Birds of a Feather welcomes Robert Fear to the nest
As well as authoring his own travel memoir, Robert Fear runs a travel writing competition and features the entries in an annual travel writing anthology. His foray into self-publishing was a slow burn, but his perseverance paid off and now he has multiple books under his belt.
It just goes to show that if you stick at it, your dreams of being an indie author can come true. I hope this interview with Robert will inspire you to keep pursuing your indie author and self-publishing goals.
Robert Fear and I are members of the same We Love Memoirs Facebookgroup. The reader’s group is a really friendly and active community run by best-selling memoirist Victoria Twead, who also runs an memoir author and memoir beta readers group. I was lucky enough to have Robert beta read my Turkey Tales: A Bodrum Travel Memoir in Verse in 2016 – and his feedback was really useful.
How would you describe the type of books/genre you write?
My first book is a travel memoir, or to describe it more accurately, a travel diary. I originally wrote this during my travels around Asia back in 1981.
The other two books are ones that I have edited, with only small written contributions from myself. One is an anthology of travel ‘shorts’ written by a wide variety of authors and writers, The other tells my father’s story of his life in and out of the Exclusive Brethren religious sect.
What motivated you to start writing?
I have always had an interest in books and literature but would not consider myself to be a ‘proper’ author, more of a diarist or a travel memoir writer. I am not sure what motivated me to write my diary way back then but the editing of it in recent years has given me great pleasure and bought back a lot of memories. With the advent of Kindle it has been great to be able to self-publish and share my experiences with so many people.
It wasn’t until around 2005 that I decided to start typing up my diary from 1981 onto the computer. I managed to get the first two months done but then ran out of motivation.
A couple of years later there was an article in a PC magazine about Kindle and self-publishing that sparked my interest again. I started working on the second part of the diary and self-published it in 2009 as Time in Thailand. The first part followed in 2011 and was titled £99 to Hong Kong.
By now the bug had truly bitten and I started planning the release of the whole diary. First though, I had to scan copies of all 600 pages as they were deteriorating and writing was becoming faded in parts. Over the next two years I typed everything up and started editing the diary for publication, all in my spare time.
Fred’s Diary 1981 was self-published in December 2013 and was relatively successful with a good number of excellent reviews on Amazon UK and US. The second edition of Fred’s Diary 1981: Travels in Asia was released in October 2015.
Since then I have also self-published the following books:
- December 2015 – Travel Stories and Highlights
- September 2016 – Exclusive Pedigree: My life in and out of the Brethren
- December 2016 – Travel Stories and Highlights: 2017 Edition
What publishing elements do you most enjoy and most like to avoid, and why? (e.g. design, marketing, formatting etc.)
I tend to leave the design side, especially the all-important covers, to the experts. My talent lies more in the formatting and editing areas and I enjoy this aspect of creating a book. Marketing is still a bit of a mystery to me, although I have had some success. It is rather hit and miss though and I get very confused by all the different options available. Despite this, I do enjoy personally managing my social media pages, mostly Facebook and Twitter.
With the hindsight of being a published author, anything you would have done differently?
When I first started out on the publishing trail I tried to do everything myself. With hindsight, I would have reached out much more to get advice from fellow-authors, particularly on the editing and promotional aspects of self-publishing.
What tips or advice would you give an aspiring indie author who is looking to self-publish?
Once you have your book written and you feel it is ready to publish, get other people to read it and take advice on editing it further. If you can afford proofreading and/or editing services, along with a professional cover, then this will help your book stand out among the many that are released every day.
What marketing or promotional tools or techniques do you use to reach your readers?
For the past two years I have had a blog on which I have done quite a lot of promotion for my books. I have also run several travel writing competitions, which have gained a lot of interest. I use Twitter and Facebook quite a lot and post links to the blog on a regular basis. In addition I have run free and reduced price promos for Fred’s Diary 1981: Travels in Asia. These have generated interest in the book and helped bring in additional reviews. Recently I have had some success with Amazon Sponsored Ads in promoting Travel Stories and Highlights: 2017 Edition.
