This week we’re joined by travel blogger Allan Wilson, from Live Less Ordinary, who shares his writing and self-publishing journey with us.
Allan’s the author of “Potato in a Rice Field” a travel memoir which recounts his experiences of rural life in Thailand. This SE Asia country has long been a popular destination for travelers and digital nomads, and it’s refreshing to see a book which approaches Thai life from a different perspective. ~~ Jay
Author Interview: Allan Wilson
How would you describe the type of books/genre you write?
What motivated you to start writing?
I have blogged for a while now on life and travel in Asia, but when we moved to the rural rice fields of Thailand after my wife’s granny took ill, I found myself with a lot of time to kill. At the same time I was joining a family and a compound of hard-working rural folk, so I had to show some sort of work ethic during this time, and while it did take a lot of convincing for rural folk to understand money can actually be made from behind a computer, they eventually accepted that were I behind a laptop, or a camera, or any gadget really, I was hard at work. So after completing all levels of Angry Birds Rio, one and two, I forced myself to find something more long-term and meaningful to kill time and ‘A Potato in a Rice Field’ came to life.
Tell us the journey you went on to get your books published (e.g. direct on your website, self-published, assisted-publishing, traditional publisher.
Publishing was always an afterthought when writing and I never considered going down any professional publishing route, or had any interest in publishing for print. So it was simply a case of writing the book, before sticking it on Amazon.
What publishing elements do you most enjoy and most like to avoid, and why? (e.g. design, marketing, formatting etc.)
I most enjoy design, as the marketing and formatting elements offered no enjoyment whatsoever. But my book was always a creative outlet for myself, so what little design involved was important to highlight this.
With the hindsight of being a published author, anything you would have done differently?
My book was more image-rich to begin with, with literally hundreds of photos depicting rural life in Thailand, but many of these were inevitably dropped when I found that Amazon charged by file size, and I needed to keep the book at an agreeable purchase price. Although it does still include a more precise 129 images, which is still a lot. Otherwise I really haven’t given a second thought since publishing, as I am always pushing ahead with other media, although pricing would likely be an issue I would one day look back to. As I am happy now to have broken-even on the initial investment (where cost of publishing was pretty much nothing) and through Amazon’s KDP Select library I could reach a considerably large and unexpected audience.
What tips or advice would you give an aspiring indie author who is looking to self-publish?
I knew I would self-publish from the outset, as it was very much a personal project, penned for posterity’s sake and future nostalgia, so there was no outside influence or worries, like writing to guidelines, deadlines or obligations set by others. So this gave me full freedom to write and made the overall experience more relaxed, personal and enjoyable. Also the success of the book was relatively irrelevant, as I always knew the content would be infinitely more lucrative and wider read if publishing each week on my blog and media, so this again removes any pressure of writing. More or less, I feel it is important to write for the desire to write, and not for potential success or incomes, which may never come.
What marketing or promotional tools or techniques do you use to reach your readers?
As a blogger networking, marketing, and social media, have always been swear words in my vocabulary, although they are also a necessity to build an audience. So to date I have avoided them with the book, as Amazon will ultimately be the most important platform. However the book was part of a wider media package, which link in to YouTube videos and content through my blog, which work well to drive traffic. I also set-up a subscription form on my website, which linked to Mail Chimp, and I decided to publish the book once my subscription list reached 2,000 emails, which is the limit of the free Mail Chimp package. And this gave me the only deadline for publishing.
What impact do you want your books to have on your readers
I always find a rather miserable selection of sexpat stories in the ‘Best Sellers’ of Thailand’s airports, that follow recurring themes of drugs, prostitution, jail time and ‘Hell’. But these reflections are obviously on the authors’ own lifestyles, rather than Thailand itself, and I am otherwise fortunate to have seen Thailand in a more positive light. So I like to share my brighter and less jaded memoirs with a bit of humour, whimsy, and the occasional grouchiness through a year in Thailand.
What is your latest book about?
The book was planned to be memoirs on a year of local culture, seasons, and events, through a year in Thailand. However this kind of spiralled through into something much meatier, following our lifestyle of travel through ‘notes’ in Asia, and the unlikely perks of life as a travel blogger. For example the karst landscapes of southern China, ‘extreme sightseeing’ through sakura and snow in Japan, and we’re even caught in one of the world’s most intense typhoons in Taiwan. But the sole focus is otherwise on life in the rice fields, as it follows the seasons, festivals and events celebrated throughout the year in the old-world setting of rural Isaan. And experiences do feel somewhat anthropological in parts, given our unique position in a rustic rural setting, and through the year I find myself involved in intimate ceremonies, from wearing puffy shorts as a ‘Bridesmaid’ at a wedding, to the more sombre tones of family funerals.
What’s next on your writing journey?
In a way the book wrapped up my travels and experiences through Asia over 7 years, so it would be hard to create similar content for a second memoir. Although we have been travelling more in Japan in recent times, and I would love to have the experience and knowledge to create a similar story, so a full year in Japan would likely be the next book option down the line. Otherwise I will continue to create shorter stories and experiences through my blog and other media.Find out how #travelblogger Allan from @lessordinaryco wrote and published his #travelmemoir Potato in a Rice Field Click To Tweet
Bio: Allan is an Asia based lifestyle and travel blogger with an obsession for getting lost in unfamiliar and alien surroundings. He spends a lot of time writing from Thailand’s rural rice fields, between travel and eating through various destinations in Asia.