Author Interview with Travel Guide Writer Jay Artale

Jay Artale at the Los Angeles Travel Show 2017


Welcome to the launch of our Non-Fiction Author Interview series

I love hearing how other non-fiction authors have discovered their writer’s voice and found their path to market. I know you will too. So I’ve launched a Non-Fiction Author Interview Series – and I’m kicking off the interview series with an interview with myself! (Being an indie author is all about leading by example).

Author Interview Series A Journey from Blogger to Author

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

I write non-fiction books in the travel guide and “how to” genre.

What motivated you to start writing Non-Fiction?

My husband and I bought a house in Turkey and I had an insatiable appetite to discover everything I could about the area. There were no guidebooks about the area and very few reliable websites, so I started researching the area in person and collecting notes and information in small moleskin books, purely for my own use.

Then I realised that other people were probably after the same information, so I launched my Bodrum Peninsula Travel Guide website. Next I started releasing free downloadable PDF quick reference travel guides about the area, and an ebook was the next logical step.

Tell us the journey you went on to get your first book published (e.g. self-published, assisted-publishing, traditional publisher)

I self-published The Bodrum Peninsula Travel Guide as an ebook, and then a year later followed it up with The Gumusluk Travel Guide. I went direct with Amazon KDP and Barnes & Noble Nook, and then via Smashwords for all other outlets.

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

I love design and formatting.

I designed my first travel guide covers myself using Photoshop, and they worked really well from a sales perspective, but when I updated and re-lauched my books in 2016 I hired a professional cover designer to help me develop a long-term brand strategy. I used Rachmad Agus from Rac Design, to create my new Bodrum Peninsula Travel Guide Paperback cover, and then I used his concept design to design the rest of my ebook covers myself, across the rest of my brand.

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I love book formatting, which is odd because many indie authors avoid this self-publishing process like the plague. I hand-code my travel guide ebooks in html using TextMate and Calibre because they contain images, but for a simple text book I use either Scrivener or Vellum. I design my print books with Adobe inDesign.

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

Go direct with as many distributors as possible

In order to get the most lucrative self-publishing royalty deals, it’s best to go direct with as many distributors as possible. I work on an Mac, so I could have gone direct with iBooks, and Kobo has a good indie author reputation so I wish I’d gone direct with then too. Instead, I opted to go via Smashwords for both of these channels (and all of the other distributor networks).

I did plan on going direct with iBooks and Kobo, but I only went direct with two companies because my travel guides had so many images (creating a large file size). My 20+ mb file wasn’t a problem for Amazon (they really don’t care how big your file is because they charge your for every book download that’s purchased). But with Nook and Smashwords, there was a file size limitation (Nook was 10mb and Smashwords was 5mb), so I ended up creating 3 different versions of my book to meet the file size limitations. At the time, I didn’t want to manage more versions of my book so I didn’t go with iBooks or Kobo direct.

I’m in the process of relaunching my guide books and am creating a consistent version across all distributors. This means each book will earn me more money on Amazon because I’m reducing the number of images, and consequently the file size. Now my readers will have the same experience no matter where they purchase my book. To compensate for the reduction in images in the guidebook, I’ve created more active links in my travel guides to my blog and Pinterest pages.

Most of my sales via Smashwords have come from iBooks, so when I relaunch my guides, I’m going to go direct with both iBooks and Kobo. I will probably also switch from Smashwords to Draft2Digital or PublishDrive because they both has a more streamlined interface, although the Smashwords feature of being able to sent free books to people is invaluable when you first publish.

Use Scrivener to Write not Word

Travel guides take a lot of maintenance, and I made the mistake of writing my first one in Word, but then I switched over to Scrivener (available for Mac and PC), and it has revolutionised my writing, not just for my travel guides but everything I write.

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

Know your audience: In non-fiction especially, it’s really important to know your audience. If you don’t know who you’re writing for your writing will quickly become unfocused and erratic. But if you know the audience you’re trying to reach it helps you determine, not only want to include in your book, but also what to leave out.

Set a deadline/launch date: It is so easy to let a book drift and drift and never get around to publishing it. The great thing about ebooks and print on demand is that you can update and edit them. Definitely release the best quality book you can, but know that you can make changes at a later date. Don’t put off releasing your book because you’re worried it’s not absolutely perfect.

Get an editor/proofreader: My one major investment on both books was to engage the services of a editor/proofreader, she was worth her weight in gold and helped to keep me on track and my writing consistent.

Go direct with as many book sellers as you can: Go direct with Amazon, iBooks, and Kobo (and Nook if you’re in the US), then choose a distributor that is optimal for your niche.

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

Because I release travel guides the visual social media platforms work well for my niche. So I’m active on Pinterest and Instagram, and use images to raise the profile of the locations I cover.

I also have a Facebook travel guide page that focuses on the broad area my travel guides cover, and I post updated and topical information about the area, and am also posting images of the destinations covered in my guides.

I blog regularly on my own Travel websites, and cross-promote on my personal blog. I also guest post about content in the guides on relevant travel blogs and websites.

I’m always building my mailing list to promote my Turkey travel guides, and offer my free downloadable quick reference travel guides as an incentive to sign up.

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

My travel guides are for tourists and visitors to the area who have an independent spirit. I want to encourage my readers to get off the beaten track and to experience some slow travel through the area in order to connect with the community and to appreciate the local culture.

I also want to save them time, so that they don’t have to do their own research, and I want to save them money by letting them know about some budget travel options available to them.

What is your latest Non-Fiction book about?

I’ve enrolled in Camp NaNoWriMo this July to write a Collection of Travel Poems inspired by the people and experiences I’ve encountered since moving to Bodrum. Once complete, I’ll offer it exclusively on Amazon so that I can get free promotional days, and also offer it as a free download incentive to build my travel guide mailing list.

What’s next on your writing journey?

I’m writing my third Turkey Travel guide, this one is a city guide, Exploring Bodrum, for day-trippers to the area. I also have two California Travel guides up my sleeves.

I’m also writing a How to Write a Travel Guide series of 4 books which breaks down the process of writing a travel guide into easy to follow steps for other travel bloggers and travel writers, and 2 other non-fiction books, Pinterest for Authors and Guest Blogging for Travel Writers. 

After years of writing and blogging trying to identify my niche, I’ve finally settled in my travel and non-fiction niche, and what they have in common is helping other people achieve their goals and push them out of their comfort zone.

Rather than including my bio here, I’m adding a link to my About page.

Click here to find out how you can participate in our Non-Ficiton Author Interview series.