Jay Artale is a non-fiction author of two travel guides and a Travel Memoir in Verse, and leads a digital nomad lifestyle splitting her time across three continents. She's the Communication Manager for ALLi, and is part of the team that organises and runs the Indie Author Fringe events.
Today Jay talks about her journey as an indie author.
Please describe your indie author journey, from starting point to the present day.
I started writing poetry when I was a tweenie and have continued to write light-hearted verse to this day. I also penned half a dozen children’s stories during a 7-month back-packing trip around South East Asia in the nineties and had daydreams about coming a children’s author. But, I never really embraced the concept of “writer” as a viable career path.
While I was still working as a global project manager for an Los Angeles based entertainment company I began stealth-blogging in my spare time. Initially I was self-conscious about being a blogger so I created “Roving Jay” as my alter ego to fly under the radar of anyone who might actually know me. Now I use it to develop the brand I inadvertently created.
After visiting Turkey and buying a house there in 2008, I started research to find out as much about our local area as possible. There was very little tourist information available online, so I gathered information via personal experience and recommendations during trips to our new house. After a couple of visits I amassed such a wealth of information I decided to share my local knowledge with a wider audience and launched my destination travel website for the Bodrum Peninsula.
In 2012 I began creating and publishing Quick Reference Travel Guides in order to build my mailing list and leverage the breadth of travel information on my website. These trip-fold leaflets summarised the key information about the local towns and villages covered on my website, and were my first foray into self-publishing, albeit on a small scale.
At this point I didn’t know how I was going to use my mailing list, I just knew it was an important part of developing an online presence.
These mini guides helped to organise my thoughts around content structure and organisation, and were the inspiration behind my first self-published travel guide for Turkey “Bodrum Peninsula Travel Guide: Turkey's Aegean Delight“.
I naively thought it would take me 3 months to write and publish this first book, but it took me closer to 9 months to work my way through the writing, editing, and self-publishing steps. I learnt a lot of lessons along the way, but became hooked on the process of being an indie author.
A year later I released my 2nd travel guide, “Gumusluk Travel Guide: Bodrum's Silver Lining“, which is an in-depth look at an historic fishing village that gets mobbed by annual visitors in summer, but returns to its tranquil roots each winter.
At this point I left my corporate job after 16 years, and relocated to Gumusluk in 2015. I self-published my third book earlier this year, “Turkey Tales: A Travel Memoir in Verse”, which is a lighthearted look about the adventures and cultural challenges of assimilating to our new Turkish homeland. It was completed as part of July's CampNaNoWriMo.
The downside of travel guides is that they need to be updated, so I'm working through a cycle of updating the content every two years.
Name three things you know now about self-publishing that you wish you’d known when you started out
- The first draft of my first travel guide became bloated and meandering because I didn’t identify my target audience before I started. But through this process I learned that what you leave out, is just as important as what you leave in.
- There’s no one right path to market, it’s what’s right for the individual author. One size doesn’t fit all when it comes to self-publishing, and you don’t have to apply the same distribution model to each book you release. When I first started self-publishing, I went in search of the correct way to approach it. I didn't realise that each author approaches the process differently. Of course there are core activities (like proofreading and editing) that all authors need to invest in, but distribution channels and what you do yourself or outsource, is a personal choice.
- I’ve been so surprised by the level of collaboration and knowledge sharing between Indies. When I released my first book I conducted endless research into the process. I became overwhelmed not just by the choices available, but also the directional decisions I had to make. That’s why I think ALLi is so successful, it doesn't just provide information, it relies on experience and expertise of other authors who have “been there and done that”, so that you can make the best decisions that are right for you based on tried and tested scenarios.
What has been your biggest surprise as a self-published author?
Do what you love, and you’ll never work another day in your life.
How do you describe yourself and your books – self-published, indie, or something else?
I call myself an indie author and non-fiction writer.
What are your future ambitions as an author?
I had a couple more Turkey travel guides in the works, but after the country's failed coup, the Syrian refugee crisis, the ISIS terrorism activity, and the country's leadership direction moving to a more islamic state severely maimed the Turkish tourist industry I shelved those plans to diversify and expand into other travel guides and non-fiction titles (but there's probably a memoir unfolding in my head too).
I've started drafting out a series of Travel Writing Guides, and the first book in the series “Freewriting for Travel Writers: How to use a creative free writing technique to improve your travel writing” is releasing later this month. The next two books in the series are about guest blogging for travel writers and using pinterest to build your travel blogger brand.
I love writing travel guides because I get a buzz from researching, and the process of simplifying a complex amount of material and organising it to make it easy for readers to digest and create travel memories of their own. So I’ve started working on a series of four non-fiction books about “How to Write a Travel Guide” taking travel bloggers through the four stages of Planning, Penning, Producing and Promoting their own travel guides.
I also have many more slice-of-life poems up my sleeve so am developing Travel Memoir in Verse into a series, and I've also written a collection of poems about the challenges of living with dementia from a carers perspective.
I launched Birds of a Feather Press to help other writers and bloggers publish their travel guides and non-fiction books, and use it as an umbrella to publish my own books. I am also part of a collective of travel writers who are working together to launch an online travel magazine.
How different do you think the self-publishing landscape will be in five years’ time?
There are many different author mindsets, ranging from those futurists who are constantly reaching forward to try to ride the wave of the next big trend, and those who are content in mastering The Now. I'm in the second group. But if I could nudge the future into a certain direction, I'd love to see more indie author collectives and be part of another one.Journey with @JayArtale as she recounts her: How I Do It #indieauthor adventures. bit.ly/JAsss Click To Tweet
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