Twelve years ago, my life changed in so many ways and it all happened so fast.
January 2002, my beloved mother died suddenly. Less than 60 days later, my husband of 24 years asked for a divorce. Thirty days later, a close friend severed all ties with me. In 90 days, three of the most important people in my life were gone.
And yet a fresh green sprout of hope sprung up in the midst of those charred ashes of my life: My book on Sears Homes.
That book was a lifeline in too many ways to count, and it was an answer to so many prayers.
After the book was published (March 2002), I did some “back of the envelope ciphering” and figured I had enough cash on hand to survive 90 days. If my book had not “taken off” by then, I’d have to do something that scared the heck out of me: Get a real job.
Desperate to stretch my grocery budget, I ate very little and lost a lot of weight.
Sixty days out, I got a call from The New York Times. They were doing a feature story on Sears Homes and they’d heard I’d just written a book. A couple weeks later, my book and I hit the front page of the Real Estate Section. Next, I got a call from a producer at History Detectives. I appeared on the 2nd episode of the first season.
I was off to the races.
Since then, I’ve been featured on CBS Sunday Morning News, A&E’s Biography, MSNBC, BBC Radio, NPR Radio and more. In Summer 2004, my book was featured on Jeopardy!
In the last 12 years, I’ve given more than 200 lectures in 26 states. I’ve traveled many miles spreading the good news of this important and unique chapter in America’s architectural history. And I’ve met so many first-class folks along the way.
It’s truly been a big adventure and a whole lot of fun.
But, as the sophists say, all good things must come to an end.
The last three years, this business venture has not been profitable. The cost of everything keeps going up, and the profit margins keep going down. Three months ago, the last printing of The Houses That Sears Built came off the presses. When those books are gone, that’ll be the end.
In three or four months, the inventory at Amazon.com will be gone, and probably a few months after that, the stock of books I keep here at the house (sold through this website) will be exhausted.
I imagine I’ll never stop looking for kit homes, and I’ll keep writing at this website. Heck, when I’m in my 80s, I’ll probably still be yelling, “STOP THE CAR” to whomever is driving me around.
But the days of printing these books – an important chapter in my life – has come to a close.
If you’d like to purchase my books, they’re available at this website.
While supplies last.
If you’d like to purchase my books, they’re available at this website.
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Looks like you had a nice run! Very nice to see your journey, and I am sure the second half of this adventure will be just as rewarding!
I just want you to know how much I treasure your books. They are so worn and “loved” from reading over and over again. I’m thinking of getting second copies just in case mine ever get to worn to read!
Thanks, Angela. Your kind words really did make my day.
It means so much to me to know that my books brought some joy into people’s lives.
Never in all these years I have known you, and I think I first met you just when you had hit bottom, have you ever been concerned about making a profit on your books.
Oh you have talked about the time and trouble of writing books, but what was the alternative? Letting all your knowledge sit in a file cabinet?
You wrote the books to share your knowledge with others. We will still have books but they will be online books such as your blog, and although it might not seem possible to make less money, you will reach a wider audience.
Just remember what I told you when you asked about using a higher quality of paper in our Pacific Homes reprint, and we lost a lot of money on that book, I replied – “Sure why not throw more money in the hole!”
And years later when you were going through my collection of Wardway catalogs and looked up at me and said “We should do a field guide of Wardway Homes!” all I could say was “Sure why not throw more money in the hole!” because I knew we were off on yet another fun book project!
You’re absolutely right, Dale. It’s never been a big money-making venture for either of us, and honestly, I far more enjoy what I do now, which is just tooling around the countryside and looking at houses and posting pictures on the blog.
And I do reach a much wider audience. As of today, this website has had 890,000 visitors. That’s a lot of people!!
But writing and selling books – hmmm – not very fun anymore.
Dealing with Amazon has become so unpleasant. Back in the day, they placed orders for 50 books at a time, and now, it’s several shipments per MONTH of two books here, or six books there or even a single book to a distribution center on the West Coast.
