2 Years ago, I became a published author.
My book is called ‘Welcome to Rota.‘ It is a guidebook for military families living in Southern Spain at Naval Station Rota. My family had orders to live there for 3 years. In many ways, it was an amazing opportunity. Spanish food, culture, music, and festivals were exciting. Traveling to gorgeous, historic towns was a fun adventure. But living overseas is sometimes a huge challenge. I saw numerous military families struggling to adjust to life in Spain. People kept saying, “I wish I had known…” or “There should be a book telling us how to…” I wanted military families to have a smoother adjustment to life overseas. So, I wrote a book about it!
Moving Overseas is Hard. I wrote a book to make it easier.
When we PCS’d to Spain, we had three small children, ages 1, 3, and 4. During our first few weeks there, we didn’t have a car or furniture, because we didn’t realize it would take months to have them shipped. I had to learn to drive stick shift our first day there, because there were no automatic rental cars. It took several months to adjust our budget, find our way around, and learn how to shop at Spanish grocery stores. (Yes, it is different!)
Once I had things figured out, we started to travel and truly enjoy the rich culture of Southern Spain. I started a blog to share our adventures with friends and family. I took lots of pictures, and wrote about the history of the gorgeous towns in Southern Spain. We tried local food and even learned how to cook authentic dishes. Soon, my friends on base were referring to my blog to plan their next trip. They asked for more specific details, like GPS coordinates and parking info. So I included that. After a few years, I realized I had written a book. Turning a blog into a book is a huge step, but you can do it!
How to Self-publish a book through Amazon.
Because my book would only be interesting to a very small niche of people (American military families stationed at a small base in Spain), I chose to self-publish. I wasn’t sure how popular the book would be, so I wanted to find a way to publish without an up front cost. Amazon self-publishing turned out to be the perfect solution! The Amazon self-publishing company is called Create Space. The author can write their manuscript in a Word template, then upload it to the site. (I highly recommend downloading their template rather than typing a standard Word document!) I retained all the rights to my book, and had complete control over the formatting, style, and cover design. There were options to hire a copy editor or designer, but I did that work myself, so I literally spent nothing up front to publish the book. Create Space only prints on demand, so there is no cost to you for printing copies. The company takes out a set percentage of every sale. You set your own price so you can make a profit after their cut. So whether you sell 10 copies or 1,000 copies, the price per copy is the same, and your profit per copy is the same. The book becomes available as a paperback or eBook, sold through the Amazon website. I liked this, because it was an easy way for me to advertise and sell the book. I could just tell people “It’s on Amazon,” and they could find it easily, without having to go through my personal websites or create any login information.
Amazon and CreateSpace did not pay me for this review. I had a great experience with the company and wanted to share my opinions!
Publishing a Book about a Military Base is a Headache.
I will warn you that the hardest part about self-publishing a book is not the editing and publishing. It’s what comes afterwards. You will have to let people know your book exists, and convince them it is worth buying. Because I self-published a book about a military base, I ran into a HUGE amount of red tape. At one point, the base Public Affairs Office tried to convince me I had no right to publish the book. Then I remembered my right to free speech. Once the book was finally completed and published on Amazon, the base officials would not allow me to promote it on base, since it was for profit. This was truly frustrating, since my only market was Americans stationed at that base!
Thankfully, the local Spanish officials were much more understanding. They were thrilled that an American had written a book about their town. My ‘Welcome to Rota’ book helped bridge the gap between the American and Spanish communities. I reviewed local restaurants and told Americans how to find things at local stores. I shared how to enroll your children in Spanish schools, and how to rent a house in town. These things help Americans interact with the local culture, and are great for Spanish businesses. The staff of the Mayor’s office invited me to the Rota Town Hall (which is a castle) to present my book in English and Spanish. I summarized my message and read passages about Spanish culture, and how to cook fish from the fish market. They agreed to sell copies of the book at the tourism office!
After the success at the Spanish castle, I found a way to market the book on base. The Navy Exchange (NEX) on base was run by Spanish nationals. Inside, they sold American clothes and goods, including books. After months of paperwork and negotiations, I sold a box of my books to the NEX as a contractor. They are now on the shelves alongside other local travel guides. So military families can now purchase my book in paperback on base, or at the local tourist office, for the same price they can purchase it online at Amazon. I continue to sell several copies per month.
How to print, market, and sell your self-published book.
I learned a lot from my publishing process, and made plenty of mistakes along the way. But if I can successfully publish and market a book on a military base, then you can do it anywhere! Follow these steps for success:
- When writing a non-fiction book, make sure you answer a question or solve a problem. People who need those answers are your market audience!
- Use Amazon CreateSpace to self publish for free. You can order printed copies for yourself at a reduced price, or sell copies online for a small profit.
- Before the book becomes available, create some interest and buzz about it. Use social media to reach your audience. Have friends or bloggers read a copy of the book before release. When they share a review with their audience, your market grows! I have done that for other military spouse bloggers in my monthly book reviews, like the one here.
- One your book is published, order paperback copies for yourself. Give these away to relevant bloggers or group leaders. This increases awareness of your product. I donated copies for free to the Rota base library. Readers could discover the book there, and have a chance to browse through it. I was confident that once they saw the wealth of information, they would want to buy a copy.
- Make it easy for customers to buy your book. Using CreateSpace will make it available on Amazon as a paperback. You can create an eBook version for readers to download too.
- Reach out to local organizations who may be connected to your topic. Keep networking! My invitation to the Rota castle was the result of a simple email I sent to the mayor’s staff politely asking to fact check something!
- Think about creative ways to reach your audience. Create social media accounts for the book, or write a blog about it. Join groups (virtual or in-person) that are relevant to your topic. Think about where your audience is, and how they read.