New book offers hints on buying, selling homes


November 08, 1992|By Ellen James Martin | Ellen James Martin,Staff Writer

He was a beach bum in Hawaii. He was a fashion model in Japan. He was head of his own casual clothing company in California. And, most recently, he was an advertising executive in Baltimore.

But the venture William F. Fried considers most captivating is what he's doing now: publishing an unusual book for those across the nation wanting to buy, sell or improve their homes.

"It's been very successful -- we were profitable after the first year," Mr. Fried says of his soft-cover book entitled "Your American Dream Home." Already 420,000 copies of the 150-page book have sold, and another 375,000 are due to roll off the presses in the spring.

"I pinch myself every day that there was a big void in this market," Mr. Fried says.

Before he and his business partner, Oliver Brown, began the self-publishing venture, they searched bookstores for other publications that dealt with common issues faced by those interested in the residential home market and found little on the shelves to inspire them.

"Most of the books tend to be technical, dry and complicated. There was nothing out there that romanced the consumer or was user-friendly," said Mr. Fried, a Pikesville native and Park School graduate who now bases his business, known as ECV Media, in Englewood Cliffs, N.J. ECV expects to reach $1 million in annual sales this year, he says.

Long a free spirit, Mr. Fried and his business partner -- a former classmate at Amherst College -- fashioned "Your American Dream Home" as a hybrid advertising and editorial product.

Although it sells for as much as $12.95 at bookstores, the book goes in bulk for $2 a copy to real estate brokerages, moving companies, mortgage bankers and relocation companies that imprint it with their own name and advertising on the book's inside cover.

Locally, only O'Conor, Piper & Flynn, the real estate chain, have made mass purchases of the book so far.

"For marketers who wish to reach home buyers, we can make this product available very inexpensively -- less than it would cost them to produce it themselves," Mr. Fried said.

The 35-year-old Mr. Fried says he surprised even himself that he got into the business of publishing a real estate book.

"I've bounced around quite a bit in my career," he allows.

After graduating from college with a degree in English and Asian studies, Mr. Fried spent two years globe-trotting, supporting himself through stints as a fashion model in various countries, including Japan.

In 1984, he started a clothing company, creating casual wear for women under the "Billy Ballo" label. Although the California company reached $1 million in annual sales at one point, it stumbled in the late 1980s, due to increased competition among sportswear manufacturers. It closed in 1987.

After the clothing company crashed, Mr. Fried worked for two years as an account executive for Trahan Burden & Charles, the Baltimore-based advertising agency. Later, he also worked for W. B. Doner, another national ad agency headquartered locally, where he rose to director of new business.

It was during his time as a Baltimore-based advertising executive that Mr. Fried developed the idea for "Your American Dream Home," which is updated and republished annually. The idea had grown out of his advertising efforts on behalf of Calico Corners, the retailer of decorative fabrics based in Pennsylvania outside Wilmington, Del.

Many home furnishings and other products, such as drapery material, are purchased by homebuyers in the initial weeks after a property is purchased, Mr. Fried notes.

But often, he adds, direct-mail advertising -- compiled from mailing lists of home purchasers -- arrives at their doorsteps too late to be effective.

Why not get the advertising to homebuyers even before they've completed a home purchase or move, reasoned Mr. Fried and his partner, Mr. Brown, who specializes in developing and running magazines, in New York.

Hence, "Your American Dream Home" was conceived. To make it happen, both men quit their jobs, conducted marketing studies, hired a magazine designer and engaged free-lance writers to produce the copy for the book.

The book covers such topics as the home search, decorating, home improvements, maintenance and home selling. Although originally designed as an advertising vehicle, the book has proven as much an editorial as ad product, says Mr. Fried, who plans to build a large publishing company.

"I just think we can solve some real problems and misconceptions people have," he says, "about buying or selling a home."

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