IBPA Member Spotlight: Patience Oaktree
Thursday, October 4, 2018
Posted by: Christopher Locke
Patience Oaktree Gets Creative With a Book Tour Road Trip
|Patience Oaktree founder Valentina Sgro delivers books to a Little Free Library on her book tour road trip.
As any independent publisher knows, publishing a book is just the first step in getting your title out into the world. There are over a million books published every year, so you need to be clever in order to get your titles to stand out from the crowd.
Patience Oaktree founder and IBPA member Valentina Sgro came up with a unique marketing campaign to do just that: she and her husband would drive across the country on a book tour depositing Patience Oaktree novels into Little Free Libraries along the way. For some background on Little Free Library, it’s a nonprofit with over 70,000 small library boxes around the country (they look similar to birdhouses, but with books inside instead of feathered critters). The little libraries are intended to foster neighborhood book exchanges around the world.
Valentina and her husband just completed the first leg of their tour in mid-September where they drove along the Lincoln Highway from New York City to Massillon, Ohio. “The trip went very well, due in large part to detailed planning and maps before we started,” said Valentina. “I’ve wanted to do a cross-country book tour, and my husband has wanted to drive the Lincoln Highway from New York City to San Francisco. Those two goals seemed to match up well. The best part of the trip was getting to see off-the-beaten-path corners of the country that used to be front and center but are now often missed by the traffic that zips along on our Interstate Highway system. We really enjoyed trying to follow the original 1913 route as closely as possible.”
Valentina goes on to explain, “I think this type of publicity will work well for publishers who can leverage social media and who believe that getting their books into the hands of readers will create word-of-mouth sales. As we met people along the way—for example, while overnighting at an historic bed & breakfast in Princeton, NJ—we had the opportunity to explain the tour and help get the word out about Patience Oaktree books. The better publicity, however, came from our Twitter activity. We had alerted some of our Twitter followers to the book tour before we began and asked them to follow along. In the end, we received many retweets from people from New York to California, Washington State to Florida, and even someone in South America.”
|Patience Oaktree's Heart of a Hoarder by Valentina Sgro
Next summer, Valentina and her husband plan to complete the second leg of the book tour, heading west from Ohio across the Great Plains. After that, they will conduct the third leg to San Francisco. During each section, they will visit at least one Little Free Library each day. “When we plan the remaining legs of the trip, we will start earlier, make a bigger effort to communicate with the library stewards ahead of our arrival, schedule speaking engagements, etc., as we feel that personal contact is one of the best ways to cultivate interest in our titles.”
Patience Oaktree’s most recent title was Heart of a Hoarder and they’re working on creating book club discussion guides and converting their current titles to ebooks (and a possible video series) before launching additional titles.
Three Questions with Patience Oaktree Founder Valentina Sgro
IBPA: Can you briefly describe the history of how Patience Oaktree came to be?
Valentina Sgro (VS): In 2006, after owning a professional organizing business for 10 years, and while serving on the Board of Directors of the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO), I realized that the industry needed a presence in popular culture, and I decided I could write novels to help accomplish that goal.
IBPA: Since Patience Oaktree’s focus is to bring the field of professional organizing into popular culture, do you have any professional organizing advice for indie publishers?
VS: Start keeping organized records from the very beginning, even when the amount of information seems minimal. (Do as I say, not as I did.) In addition, they should create deadlines by making commitments to outside events.
IBPA: Can you list three key lessons you’ve learned about how one can succeed as an independent publisher?
- Learn as much as you can about the publishing and book industry. (Join IBPA!)
At the beginning, learning the fundamentals is extremely important, including book industry standards (for formatting and so on), how distribution and returns work, etc. Plus, the industry is constantly changing. For example, when the Patience Oaktree books began, POD and ebooks were not mainstream. Keeping up to date is critical for success.
- Don’t spend more than you can afford. Do extensive break-even and cost analyses.
I think few people starting out understand the small margins that publishers and authors have to work with. To make a profit, an author/publisher has to either deal in volume (which is harder to achieve than it sounds) or work with a non-traditional sales model (see #3 below).
- Be willing to depart from conventional wisdom when it makes sense for your situation.
Getting a distributor, accepting returns, paying the middleman are all historically customary. But working within those traditions does not produce much profit per book sold. Non-traditional distribution, direct sales, and other creative ideas can go a long way to sustain the business until the publisher has cultivated a larger readership.
IBPA: Thank you very much for sharing your story with the IBPA community, Valentina, and best of luck on the rest of your cross-country book tour!
Learn more about Patience Oaktree here.
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