What impact do you want your books to have on your readers?
I want them to become absorbed in the story and learn from the experiences of the author.
What is your latest book about?
There are two books that I have released during the last six months. Here is some background information on both of them:
Like many eldest sons, I rebelled against my father during my teenage years. Fortunately, unlike many, I had a chance of reconciliation before he passed away and this book is the end result.
My father, John, was born into a religious sect known as the Exclusive Brethren. This sheltered him from the outside world as he grew up but could not hide him from its influences. A struggle began in his mind that eventually led to him leaving the Brethren, along with his young family.
This is a story that John wanted told. Over the last couple of years of his life he spent many hours writing up his memoirs with the aim of completing a book about his life and experiences. During his last few months John grew weaker and was physically unable to complete this task. It was around this time that my mother approached me to see if I could help. I was more than happy to assist and started typing up his notes on my computer.
That was back in 1993. It was only recently, while visiting Mary, my wonderful mother, that a chance remark spurred me into action. She mentioned that it had always been John’s ambition to have his memoirs published properly.
My intention, by publishing his book, was to belatedly make my father’s dream come true.
Travel Stories and Highlights
While working on the second edition of Fred’s Diary 1981, I started a blog in February 2015 to assist me with the editing process. Exactly 35 years later, to the day, I published an edited version of each day’s entry. This ran for 158 days from February through to July and coincidentally the days of the week were the same as when I originally wrote the diary.
To encourage people to visit the blog www.fd81.net I started a Travel Story competition, with prizes, for entries of between 500-1000 words and ran this in parallel with the daily diary extracts. There was a very encouraging response and in all there were thirty entries from a range of well-known authors to first time writers.Have you entered the #TravelWriting competition from @fredsdiary1981? #travelblogger Click To Tweet
It was such a success that I subsequently ran another competition for Travel Highlights of between 50-100 words. Again this went very well and in all there were twenty-five entries.
I then decided to publish all the entries in a new book called Travel Stories and Highlights. After getting permission from all the contributors I started compiling the book and it was published late in 2015.
Last year I re-ran the two competitions. Again, there were a lot of fantastic entries and a 2017 Edition of the book was produced with the best 50 travel stories and 50 highlights from both sets of competitions. This was released in December 2016.
This year we are running both competitions again. The Travel Story Competition is accepting entries of 500-1000 words until the end of July 2017. There are monthly prizes and the chance to be included in the 2018 Edition of Travel Stories and Highlights. Details are at: www.fd81.net/competition.html
What’s next on your writing journey?
My latest project takes me back 40 years to when I first travelled. I spent the summer season of 1977 on the island of Ibiza and the book that I am getting together will cover my time there. To me this is a more daunting venture as I have no diary to fall back on. I do, however, still have the letters that were written to me during the six months I was in Ibiza.
They are enabling me to build a timeline and bring back some of those long-lost memories. I am hoping to be in a position to be able to self-publish this book later in the year.
Born in Leicester in 1955, Robert’s family moved to Surrey when he was 11. He was educated at Reigate Grammar School. After this he worked in a bank in the city for several years before getting the travel bug. Fred, a nickname he got at school, stuck throughout his travels and has remained with him to this day. His travels took him to Ibiza for the summer of 1977, hitch-hiking around Europe in 1978 and the USA and Canada in 1979. During this time he also settled and worked in Germany. Fred’s Diary 1981 was written during the 158 days he spent travelling around Asia.
These days Robert is happily settled in Eastbourne, East Sussex where he lives with his wife and three cats. He works as a software consultant and has been able to combine work with some travel during the past fifteen years, having visited countries as far apart as Australia, Singapore, Ghana and Suriname.
Connect with Robert Fear
Robert Fear shares his #IndieAuthor journey @fredsdiary1981 #travelmemoir Click To Tweet