It’s pure coincidence that I’m traveling around SE Asia at the moment and have been featuring travel bloggers who have written books about their own Asian adventures. Last month I featured Allan Wilson who wrote about Thailand from a rural experience perspective, and today we’re joined by John Weiler who swapped his Chicago screenwriting career for a new meditative life in Bangkok. Find out how he’s incorporating his travel and meditation experiences to build an author niche around the passions that drive and inspire him. ~~ Jay
Author Interview: John Weiler
How would you describe the type of books/genre you write?
I typically am more in the self help genre than travel. Backpack Abroad Now is a relaunch/rewrite of the original I wrote back in 2014. These days I’m much deeper in the self help game, specifically meditation and habit building.
What motivated you to start writing?
I’ve been writing professionally for nearly a decade now. I started writing reality TV scripts for shows such as Biography Channel’s Bio Series and National Geographic’s Alaska State Troopers back in 2008 or 2009. I then transitioned to copywriting and book writing.
As for why I started, I haven’t thought about that in ages. But I would say I’ve always loved writing. I love storytelling and being able to move people and teach lessons through words. That’s what motivated me decades ago when I first fell in love with writing, and that still motivates me today.
Tell us the journey you went on to get your books published (e.g. direct on your website, self-published, assisted-publishing, traditional publisher)
I’ve had my books published on both my website and Amazon. But my sales didn’t really start taking off until I went all in on Amazon this past July. I’ve since stopped selling on my website altogether.
Unless you have a large following on your website, I would suggest all authors to start on Amazon. In my experience, it has been incredibly difficult to sell books on my website. All my sales on my site were from my friends and family, adding up to maybe a couple dozen sales. On amazon I’ve since sold hundreds of books, mostly to people I’ve never met. The trick has been to understand and then use Amazon’s ad platform correctly.
What publishing elements do you most enjoy and most like to avoid, and why? (e.g. design, marketing, formatting etc.)
Formatting is a pain. It’s drudge work for me. I always enjoy the more creative aspects of being an author, such as cover design and the writing.
With the hindsight of being a published author, anything you would have done differently?
As mentioned above, I would have gone all in on Amazon earlier. When I first authored a book I was hard headed about even selling my books on Amazon. The reason is that my freelance writing mentor advised only selling on your website. My freelance mentor, who is amazing and has completely changed my life in many positive ways, suggested only selling on your website so you can start building your email list. For those purposes, she’s probably right. But for me, someone who is interested in making money directly from book sales, the answer is clearly Amazon.
The reason for this is because if no one knows who you are and you’re not getting much traffic to your website, they are not going to buy a book from you. On Amazon, you can get direct traffic to your book page via ads. More importantly, Amazon is a trusted vendor. If no one knows who you are and they come across your book on a website they’ve never heard of, then the chances of them buying from you is slim. I didn’t realize this till early 2017 when I was pondering why I wasn’t getting any sales. With Amazon, there is trust built into the platform; a website from just a nobody dude (like myself) has no trust. It’s easy for people to think your website is a scam.
What tips or advice would you give an aspiring indie author who is looking to self-publish?
Again, go all in on Amazon. Work on getting at least a dozen or so reviews for you book (as they’re critical for sales), design an eye-catching and professional cover, and work on your copywriting skills to sell your book. Your title is also key. The potential reader must know what’s in it for them immediately. Keep the value proposition simple and clear, and you’ll have a much better chance of getting readers to buy your book.
Last, don’t forget to write a good book. Make your content entertaining or valuable and deliver on the promise of your book’s title and professionally designed cover.
What marketing or promotional tools or techniques do you use to reach your readers?
Right now, it’s almost 100% Amazon ads. Though I’ve experimented with close to a dozen different book promo websites similar to BookBub (though not BookBub itself). Unfortunately the book promo sites have never once turned a profit for me, which is why I’m doing them far less. But the last promo I ran in November did gain me an Amazon bestseller tag for a few days as I hit number 1 in an Amazon category.
What impact do you want your books to have on your readers?
In their essence, my two books are about problem solving. The difference is that the problems are two very different things. In Backpack Abroad Now, I aim to solve problem of traveling overseas when you’re broke. This was me eight years ago. I dreamed of seeing the world, but I was making like $10 and hour. Still I managed to save up for an 11-month backpacking trip within a one-year period. The book decodes how I did it, and teaches how you can do it too.
In my other book, An Ordinary Dude’s Guide to Meditation, the problem is figuring out how to have a more peaceful, less anxious life through meditation. 15 years ago I had a pretty serious anxiety problem and meditation was the main reason it disappeared. So I teach people how to meditate in a simple way to help them have a better, less anxious/stressful life.
The similarity between the books is that they are very practical in nature. I try to give step-by-step instructions on how to solve problems I’ve been through myself. So I guess, in essence, I hope my books help people achieve their dreams and live a better life. It sounds cheesy, but I really am just looking to help people through practical steps.
What is your latest book about?
An Ordinary Dude’s Guide to Meditation was first published in 2016 while Backpack Abroad Now was in 2014. But since this is a travel website, and I released the new edition of Backpack Abroad Now in November of 2017, I’ll talk about that.
Backpack Abroad Now is basically about what I mentioned above: a how to guide that teaches you how to save up for an epic backpacking trip when you’re broke. I think there are a lot of young people, especially Americans, who dream of traveling abroad but they just don’t have the money or feel overwhelmed by all the planning. So this book helps guide them through the process. It’s basically the book I wish I had back in 2009 when I was first starting to plan and save for my extended trip abroad. The book maps out the saving process, ways to cut the costs of some of the most expensive parts about traveling, and some of the more perplexing questions new travelers face (essentially visas, which were mind boggling to me before I traveled abroad).
What’s next on your writing journey?
An Ordinary Dude’s Guide to Habit, which will be released likely in the Fall of 2018. This is the follow up to An Ordinary Dude’s Guide to Meditation, and is about the thing most people struggle with when they start to meditate: the habit. In 2017, I changed or started 8 new habits. The book is based off my experience of changing these habits as well as my study of around a half dozen books about habit change.
Just like my previous two books, An Ordinary Dude’s Guide to Habit will break down how to change your habits in very practical steps that anyone can do. Whether you’re trying to lose weight, quit smoking, or start an exercise routine, habit change can be overwhelming for many people. Many fail. In this book, I’m going to take the reader through the process of how to change habits, one step at a time, so that it’s nice and easy. Look for it on Amazon in late 2018.Find out how John Weiler's #amwriting and #selfpublishing journey. Click To Tweet
John Weiler is a native of the Chicago suburbs and currently resides in Bangkok, Thailand. He is a two-time author, former reality TV script writer, and award winning screenwriter for his Houston Worldfest Golden Remi winning script The Visitor.
Today, John writes for a marketing agency in Bangkok and runs the side business Ordinary Dude Meditation. Not surprisingly, John has been meditating for around 15 years now. In his free time, John enjoys knocking back beers with his buddies and is obsessed with NBA bball.