Around the world in 12 Chapters: Daniel Baylis on Indiegogo
On the eve of turning 30, writer and blogger Daniel Baylis decided he wanted to spend the next year of his life travelling the globe. He promptly quit his job, gave up his apartment, put his stuff into storage, and set off on a 12-country, 12-month-long trip around the world.
Exchanging work for room and board, he wrote about his adventures on his blog, The Conversationalist. Upon returning home, Daniel turned these experiences into a personal memoir called The Traveller, and much like his trip around the world, its publication was self-directed.
1. You took a trip around the world for a year and blogged about it. When did you realize you wanted to turn your experience into a book?
At the beginning of the adventure, I had no idea if I would make it to the end. A myriad of things could derail the journey: sickness, fatigue, the realization that perhaps I had over-romanticized the trip. Ultimately, all of those things occurred, but not to the extent where I needed to throw in the towel. And as I headed into the final few months, I thought, “Wow, I might actually do this!” That’s when I began thinking more concretely about a book. It just so happened that the expedition translated perfectly into twelve distinct chapters — the chronological story of one man’s year in the world.
2. You decided to brave it alone (without a publishing house). What was behind the decision to self-publish?
Great question. The way I saw it, independent publishing aligned with the self-directed spirit of my journey: I researched each of my host organizations, I booked my own tickets, I opted to sidestep pre-packaged “voluntourism” projects. Furthermore, all the tools now exist for writers to create and market professional-level work, if they are so inclined. So for my first full-length novel, I was unconvinced that a publishing house could offer me much more than what I could do on my own. Plus I’ll maintain ownership over my own product.
For those interested, I’ve written a more in-depth blog post on why I chose self-publishing.
3. In September you launched an Indiegogo campaign to raise funds for the book and ended up meeting your goal in three days. Did you expect that? How did it make you feel?
Indeed! The Indiegogo campaign has been a great way to gauge my own marketability. Over the past few years, I’ve developed a small but loyal group of folks who tune into my blog. To leverage $5000 from this community in three days — as well as to see all the sharing on social media — was both exciting and touching.
Also, because I’ve taken some professional risks to make this project happen (i.e. leaving good jobs), to have the book nearly 200% funded is a certain form of validation around the choices I’ve made.
4. Indiegogo gives producers a chance to offer perks to the people who pledge. It also allows you to create other milestones once your goal has been reached. How did you decide what you would offer (I believe a hand knitted scarf was on the table)?
I had to get creative with the perks. The main attraction with the campaign was that readers could pre-order a copy of the book. But unless a funder wants to give away umpteen copies of my book to everyone in her life, I needed incentives for higher contributions.
Photographic prints and hand knit gear are a couple of the additional perks that I came up with. And everyone who gives — whether $5 or $1000 — will get their name printed in my acknowledgements.
The milestones, or “stretch goals” as Indiegogo calls them, encourage people to support the project even after it’s been fully funded. The additional money goes to further the project. So far funders have made it possible for me to produce an audio version and format the work for digital publishing! And we’re very close to the next goal: 100 complimentary copies of the book for 100 libraries across Canada.
5. What avenues did you pursue to get people to discover your book?
At this stage, sharing the Indiegogo campaign with my social media communities has been the main strategy. Once the book is printed, I’ll be doing more traditional marketing: sending copies to various media, arranging speaking engagements and holding contests. I’ll also be experimenting with some guerrilla marketing. So stay tuned!
6. You did a lot of research and are quite open on your page about what it costs to self-publish a book. Was it hard to find this information?
At one point I realized that this project was actually comprised of three distinct journeys: 1) Travelling, 2) Writing, and 3) Independent Publishing.
I’ve treated this third step very much like starting my own business. The journey of entrepreneurship is riddled with unknowns. In my case, I had to navigate specific publishing-related questions: How do I legally register a publishing business? Who’s going to design the book cover? Apart from me sitting in a room full of books and placing them individually into the mail, how on earth will I distribute an independent book? My secret is not being secretive. Whenever I don’t have answers, I turn to my social media platforms and ask.
7. What surprised you most about what you found out?
Perhaps the most surprising element is the professional-level contractors (editor, cover designer, typesetter, proof-reader) who have been willing to take a gamble on my project. At this stage of the game, I can’t offer a ton of money. But some very qualified folks have been willing to hop on board, largely because they dig the indie spirit and want to help an underdog.
In fact, that’s why I prefer the term “team publishing over “self-publishing.”
8. How important is using social media for a writer? What advice would you give another writer contemplating self-publishing?
Social media is vital for me, because it is where I connect with my audience. The success of my Indiegogo campaign is perhaps a dividend of the time I’ve spent building and maintaining my social media communities. In terms of social media, the mantra reads like this: The best time to start was five years ago. A good time to start is now. A bad time to start is next year.
My advice to writers thinking about doing it alone is simple: Don’t do it alone. Yes, write the story. But build a social media community and get professionals to take care of the nuts and bolts.
9. How has this experience altered how you see the future of publishing?
I think the chatter around “the future of publishing” is rather melodramatic. The industry is not going to collapse tomorrow. But things are evolving. There are options available now that did not exist five years ago. A wise publisher no longer sits back and waits for writers to knock on the door.
If I were running a publishing house, my first order of business would be to create a huge team whose sole purpose is to go into the world to track down people who are creating compelling content: writers, photographers, bloggers, twitterers. And then I would start kissing those peoples’ asses. I would pull out all the stops trying to convince them that traditional publishing is worthwhile. Because otherwise there’s a strong chance that they would sidestep it completely.