Birds of a Feather welcomes Keith Foskett to the nest
Fellow Brit Keith Foskett is long distance hiker and lover of the outdoors. His take on his walking adventures is that:
it’s rarely the start or finish that count, but the journey in between.
Like Keith’s walking adventures, writing and self-publishing a book is a journey – a long one, with no end in sight. Once your book has been written and published that’s when the hard part of selling it and reaching readers begins. When Keith quit his job to pursue life as a full-time writer, he was faced with the daunting task of mastering the nuances of book marketing and promotion. He was determined that his books didn’t just sit on the shelves undiscovered. Instead he embraced the benefits of offering low or no-cost books to his readers in order to build his following and inspire them to start a journey of their own.
‘I’m not sure if Keith Foskett knows it but he has penned a hiking classic. I just wanted to pack up my bags and head off into the wilderness.’ – Spencer Vignes (The Observer) about The Last Englishman
As an author, I find Keith’s self-publishing journey as inspiring as his walking adventures, and know you will too.
How would you describe the type of books/genre you write?
My books fall into a few genres but think along the lines of non-fiction travel adventure memoirs and that sums them up.
What motivated you to start writing?
Writing a book had always been on the life list. For years the main problem was not having a topic to write about, I needed something to fire the creative juices.
In 2002 I hiked a route in France and Spain known as El Camino, or The Pilgrim’s Way and suddenly everything slotted into place. I had kept a journal as I hiked so I referred to that when writing, but more importantly, I knew that completing a book was, potentially, a difficult thing to do. The hike gave me the material but also the passion and inspiration to get it on paper and write my first book called The Journey in Between.
Tell us the journey you went on to get your books published (e.g. direct on your website, self-published, assisted-publishing, traditional publisher)
Initially, I approached around thirty traditional publishers, of which only five replied but politely rejected it. My editor suggested the self-publishing route which, in 2010, I’d never heard of but eager to get my book out there, I offered it in paperback format through a company called Lulu, but didn’t make it available as an EBook (electronic books were still in their infancy then).
In 2011 I moved to Createspace, purely because Lulu refused to offer my book in the size I wanted (5” x 8”). I also uploaded The Journey in Between to Kindle.
I now have five books, still on Createspace and Kindle and my latest title; Travelled Far, is available through Draft2Digital on the other popular outlets such as Nook, iBooks and Kobo.
All my titles occupy a prominent position on my website home page.
What publishing elements do you most enjoy and most like to avoid, and why? (e.g. design, marketing, formatting etc.)
Last year I quit my day job (I was a decorator) and concentrated on writing full time. I thought I’d have all day to write but opened a large can of worms by reading a marketing book. Suddenly I was met with strange terms such as key words, mailing lists, epub, mobi, profitable genres and many more. The further I delved, the more work I ended up with!
I’ve never been a person who enjoys how anything works, mechanics bore me but I admit that understanding how to make books sell, and the inside methods needed, has been enjoyable.
I say you can write a poor book but sell loads of copies if you market it well. Subsequently, you can write a fantastic book but not sell any if you don’t market it. Last year I spent six months solely on marketing and behind-the-scenes stuff and I’ve seen my sales rise by 500% as a result.
The least enjoyable aspect is learning how various other websites integral to my business work. We’ve all heard of mailing lists and companies such as Mailchimp and Drip. Other websites such as Leadpages to cover my landing pages and Calibre for converting my manuscripts to EBook format. It’s been a steep learning curve which has tested my patience frequently and continues to do so.
With the hindsight of being a published author, anything you would have done differently?
Yes, I’d have paid much more attention to the marketing. Now I know the actual writing is only half of my time at best. If Volkswagen release a new car, they don’t quietly slip it into the showrooms without telling us. They advertise and market the hell out of it.
Writing your book is just part of the overall picture, you then have to go out and sell it.
What tips or advice would you give an aspiring indie author who is looking to self-publish?
First, never quit. Writing a book can take months, sometimes years. When you sit back after writing for six hours to see your word count has barely increased, it can be demoralising. It’s a very long journey where your goal is far away. Don’t become disheartened, keep at it.
Always get your book edited. A good editor will take your raw stone and polish it. This is not something to scrimp on, a poorly edited book scattered with mistakes will damage your reputation before you’ve even started.
