A year ago today I was heading for the airport in Istanbul to catch a flight to Venice for the start of the across Europe by Train segment of my round the world trip. Wonderful memories from every place I stopped, and equally important, hundreds of incredible pictures from everywhere I went. Fantastic stuff.
Since I returned in May 2010, the first thing I did was compile the best of the pictures, and the travel blog I wrote along the way into my book: Around The World In 18 Days – A Fresh Look at some of the World’s Most exciting Destinations. I found a potential publisher but alas, couldn’t get the funding to print and distribute the thing, so with months of work into the book design and editing, I started looking into the idea of self-publishing for the iPad.
It’s been quite a learning experience, but I finally got the first book: Around The World In 18 Days in the App Store for iPad in December 2010. It didn’t really take that long, I actually have work to do and I managed to put that together in ‘spare’ time, but still, I learned a lot about the dos and don’ts of electronic publishing and I’ve sold a fair quantity of the full book since then.
The biggest expense for me was trying to promote it. Manual promotion through Facebook, Twitter and Stumbleupon as well as commenting on any relevant travel blogs I could find worked quite well. Paid advertising was a hit or miss affair, never really driving the numbers I needed to sell quantity. So, I pulled back on the paid ads and instead spent my time hustling travel editors and sending out free copies of my book. Every review featured on any travel page or blog worked wonders, delivering huge spikes in traffic and sales. Interestingly, the most successful reviews (as far as numbers sold relative to time of review) were from tech and App review web sites. None of the travel blogs or sites came anywhere close to the tech blog numbers.
That made me realize that what drives the electronic market for content isn’t really the content niche I was trying to appeal to, it’s a much broader market of people generally looking for cool stuff to put on their cool new iPads. With that in mind, our job as travel writers or publishers is to try to get noticed in a massively crowded general marketplace where games and free ‘loss-leader’ products stay prominent in the App Store shelf space and niche market products have to compete for space with global publishers on very limited shelf space – which also has a very limited shelf life.
The bottom line is the App Store market (I’m writing here only about the iPad market, it’s what I know, so if you read electronic publishing market, I’m referring only to the rather large segment of it for iPad, because that is all I have experience with) is just as hard to break into as, say, the shelf space of a national or international book store. Do I fit in with Fodor’s and Lonely Planet, or do I fit in with the more eclectic ‘travel journal’ type of small publication? Do I try to keep my products visible with ads or promotions or keep hustling for the big review someplace?
Well, I have found that the only thing that works is patience. Since publishing my first book for iPad, I have also published two more individual ‘Chapters’ of the book as standalones, which are selling very well (48 Hours in Hong Kong and 48 Hours in Cairo) at a lower price point. The beauty of all this is I can do it myself, if, of course, I have time. I’d rather be traveling, but this adventure is the future of publishing and if done well, and done well consistently, could be a rather lucrative revenue stream to fund future travels.
Only time will tell.
Please check out my Travel Series on the App Store for iPad:
48 Hours In Hong Kong - $1.99