Author Interview with Travel Writer Michael Hulleman

Michael Hulleman

Birds of a Feather welcomes Michael Hulleman to the nest

When I first connected with Michael a couple of months ago about appearing in my author interview series he was bubbling over with enthusiasm and ideas about how he planned to build and develop his brand.

He has a clear vision about what he wants to achieve, and since I last spoke to him he has been putting the stepping stones in place to reach his goals. One of those first steps was to release an updated version of his Digital Nomad Escape Plan book, and make it free to download directly from his website (without requiring an email opt-in – which is a vastly different approach than many other authors are implementing). Find out more about his indie author journey, and how he reached this stage of his indie author journey.

A Journey from Blogger to Author

How would you describe the type of books/genre you write?

Right now I’m just at the beginning of my writing career as an author, and the only book I have out to date is a travel guide called Digital Nomad Escape Plan. I have two more books planned as a follow up to it that dig a lot deeper into the dark side of being a digital nomad – so for now, I’d consider myself more of a self help author for the time being.

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, Digital Nomad Escape Plan was all about experimentation with writing and publishing. I wanted to learn how my writing style would be received, in addition to learning how the world’s largest self-publishing platform worked.

Digital Nomad Escape Plan: Expat Guide for Working Remotely in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Old Cover for Digital Nomad Escape Plan

And I really, really wanted to inspire American Millennials without a passport that it’s possible to live forever in a state of slow travel, working online – I’ve given away over 3,000 copies to date. So there’s no excuses, folks.

The book itself was just a collection of emails and notes I had accumulated in my phone’s notepad app over the course of two years. I repurposed and refined all of the notes I made while I was learning how to travel efficiently, and turned them into a book.

Publishing on Amazon was made easier by doing some research first. If I had one recommendation – even the free information Chandler Bolt offers is compelling. He really knows how to publish on Amazon. I never became a student of his because I was a typical broke nomad back then, but I strongly endorse him. The man covers all his bases.

The most important thing I learned from Chandler was how to make the Amazon KDP free giveaway period work for me; release your book on a Monday and set it to “free” right up until about 2pm Friday, California time –and then manually switch it to “paid”. Your book winds up on both the trending free book lists, as well as the “New and Hot” list –or whatever they’re called.

2pm Cali time on a Friday is a big sell-time, when people are looking for new books to read over the weekend, and it’s sure to generate sales right out of the gate. One caveat; it takes a couple hours for the free-to-paid switch to propagate, so I did it at 11am Cali time.

Chiang Mai bars at night

Chiang Mai bars at night

What publishing elements do you most enjoy and most like to avoid, and why? (e.g. design, marketing, formatting etc.)

Formatting makes me cry.

To me, formatting is that horrible moment where you’re ready to fire and it’s that last obstacle before that scared-yet-excited euphoric feeling of getting your book out to the world. It’s like that condom wrapper you can’t open. It’s hell. At least, to me. And I love graphic design, but when it comes to my own books, I just don’t have the patience.

And it really showed on Digital Nomad Escape Plan. It’s January 2017 and I am about to give it it’s fifth major update before I wrap it up and move on with my next two books. This update contains some formatting and I’m going to give it the proper love it deserves. I’m aiming for a Valentine’s Day launch. For some reason, New Years and Valentines Day are big self help book sales days.  

The first editions looked fine on a Kindle, but forget reading it in PDF or EPUB –only the fifth and final edition of Digital Nomad Escape Plan will be any good for that.

Digital Nomad Escape Plan

New cover for the Digital Nomad Escape Plan

I never did much marketing, either. I hope to change that with it’s final edition. It has stood the test of time, and all the emails and comments I get from across the interwebs only reaffirm that for me.

I’d say I probably hated the entire process of creating a book. Am I supposed to say that?

It was hell to write, I hardly promoted it, and the only part I thought valuable was the message of the book itself. I think the message of Digital Nomad Escape Plan is important. But I can’t tell your audience what that is or they won’t go and pick it up. But if you do, wait until after V-Day.

Elephant riding in Chiang Mai Province

Elephant riding in Chiang Mai Province

With the hindsight of being a published author, anything you would have done differently?

I’d have had it properly formatted right off the bat and chose a slightly more evergreen topic, that way it would make sense to also sell it as a hard copy.

I chose Chiang Mai, Thailand –the one place on earth where a restaurant can open and relocate within a month.

On one hand, it was annoying to include information that I knew would change –on the other I leveraged it with a free email-for-download option for maps and supplemental information. I grew my email list, and readers usually had the latest updated information.

I would have also kept up on my autoresponders –I wrote every email I sent my list in the moment on the rare occasion I’d send one.

