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Janet Roberts

Publisher Interview: Ed Pavelka, Part II
By Janet Roberts

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In this second part of a two-part interview with Ed Pavelka of RoadBikeRider, a newsletter and Web site, Ed talks about his newsletter's management and financial organization and also how customer service fits in with the overall business plan he and his business and writing partner, Fred Matheny, have devised.

You can read Part One of this interview here.

Janet Roberts: How do you make money with the newsletter?

Ed Pavelka: RBR has been in the black since the first month. In 15 months we've sold more than 3,000 cycling books through our online bookstore, most of them our own eBooks and paperbacks. Our latest book, a paperback called "Fred Matheny's Complete Book of Road Bike Training," sold 474 copies in its first 35 days.

We owe almost all of this to the newsletter. When it comes out every Thursday morning, we invariably see a spike in book sales. So, although the newsletter is free, in a way customers are willingly paying for it by reading about our books and going to the Web site to buy them. As the numbers tell, we average one book sale for every four newsletter subscribers. Eat your heart out, B&N!

We've thought about charging for the newsletter, but we don't want to curb its growth. More subscribers means more book sales, and now advertisers are coming around, too.

We offer newsletter classifieds of three to six lines, and each ad appears on the Web site 24/7 for the duration of its run in the newsletter. For a six-week insertion, we add a hot-linked company logo to the ad's text on the Web site.

The newsletter is in rich text (HTML) but we don't overdo it. There are no graphics. All email addresses and URLs in ads are clickable so readers can respond instantly. The ads are near the end, after the section that promotes the RBR online bookstore.

JR: You publish with another person, and you're in two states. How do you divide duties?

EP: Fred wants no part of business operations, so he works only as much as necessary to write newsletter copy, books and answers to training and technique questions from readers.

Me, I'm the editor, publisher, webmaster, bookkeeper, customer-relations person and even the shipping department. Whatever it takes, that's what I do.

Fred and I communicate several times a day via e-mail, and we get together for a week twice each year, usually in October and March. We've gotten real good at reading each other's mind, too.

We're lucky to have my nephew, Andy Bedinger, doing all of our back-end (Web) work. ... He created our list-management program as well as numerous custom applications so we don't have to go the cookie-cutter route with outfits that really don't care. No e-publisher gets quicker service or more creative solutions than Andy gives us.

JR: What else drives your success?

EP: Customer service. Everyone who writes to RBR gets a personal reply. Every order is filled within 24 hours. Every problem is approached with the attitude, "The customer is always right." And the appreciation just floods in. Nearly every email we receive for any reason begins with thanks for the newsletter and something like "you've made Thursday my favorite day of the week" or "I've been riding for 10 years but I learn something new in each issue." That's the kind of stuff that keeps us fired up.

You can see what Ed, Fred and Uncle Al are up to at the Web site.

Ezine-Tips for October 17, 2002

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