This is a follow up story for DragonTree Publishing. If you're interested in reading how they got started, published over 1 year ago, check it out here.
Hello again! Remind us who you are and what business you started.
I’m a Brit who came to live on the Spanish island of La Palma who self publishes books about the island. My guide book to the astronomical observatory here has done so well that I’m now working on the 3rd edition to include the newest telescopes and discoveries. I followed that with an anthology of children’s stories set on the island and I have more books planned.
I also work as a self-employed tour guide, at the observatory, excursions for cruise ship passengers, and occasionally private tours. I enjoy the tour guiding, but the income is erratic. I also enjoy writing, but it's very sedentary and solitary. The combination is much more rewarding than either alone, and I find the guiding helps to sell the books and the books help to sell my guiding services. It's an unusual combination, but it works for me. I don't have all that much money but I have a great quality of life.
Tell us about what you’ve been up to! Has the business been growing?
I've had a number of challenges in the last year. A large percentage of my book sales have always been to people who've been on one of my tours to the observatories. In March 2019 a new bunch of guides qualified and with all the new competition I was worried that I might lose both tours and book sales. In the short term, I took on all the guiding work I could find which got very tiring and left me almost no time to work on the 3rd edition of the guide book. Eventually, I settled on writing 5 minutes a day so the project crawled forwards.
The one thing under your complete control is yourself: your attitude, your creativity, and your determination.
I kept going with the idea that I'd save up some money now and do the writing when I was short of guiding work. The date for the new guides to start at the observatory got repeatedly pushed back and pushed back until COVID-19 arrived on the island and all tour guiding was canceled anyway. 2019 wound up being my best year ever. Now I have almost no income but plenty of writing time. The English edition is at the printers waiting for them to start up and I'm maybe 80% of the way through translating for the Spanish 3rd edition. I'm also writing some short stories mostly for fun although I hope to sell them later.
The good bit is that people are stuck at home and some of them are looking for something to read. I've been plugging my ebook on social media, although I won't know if I've got an uptick in sales until the end of the month.
What have been your biggest lessons learned in the last year?
There's an old joke:
How do you make God laugh?
Tell him about your plans.
Almost nothing's gone to plan in the last year, but I've got more money in the bank than anticipated and I'm enjoying my writing time now.
What’s in the plans for the upcoming year, and the next 5 years?
Firstly, finish the dang 3rd edition which has been hanging around taking up space in my head for far too long. It will obviously be some time before the tourists come back but I'll order a normal print run because a) the price per book is cheaper that way b) books have a shelf life in decades, unlike, say, tomatoes and c) it feels like a gesture of faith in the future.
Then I will plan out the next bit. I originally planned to finish my murder mystery set in the observatory, but it might make more sense to get some sort of ebook out there fast while people are still in lockdown. I certainly don't want to send the novel out before it's ready.
I'm not making many plans for the longer term at the moment because so much is completely outside my control. I hope things will be at least clearer in 3 - 6 months and then I’ll try this, that and the other until something works.
Have you read any good books in the last year?
I enjoyed The Money Tree by Chris Guillebeau. It's a novel where the protagonist starts a sideline to deal with student debt. Traditional employment looks even less secure and appealing at the moment.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who might be struggling to grow their business?
As I said last time, if you have/want a local business, look for a local niche.
Don't assume that things will go on working forever. A financial cushion makes the bumps less painful.
Keep throwing stuff at the wall until something sticks. The one thing under your complete control is yourself: your attitude, your creativity, and your determination.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
Still nope. I do almost everything myself and I'm happy with the people I've got for the things I contract out. I'm still hoping to sell the film rights to the whodunnit, and then I'll hire someone to peel my grapes and mix my margaritas.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
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