Well-known outdoor writer Cliff Jacobsen laments that nobody is writing canoe and kayak camping books anymore. I think he is right, and there are several reasons for it.
First, the internet has changed the way we search for information. We no longer need to read a 350-page paperback that costs $15 to $30 to learn about Canoe and Kayak Camping adventures. We look it up in Google.
Second, major publishers aren’t interested in the low returns from a small niche market like Canoe and Kayak Camping, so it is ever more difficult for serious outdoor writers to find a publisher. Even such well-known writers as Canadian paddler Kevin Callan, who has written 18 books, has self-published his new book Once Around Algonquin, An Epic Canoe Journey.
Third, we have ever more demands on our time and we aren’t always patient to wait a week to receive the book in the mail then take the time to sit down and read it.
Even in the face of changing demographics there is still a demand for books about adventure paddling. Paddlers still want books, we just want them shorter, with more photos, and instantly available at a low price and readable on our electronic devices.
Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing has changed how we think about books.
Ebooks now outsell print books, and Amazon has the lion’s share of the ebook market.
Readers can download a 100-page ebook to their smartphone, tablet or laptop, with prices starting as low as free, or 99-cents or $2.99.
Well-written canoe and kayak camping ebooks in the 100- to 150-page range have a ready market and will return a greater income for the writer than will the 350-page print books that sell for many times more. Now we have a bigger incentive to write.
With Kindle Direct Publishing it is easy for an unknown writer to publish a good book and receive the lion’s share of the book royalties. Amazon keeps 30% and the writer/self-publisher receives 70% of the sale price.
Compare this to traditional publishing houses which pay only 5% to 10% royalty.
It is no wonder Kindle Direct Publishing is so appealing to today’s writers and self-publishers.
Six steps for starting your successful writing and self-publishing business
Many new writers are not sure where to start, so I’m writing this simple guide. My intent with this article is to encourage more writers to put their stories together and self-publish, so all paddlers will have greater access to more useful and entertaining stories.
Please note, I’m not suggesting you will get-rich-quick with this scheme. Instead, I’m recommending you start small. Invest only $300 or $400 over the next few months while you study, learn, practice and develop your writing and self-publishing skills. Think of it as a self-designed university semester in entrepreneurship.
There is a steep learning curve for writing and editing, adding photos, book design, cover design, formatting, and downloading to Amazon. Take it a step at a time and learn as you go. It will be a rewarding adventure, I assure you.
Expect modest profits in the beginning. Maybe only $1000 or $2,000 the first year, but it is possible to make a significant passive income each year. Whether your goal is to make $3,000 or $30,000, this informal guide will help you.
You may decide after reading this tutorial you have a solid book idea, but you aren’t up to writing it on your own. Or you may write it yourself, but would like to sub-contract the editing, proofreading, cover design, formatting and publishing.
Don’t worry. If you want a writing or publishing partner, my team of editors and writers will work with you for a share of the royalties. Just fill out the contact form at the bottom of this page.
Step One: Begin with your book idea.
The process for idea generation is called mind mapping. I first learned it in college and I use it every day for gathering information and making decisions.
A mind map means to start by writing your topic in the page's center and draw bubbles across the page and write in keywords and phrases to represent your thoughts.
You can write what you know about the topic, what you think your readers should know about the topic, and then add bubbles and keywords to represent the things you want to research before you start writing.
You can draw lines and arrows between connected ideas and spin off other topics of interest for future stories or books.
An inexpensive program from Scapple makes it easy to do this on your computer so you can quickly transfer ideas to your writing program.
Scapple offers a range of features designed to turn your mind map into your book outline in a few hours instead of the days or weeks we used to spend with index cards and flip charts.
Step Two: Upgrade to a good writing program.
After you have your book mapped out in Scapple, you can write the first draft. Modern writing programs make this task a lot easier than it used to be, believe me.
I wrote my first magazine articles in the 1970´s on a manual typewriter. I used a product called whiteout correction fluid to correct errors. When I edited, or changed the storyline, it meant hours of tediously retyping the whole manuscript.
When I wrote my first book, the original Backyard Market Gardening in 1993, I used a Brother Word Processor which was essentially an electronic typewriter. It had an index-card sized screen and I could only write 16 sentences before having to stop and save the work to a floppy disc. The 356-page book took up 7 floppy discs.
I printed out each chapter and snail-mailed to my editor George Devault at Rodale Press in Pennsylvania. He would jot down changes, suggestions and questions in red ink and mail it back. I would re-write the text to make the changes, then mail a new hard copy to him for more editing. Finally, after months of back and forth, we agreed the book was ready to publish. It takes months and even years to write a book this way.
Things are much different and far easier today. Now I use a MacBook Air 13¨ laptop with a Bluetooth mouse and keyboard and a 23-inch LG monitor. I email rough drafts and changes back and forth with the editors. The first draft takes one or two months and the finished, ready to publish final copy takes another month or two.
The program that makes my writing much easier, faster and more accurate is Scrivener, from the same company, Literature and Latte, that publishes the Scapple program.