I treated DNEP like an after thought, I wish I hadn’t. I moved on to start Copyrise, a travel marketing and SEO company, and I never looked back. So I really regret that neglect, and I am going to rejuvenate my email list efforts with the release of the fifth update.

Bed and Breakfast in Chiang Mai

Bed and Breakfast in Chiang Mai

What tips or advice would you give an aspiring indie author who is looking to self-publish?

Always have a free add-on buried in your book after the preview pages Amazon shares with prospective buyers and make it email-for-download. Create your autoresponders before you launch, and follow a proven formula.

Affiliate site autoresponders are a great example of how to do this, and it’s a topic we’re about to publish a comprehensive guide about on the Copyrise blog (and of course, that will be email-for-download, too).

Build your list. Full stop.

What marketing or promotional tools or techniques do you use to reach your readers?

Because of the niche, Reddit was useful. Facebook has been alright. And email is the behemoth Godzilla of promotional techniques, along with cross-promotion and guest posts within your niche.

But don’t always expect others in your niche to always be so helpful. Whenever my book was mentioned on NomadList forums by friends, their admins would delete them and threaten a ban. Still not sure what I did to inspire that sort of behaviour, but it was really frustrating –especially when I was giving the book away so frequently.

Koh Phangan sunset, taken from Golden Rock.

Koh Phangan sunset, taken from Golden Rock.

What impact do you want your books to have on your readers?

Travel. Please, oh please, travel. And don’t just do one of those kind of robo-trips where you do everything in a week or two and then need a holiday after the holiday.

Your world view will change, you’ll find creative ways to hurt yourself and learn from mistakes. You’ll have less frustration with the state of the world. You’ll sleep better at night. You will understand the cycle of things in a more holistic way. You’ll find your inner Rambo, and you might even find your Rose.

Travel is a distillation process; it tears you apart and builds you back up and throws away the extra nuts and bolts.

Eating outside in Bangkok

Eating outside in Bangkok

What is your latest book about?

Later this year I plan to publish two books to follow up the “new and improved” Digital Nomad Escape Plan; one is about the male mindset around digital nomadism – and the dark side of it if you have demons you’re trying to leave behind. I bare it all in that one, I don’t think some people back home are going to think very highly of me if they read it.

The other one is about travel and health. I got really, really sick and lost 1/3 of my body mass and began to turn into a walking fungi. I battled parasites, fungus, bouts of vertigo, and an array of other things that can happen if you abuse your immune system to a point of complete disrepair.

And it was all because of the demons I was battling from the former. I drank quite a bit, and was literally going mad. The crazy, Mad Hatter sort of mad. When your immunity takes a kicking, your head fogs up and you become a beast. That’s a tease of the title.

The travel health book is about how I got back to health with little help from doctors, the changes I made, and how damn frightening it was to meet my fiancée while disappearing like Marty McFly in a Polaroid.

What’s next on your writing journey?

I haven’t taken any time to write on any major publications like my peers have, and I’d like to start doing that. I’m also open to public speaking and coaching, but I don’t know. I won’t shut up until you put a mic in my hand, and then I don’t have an idea of what to say except everything I shouldn’t.

Down the line in 2018 I also have three fiction series’ I’d like to finish. I’ve had them clawing at my shoulders for over a decade. One’s about love and mental illness, another one’s about the Singularity, and the last one – I’m hard pressed if I’ll ever release it. It might be too polarizing. We’ll see.

In light of recent events like the take-down of the Atlas Bros, I’ve decided to update Digital Nomad Escape Plan, take it off Amazon Kindle, put it on hobowithalaptop.com, and give it away for free without an email opt-in. Michael

The purpose of Digital Nomad Escape Plan is to provide a comprehensive, actionable road map which clearly outlines exactly how to go from day job employee to digital nomad in Chiang Mai, Thailand. And now it’s free.

Get your free copy of Digital Nomad Escape Plan from @hobolaptop #travelblogger Click To Tweet

Michael Hulleman

Hobo with a laptop logo“Curious about how technology shapes our lives and minds. Big picture thinker, observer, catalyst, and digital nomad.”

By day Mike is a travel marketing professional at Copyrise. He’s a 35 year-old Canadian who’s tried everything twice. Aside from his 9-to-5, he’s been a volunteer teacher, repeat film extra, Jazz festival art director, public speaker, environmental activist, and author. After 4 years in Asia and almost 20 years in the online industry, Mike has been focusing more on his side hustle when he’s not helping clients. The lower cost of living abroad has freed up a lot of his time, and you can expect a number of guides, resources, and fiction books being penned and shared on Hobo over the next few years.

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