Carla King’s Self-Publishing Boot Camp provides workshops, courses, and consulting on every aspect of self-publishing for everyone from one-book authors to emerging publishing empires. I’m an author, journalist, and publishing geek, and I keep in touch with advances in the industry, new technologies, products, and services. My mission is to save you a lot of time and money spent in experimentation, bad choices, and dead ends by recommending a path suited to you using the most effective processes and the most reputable providers.
Hi, I’m Carla King, an adventure travel writer and self-publishing expert. In 1994, I was just like you – I had a book that couldn’t get an agent or a publisher. Since I was a tech writer, I just did it myself, and kept doing it! Today I help writers get their books published in all the print and ebook formats for sale in all the online retailers and brick-and-mortar stores with the Self-Publishing Boot Camp program of books and workshops. And I still write about about travel and adventure in 4x4s and on motorcycles, to hike, bike, snorkel, boat, and paddleboard.
But this mixed-up story begins with a bicycle. In 1993 I lived in the South of France. Yes, it was a fantasy and, since I loved to mountain bike, I looked for a guidebook to all the great little roads and trails in the area, in English or French. But there were only these huge bicycle guides to the whole country, with only one or two routes through the area, and no daylong trips. So during my six months living in the South of France I wrote a guidebook. When I got home, I tried to get it published, but publishers didn’t want it. It was good, they said, but it wasn’t “big” enough. Because I was stubborn, and knew there was a market, and I was curious about the process, I did it myself, took the books back to France with me, sold them by hand to the tourist offices, bicycle shops, and English bookstores, and made enough money for yet another trip back.
By that time, I had already worked for about ten years as a freelance technical writer in Silicon Valley and in Multimedia Gulch. At that time, everyone, including me, was developing multimedia CD-ROMs. So I knew how to write step-by-step how-to guides. This meant that writing a guide to day trips by bicycle was easy. But I didn’t know how to write travelogues. At least, travelogues that magazines and newspapers wanted to buy! So in 1994 I went to a the Book Passage Travel Writing conference and learned how. At this conference I also met Allen Noren, a travel editor who worked for a new web property started by Tim O’Reilly called the Global Network Navigator, or GNN for short, that published realtime reports from the road. Because the internet was new (it was 1994, after all), he was having a very difficult time finding real writers who could deal with email and FTP.
So when I proposed sending dispatches from a motorcycle trip, and said I could email and FTP and HTML and dropped a few more key geeky acronyms, he said I was hired. I got $25 a dispatch, a great editor, and instant notoriety among the about 500 people who were using the web at the time. I authored a book about that trip titled American Borders, and have since self-published my own writing on the web and in print from other trips.
So now I was the motorcycling, travel writing, live-dispatches-from-the-road-to-the-internet gal. American Borders is a book based the 1995 chronicles of breakdowns in small towns all around the USA during a four-month stint as R&D test rider for Ural America. What eventually became the Motorcycle Misadventures series continued in China, India, Europe, and Africa on other cranky indigenous motorcycles like the Chinese Chang Jiang and the Royal Enfield Bullet. On the way I’ve authored a bunch of little free ebooks, like Motorcycling for Beginners, which I’m happy to hear has helped a lot of people buy a sensible first bike. And I’ve been published in a lot of anthologies, like the great Travelers’ Tales series and In Search of Adventure, and newspapers and magazines.
When I came home from China, I was invited to join a notorious writing group, the Wild Writing Women, twelve women adventure travel writers in the San Francisco Bay Area who met once monthly to workshop our stories, make dinner, drink and laugh and commiserate. We even traveled together, meeting en-mass every year or so in an exotic local like Florence, the South of France, Northern Ireland, Marrakesh. When we complained that our best writing wasn’t getting published, we self-published Wild Writing Women: Stories of World Travel, which was an instant hit, so much so that it was picked up by a New York publishing house the following year, where it eventually floundered due to inattention. I set up a website for the group and produced eBooks and magazines of our writing, including Ireland: The Sacred and the Profane, Taking Flight: An Offering for First-Time Travelers, and Writing: Your Passport to Life. Check it out. It’s still there, and you can download the e-zines for free.
It was through this group that I met Lisa Alpine who is a travel and writing partner and became a dear and lasting friend. When we co-founded Self-Publishing Boot Camp in 2010 it was just to educate a few author buddies in need in the San Francisco Bay Area. The first was a group of eight authors and was held in Lisa’s living room. It grew. And how!
I had long spoken at writing conferences about technical topics like creating your author website, how to write for the web, and effective author blogs, but now self-publishing was the only thing people wanted to know about. Because it too so much of my time to answer questions, and because Lisa went back to writing and teaching travel writing, I quickly put together a little how-to guide and workbook from our workshop notes so I didn’t have to spend so much time repeating myself. Then, because it went out of date so quickly — services and technologies were popping up all over in 2010 — I updated it. And updated it again. (If you see a used copy on Amazon, don’t buy it. It’s waaay out of date!) I don’t think I realized though just how timely this guide was until I spoke at a California Writers Club meeting to 70 authors and sold 64 books. That was a record, but I still sell a lot of books when I speak on self-publishing at the San Francisco Writers Conference, Bay Area Independent Publishers Association, Central Coast Writers Conference, even events like the Overland Expo, where I present “Self-Publishing Your Adventures” and social media tips for travelers. I’ve also presented online for seminars by Be The Media and Small Publishers, Artists and Writers Network (SPAWN). And now I’m the self-publishing columnist for PBS MediaShift where I get to comment on what’s happening in the industry.
People think of me a motorcyclist, a writer, or a traveler, depending on what community I’m in at the moment, and I love all those things, as well as hiking, yoga, snorkeling and scuba diving, bicycling and, finally, gardening, which seems contrary to my moveable feast of a lifestyle. I’m a committed renter, and recently moved from a tiny glass house with a large, lush garden in Point Richmond that looks out across the San Francisco Bay. When my landlord reoccupied the house, serendipity, or fate, took me to a writer’s retreat in Borrego Springs, and showed me love and more adventure than I ever dreamed of, and now I live on the harbor in San Diego through the end of the year. I don’t know where I’ll be after that, which is pretty thrilling, actually. I’ll let you know what happens in my blog.
So I hope you’ll subscribe to my blog here, follow me onTwitter and Pinterest @missadventuring, on Facebook at Misadventures Media or Self-Publishing Boot Camp, email me at carla at carlaking dot com, and sign up for one or all of my newsletters – Motorcycle Misadventures and Miss Adventuring are on carlaking.com and Self-Publishing Boot Camp is on selfpubbootcamp.com. Oh yeah. You’re here already. Please explore, and I really would love it if you’d tell me your self-publishing stories. It’s always interesting to me, the different ways authors figure out how to publish. What you were happy with, what you weren’t, and what you’d do the same way or differently.