Dealing with the tax ramifications has also become onerous. Virginia recently changed its sales tax collection rules and that’s now a big ugly hassle. Wayne now does my quarterly state sales tax reports because they’re so complicated (post-2012).
Corley Printing has been sold and several of the old employees – that I dealt with for years – have left. Prices have gone up and up and up on so many things, while profits just keep going down.
It’s not a single thing, but a combination of a dozen things, and the losses have gotten bigger every year.
If I think about it too much, I might just sit down and have a crying jag!!! LOL.
As I said, I’d prefer to just maintain the website and take pictures of pretty houses. Every single thing about the publishing industry has changed so much in the last 12 years.
Rose, I love your wedding dress! You two look so happy and beautiful! And I just ordered one of your books.
I am interested in writing and keep reading about the publishing industry. Yeah, scary/sad/too bad. I think we need to be a jack or jill of all trades, with a variety of money producing ventures.
Yeah, it’s the “can I afford this passion of mine, writing books”?
I am married to an EE inventor. His creative endeavors are on hold because of financial challenges right now. Sometimes the hassle just outweighs the rewards and lack of ROI. Sensible and understandable. Books just aren’t profitable, nor fun anymore.
Your website is enough to connect us to your fascinating endeavor, and I am forever grateful. You have changed my life. I had a former career in Shopping Ctr Mgmt. Now I am doing a 180 and going after an “Adaptive Reuse” development job.
How much junk and fluff have a peddled in my former career? You, my lady, are a few in the club of tangible life legacy. We’re proud of you.
You and Wayne can still take road trips and house hunt. You, Dale, and Rachael can still share with all of us. Pretty please.
Boy, I’m glad I got a copy before they ran out, then!
Have you ever considered reformatting for an electronic edition (ebook)? At this point, you have so much work invested in your previous two editions, an ebook release would keep your knowledge out there longer for new people to enjoy, eliminate all of the physical distribution hassle, and allow the “long tail” effect to bring you a bit more income from your past work.
If you’re technically inclined, the tools are all out there to do your own formatting and layout, so you wouldn’t necessarily need to hire that out.
I’m enjoying your book now, and have enjoyed your blog for a year or so. Thanks again for all your hard work!
Rosemary ~ I just ran over to the “buy the book” page, and looked to see what I still don’t have. I have the three Sears homes books you’ve done already; the first one you did, “The Houses That Sears Built,” “Finding The Houses That Sears Built,” and “The Sears Homes of Illinois.”
I bought those first when I started collecting and reading about Sears homes, and kit homes in general. I don’t yet have the book on “California’s Kit Homes,” but I will soon because I just ordered it!
However, you should know that the site isn’t charging the right price for it. The price is listed as reduced to $9.95 plus $5.00 shipping. I only got charged $12.95 total, because it’s only charging $3.00 instead of $5.00 for shipping and handling, and didn’t see a way to change it.
I paid what I got charged, but if that leaves you short on postage, let me know and I will make up whatever the difference is.
I also still need yours and Dale’s book on Wardway homes, if that’s still available. I’m going to go check the Wardway homes site for that one, because I didn’t find it here.
Your portrait in that poster about your book signing is lovely, and the wedding portrait showing two ecstatically happy people ~ a handsome groom and a beautiful bride ~ show how resilient and strong you are as well. Your wedding gown is lovely!
I also want to say thank you ever so much for all the enormous amounts of work you have put into this venture. You have no idea how far-reaching your efforts have been, because I’m sure you’ve yet to hear from everyone you’ve touched with your work.
I don’t think you hear thanks often enough, and I wanted you to know from me how grateful I am for all the knowledge I’ve gained from your efforts, and for your patience with a frequently overly enthusiastic fan!
Rose, what about print on demand? That way, a book is printed only when a customer orders one.
Createspace (owned by amazon.com) and Lulu.com are two sites that come to mind.