Get a professional to design your cover. Contrary to popular belief, people do judge books by their covers. A good designer not only designs, they know which colours draw the eye to a Kindle thumbnail image, which fonts works for your genre and other elements you’re completely unaware of.
Every new author tries to save money by taking on parts of the process themselves and it can be done. However, you’re a writer, not an editor or designer. Get the professionals to do these areas and it will reap rewards.
What marketing or promotional tools or techniques do you use to reach your readers?
I’d say my biggest lesson from last year was building a subscriber list. Let’s say there’s 10,000 subscribers on your list (not impossible). That’s 10,000 potential customers who could buy your next book when you release it. Everyone is trying to get emails, and it’s for good reason.
Turn readers into subscribers. Place adverts in your book(s) offering something for free in exchange for an email address like the first chapter from your next book, perhaps an entire book? Offer them discounts, tell them in advance of deals and releases. Keep them happy.
I run promotional events most months using tried and tested companies that work for me. Set your book at a good discount, 0.99 or even free, then advertise this through companies such as Ereader News Today, Free Book Service, The Fussy Librarian and others. They have thousands of subscribers eager to read books and they work.
Don’t be afraid to discount your book or offer it for free. The cheaper a book, the more it sells. Free books shift 100 times more copies than paid ones. Much of the time, especially at the start, it’s not about making money, your goal is to put your book in front of people and your name out there. I’d rather have 1000 readers turning pages for free, than 50 readers having paid for it.
What impact do you want your books to have on your readers?
I want two things to happen to my readers. I want to inspire them and to make them smile.
My books are travel memoirs about long distance hiking, up to 2600 miles in one go over several months. These adventures are life changing events that most of us won’t realise because of other commitments. I want to inspire my readers by persuading them that they can walk 2500 miles, or sail around the world, ride a horse across Canada or even write a book! We are all capable of truly astonishing things.
Secondly, a good friend once told me that if you can make someone laugh then they’ll like you. This advice has always stayed with me. My books are not out-and-out comedy, they relay my adventures in a light-hearted tone which I hope, makes the reader chuckle.
If they like me, they should like my books.
What is your latest book about?
My latest book, Travelled Far, is a slight diversion from my other books in that instead of writing about one adventure, I chose twelve shorter outdoor trips from various parts of the world. From the New Mexican desert, to Spain and the UK, it touches on my favourite hikes.
It’s a short read, 134 pages. The eBook is available free and all profits from the paperback are being donated to Mountain Rescue (UK) because I wanted to give something back and I believe in karma.
The main purpose, other than being a good read (hopefully!), is to attract subscribers. It’s free so it should shift more copies, and also the offer inside to read by second book for free is available, in exchange for becoming a subscriber.
What’s next on your writing journey?
My next book is called High and Low, and is the story my 600 mile hike across Scotland in 2015. I write about the realisation that I had been suffering from depression, and how the condition not only affected my hike, but my life before and after. It’s a difficult, but rewarding book and I hope it may take me, and the reader, off on a different tangent for further books in the future.Join @KeithFoskett on his writing & #selfpublishing #travelguide journey Click To Tweet
Keith Foskett’s Author Bio
Keith Foskett was raised in southeast England amongst quintessential rolling English countryside. It was here that he nurtured a passion for hiking and the outdoors, this forming the basis of much of his writing work. Having discovered, and hiked 1000 miles of the ancient pilgrim’s route known as EL Camino de Santiago in Spain, his hiking appetite was fuelled further. All 2640 miles of America’s Pacific Crest Trail followed, and 2200 miles weaving along the Appalachian Trail. He still hikes and holds a deep respect for the outdoor spaces of this world.
He contributes to various outdoor publications. In 2012 and 2015 he was shortlisted for Outdoor Personality of the Year by The Great Outdoors Magazine. His second book – The Last Englishman, was also nominated for Outdoor Book of the Year. His third offering – Balancing on Blue was also shortlisted for Outdoor Book of the Year.
His hiking blog is hugely popular and was voted outdoor blog of the year by the Go Outdoors chain. Partial to a decent bottle of Rioja, down sleeping bags and woollen underwear, he was born, and still lives in West Sussex, England.
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