Scrivener is perfect for writers, but so many layers can be intimidating, even overwhelming. It is a sophisticated writing program that has many more parts than you need in the beginning. Learn as you go. There are dozens of tutorials available from Scrivener, and dozens more online in YouTube. A good time to do a little research is when you come to a question or task you don´t know how to do. Stop for a few minutes and and watch a video or read a tutorial to expand your knowledge and skills in Scrivener. Thousands of successful Scrivener writers started out just this way.
Step Three: Continuing Education.
Think of it as a self-designed semester in writing and publishing on the Kindle platform. None of us are born knowing how to do these things. It takes study, research, determination, persistence and practice to succeed.
Beginning writers especially need coaching and training in the art of writing and photography and book design and formatting. Courses are readily available across the Internet.
I’ve had best results with online courses in the Udemy platform. It is possible to study videos and lectures of just about any subject you can imagine.
So far I have studied Travel Writing, Book Cover Design in Canva, Scrivener for Mac, Starting an Online Business, Web Design for Wordpress, Web Design for Wix, Amazon Books Advertising, Kindle Direct Publishing, Kindle Book Launch and Viral Blogging.
Courses I want to take next include Affiliate Marketing, Travel Photography, Creative Non-Fiction Writing.
There are thousands of courses to choose from ranging from a few hours up to a few days and costing as little as $10 per course. All taught by teachers who are making their living doing what they are teaching.
You only pay for courses as you want them. The courses you purchase are yours to keep for future study and reference.
Step Four: Dictionary and Thesaurus.
Every writer needs a dictionary and a thesaurus at hand. When I started out as a writer each of them was a heavy book about 2-inches thick. Now there are applications you can download free from the app stores. Rather than spending tedious minutes thumbing thru a thick manual just type in your word or phrase to get instant answers.
My new MacBook Air came with an application called Dictionary already installed. I keep the icon in the dock on my desktop so I can click it on the go. The Dictionary screen opens on a smaller screen in front of my word processor screen without interrupting my work.
I use it to check spelling, check definitions, find alternative words that better describe my thought, avoid repetitious use of common words, and I even use the Wikipedia button to check on background and correct word usage.
You get instant ideas for better words that are more descriptive within the context of your story. Better word choices enhance readability and clarify points and make your story more enjoyable. You can open the Wikipedia page to get background information on your word choice, too.
Using a dictionary and thesaurus will improve your writing and give your readers a more interesting and entertaining story and a more perfect picture of what you are saying.
Step Five: Every writer needs an editor and proofreader.
Editors cost anywhere from $5 per thousand words, up to $20 per thousand words. A 40,000 word ebook would cost from $200 to $800, depending on the range and depth of editing.
There are software programs downloadable from the Internet that can do these jobs for you, for much less money. The program I use is ProWritingAid.
It is my personal writing coach, grammar guru, style editor and writing mentor. It has improved the quality of my writing more than I ever thought possible.
I check each word, each sentence, each paragraph for style, grammar, overused words, mis-spelled and mis-used words, readability, cliches, sticky sentences and phrases, plagiarism, diction, and more.
Truly an editor par excellence.
Download a free trial at ProWritingAid. If you like it, you can buy a one- or two-year subscription for $60 or $90.
Step Six: A Place to Organize and Store your stuff.
Disorganized writers scatter files, documents, folders, research, mind maps, photos all across the hard drive and desktop. When they need a file, they spend minutes or even hours searching in frustration, and sometimes things just disappear.
It is much better to have a central repository for all your researching and writing projects. I use Dropbox which works like a personal assistant and file clerk. Dropbox is much easier and much more simple than trying to keep folders and files without a framework.
Instead of saving projects to my desktop I save them to Dropbox where they are retrievable and I can work on them even when I am off-line.
I’ve been using Dropbox for three years and I’m totally pleased with the organization and convenience. There are tutorials on the Dropbox web page and video courses in Udemy. And, as usual YouTube has lots of how-to videos to help you get started.
Download Dropbox for free and upgrade when needed. It may take you a long time before you use up the free space and need to buy a monthly subscription. I buy the monthly subscription for $9.99.
Topics readers are interested in:
A doctor once told me I may have attention deficit disorder, but I do not think the diagnosis is right. It's just that I have a lot of interests and my focus is continually in motion.
My main passion is adventure canoe and kayak camping. I want to learn all there is to know about my passion. Here’s a list of topics I would like to see turned into successful ebooks. I imagine you identify with some of these, too, yes?
• Wilderness camping in a canoe, kayak, paddle board, pack raft, or whitewater raft.
• Source to Sea paddling adventures, planning, preparation and doing.
• Converting Minivan to Mini-Camper and Shuttle car
• Building canoe/kayak trailer
• Best cold weather paddling gear
• Best hot weather paddling gear
• Best canoes, kayaks, SUPs and inflatables for river camping and for sea camping and for whitewater camping.
• Tents versus hammocks
• Canoes versus kayaks
• Travel writing for canoe and kayak adventures
• Outdoor sports photography
You may share some of these interests and you probably have a list of your own.
Each of the topics has a niche market and a solid group of passionate readers. They want more books. It is up to us writers to satisfy this need for factual, current, interesting, entertaining information.
Whatever is your passion, whatever you spend most time thinking about, whatever excites you and keeps you awake at night, write about that. There will be a market for your writing.
Maybe not a big market, and you probably won’t get rich doing it, but you will find a sustainable, profitable, fun way to explore your creativity and entertain fellow paddlers.