've just spent time creating.

6. Customers and readers really want you to succeed. If they're happy, they'll tell someone.
(I suppose if they're not happy, they'll tell ten people. Better to keep them happy.)


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Six Things I've Learned

Here are six things I've learned about creating a self-published book:

1. Write where you are: More frequently this is expressed as 'write what you know'. My version means that it's OK to publish a book and not know absolutely everything on that topic. Sometimes, what you have to share with others is more valuable than knowing everything on a topic. If everyone who creates a book had to know everything about the book's subject, most books would never make it to print. There's always more to learn. Find a micro-niche and expand on it.

2. Don't release your book in June. Statistically, June is the worst month in which to release a new book. (February is the worst month in which to release a Christmas book.)

3. Unexpected Canada Post lockout won't help 2. above. (My timing may have been a little bit off, but I was so happy to see my book in print and be able to share it with others, that I went ahead anyway!)

4. Customers always want more information than you've provided. This is OK. At least you'll have provided a starting point, and the requested information can often be researched and added later.

5. Find a good designer and printer. This is very important, as this is how readers "see" your book. I was happy to deal with Bryan Babcock Design and Allan Graphics, both local enterprises here in Kingston. Did I mention delivery of boxes of finished books to my door?

6. I don't have a 6. This is invariably something I haven't recognized or learned yet, or people have been too kind to bring it to my attention. I'll keep 6. open and I'm sure I'll learn it soon.


Sunday, September 18, 2011

1976 VIA consist analysis

Chris Mears, creator of the Prince Street Terminal blog, is another reader who's using the data in my new book. Chris is really taking it to the next level by entering the equipment on trains I observed into a brand-new database. From there, Chris is beginning to analyze individual locomotives, cars and RDC's, and their direction of travel and frequency.

This is a great application of the data the book contains. Read for yourself Chris' first post: VIA Rail consist summaries, second post: VIA consists and early observations, and the inevitable nexus of my book and Rapido Trains' fine products in N scale.

Sounds like Chris is onto something here, and while he kindly credits my book as the inspiration, he in turn deserves credit for synthesizing new secondary information from my primary data. Chris is definitely getting a...(wait for it)...


Friday, September 16, 2011

Book Signing at George's Trains

I did something new yesterday - a book signing. Dan Darnell of George's Trains in Markham (pictured at right, with me in front of the store - above) invited me to participate in George's annual Customer Appreciation Sale and Charity BBQ. This year's charity was Make-a-Wish Foundation. The event was well-attended, and the donation jar was full of a variety of colourful bills. Thanks to everyone's generosity, over $500 was raised at the event! It was great to sign copies of my new VIA Rail book, but even better, to donate a portion of the proceeds to Make-a-Wish. It was also rewarding to answer questions and inquiries about my book, and just talk trains for the afternoon. One of George's employees, S**t (sorry, I can't reveal his complete name due to some ongoing issues to do with online dating) was the genial BBQ operator, shown above with his helpers. S**t's friendly banter kept me and the customers amused (and abused in some cases) during the afternoon. I can't think of a better way to spend the afternoon - situated between a hobby store, an appetizing BBQ, CN's York Sub, and a steady stream of train enthusiasts and VIAphiles. It was great to see Matt Soknacki and John Riddell there, both of whom share my interest in rolling stock (you know, those rattly things behind the power.)
Needless to say, when CN decided to roll a freight through (three westbound and one eastbound during the event) I quickly doffed my chapeau, grabbed my camera and abandoned my station to take some notes and photos. The weather was definitely co-operating!
Thanks to Dan, Richard and all the staff of George's for making this a fun and worthwhile event, all the while helping out a great cause. It was great to meet so many of my fellow enthusiasts and spread the word about my book.



Thursday, September 15, 2011

Now arriving...train 55

I met VIA engineer Terry Brennan in Ottawa station on Labour Day weekend. We talked about my book, and in the ensuing week, we arranged to meet at Kingston station for Terry to pick up a copy. Terry made it easy, since he was working four different VIA trains along the Kingston Sub this weekend. Saturday afternoon, train 55 arrived with Terry at the controls of VIA engine 904, and we had a chance to meet and talk about railway books while Terry's mate handled the baggage.

Two things about our conversation stuck with me. Terry asked some questions about the book, specifically what the 8000's and 8100's were that appear early on, in 1976. These were CN baggage cars that VIA didn't acquire, and I actually mentioned them briefly in the roster at the back of the book. As I see it, this is part of the value of my book - the information I recorded can generate interest and discussion about the equipment that VIA was operating, especially in its early years. (More especially when the information resonates with a 23-year VIA employee.)

The other thing was that Terry mentioned was the possibility of recording his experiences working for VIA, as well as his colleagues and those who came before. Definitely a good idea. The most daunting part is actually starting; the rest will follow.


Saturday, September 10, 2011

Book Review Number 3

A review of my book has just been published in the September issue of Bytown Railway Society's Branchline:

The author has taken a different path in looking at the history of VIA. This is not done by narrative, but there are brief write-ups, nor is it done by photographs, but a smattering of photos (50) are found throughout the volume. The author has taken an historical look at VIA by examining the equipment that could be found making up VIA trains.

The book is divided into six major time frames, and the book presents consists of VIA trains for each of these periods. Most of the spotting was done in Kingston, Ontario, but there are consists spotted on several tips to western Canada. The time frames used generally relate to major changes in equipment used by the company.

The book contains 114 pages and probably 90% of the volume is listing of consists. For the consist information the author presents: date, location, time, direction of passage, train number, locomotive(s), cars and any pertinent remarks. If you are interested in what could be found on VIA trains at pretty much any point in the history of the company, it can be found here, at least for the major trains in the corridor.

There is information on paint schemes, a roster of equipment and power and some schedule information. This volume is certainly aimed at the hard core VIA fan but it is extremely useful for the modeller who wishes to portray a specific VIA train in a certain year. With all the VIA and CN equipment available in the marketplace today, especially that from Rapido Trains Inc., this could be done accurately and without too much effort.

While I found the book interesting, it mainly covers the operations in Ontario. I did not note any coverage for Atlantic Canada, but then again I did not examine every consist so there may be a few entries. There are probably well over 4,000 consists listed in the book. This is a true labour of love and will be appreciated by the fan of passenger service in Canada since 1976.

Thanks to Paul Bown for writing this review, and to Branchline and BRS for supporting Canadian publications, restoration and education efforts. VIA train 3 is shown at Portage in 1980 (above).

Friday, September 2, 2011

Book Signing

George's Trains is holding their 14th annual Customer Appreciation Sale at their Markham store at 550 Alden Road, Unit 1 on Saturday, September 24. Dan Darnell from George's was kind enough to invite me to sign copies of my book at the sale.

The best part of this event is the fundraising aspect, with this year's chosen charity being the Make-a-Wish Foundation. To get into the spirit of things, we'll be donating $5 from each book sold on the 24th to Make-a-Wish.

Hope to see you there. Stop by to pick up a copy, have your copy signed, or just say 'hi' and talk about VIA. Thanks again to Dan for inviting me - it should be a great day. Oh, did I mention there's a BBQ?