As Hemingway said, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”
It takes guts, courage, time, sacrifice, and a whole lot of grit to write and publish a book, so this lesson is dedicated to strategies that will help you get those words on paper.
I won’t waste too much of your time, since you probably need to get back to writing, so here are my five tips for tackling the tens of thousands of words that will make up your book.
Find the right time and place to write.
My friend Donald Miller has a writing cabin in his backyard where he has written a few NYT best sellers. Okay, we aren’t really friends but we shared the stage at a conference in New York City a few months ago and he was the nicest guy so I’m going to pretend we’re besties.
But if you follow him on Instagram, you can learn about his writing cabin. It’s incredibly romantic, right? Writing a best selling memoir in your cabin.
Ah, if only writing a book was like that.
I wrote my book in the passenger seat of a Winnebago across multiple states. I wrote it in airports and in messages on my phone and texted notes to Heath that said: “don’t let me forget to add X to chapter two!”
I wrote wherever and whenever I could. It was incredibly messy and Heath and I got into more than one fight about the giant stack of papers and notes I kept strewn across our table as research.
The best time for me to write is first thing in the morning. I like to wake up, drink my coffee, and read a book on my Kindle. Sometimes I can barely finish one chapter before I’m onto cup number two and clicking away on my computer. Those are good writing days. The ones where you don’t check your email or web traffic or your social media. Your brain is free and clear to create.
But those mornings are rare.
More often than not, I read, then I do yoga, then I reply to Facebook comments and Youtube comments and scroll through Instagram wondering why thousands of people haven’t liked my latest photo.
And by the time I finally start writing, I’m spent! My brain is exhausted.
This may not be true for you, but I know it is for me.
Writing is a creative art form. Your brain can’t be free to be creative when you’re wondering why 27 people unsubscribed from your newsletter. Was it because they know you’re writing a book and want to preemptively separate themselves from you so they never have to hear about it? (Just something that keeps me up at night, NBD.)
There’s no perfect time or place to write. But finding the best time and place for you makes a difference.
Knowing mornings were best for me, I set a routine. Wake up, coffee, read, write 1,000 words.
Write every day.
Some days I wrote 3,000. Some days I just sat there editing yesterday’s crappy words. But I vowed either way to spend my morning hours focused completely on writing my book.
I didn’t wake up especially early, heck I didn’t even wake up at the same time every day. But I established a small routine helped me stay on track with the writing. Because consistency and showing up to create daily is what will get your book done!
Don’t worry about how much you write each day, just keep writing daily!
How to write every day when you’re SO TIRED OF WRITING.
Writing is exhausting.
I speak from experience, obviously.
So what do writers do when their fingers can type no longer?
We speak and let the robots transcribe our brilliance.
Personally, I like using the voice to text option on my iPhone. When my fingers don’t move as fast as my brain, I speak into my phone and let it transcribe my thoughts for me.
Of course, this option only really works with shorter paragraphs since voice-to-text isn’t the best technology yet.
Many authors go the audio transcription route. They walk and talk into their phones or recorders and then send the file off to be transcribed. Then they edit the transcription and have a whole chapter done. Badda bing, badda boom. (Services like Rev are good for this!)
I’m cheap, so I work in smaller blocks by recording voice to text. Transcription services like Rev charge a dollar per minute and can get pretty expensive depending on how much of your book you’re recording. You can also try hiring a transcriptionist through sites like Upwork to see if you can get a lower price.
If you need a break from typing but can’t skip a day of writing, try speaking your chapters into your phone.
Don’t edit while you write.
You’ve likely heard this before.
Don’t edit while you write.
This will kill your mojo and ruin your day and have you working on one verb in one sentence for three hours.
The fancypants reasoning behind this is that writing is creative and uses a different part of your brain than analytical editing.
But my reasoning is that editing your own writing kind of makes you feel like crap. It’s you telling yourself that your work sucks and it all needs to be re-written.
And if you let yourself do that during the creation process, your book will never get done. Editing-you will be so frustrated with writing-you for not being perfect and writing-you will be so insecure about editing-you’s criticism that it won’t be able to write for fear of failure.
Man, no one gets pissed at you quite like you.
If this is something you struggle with, you are required by law to read Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. Specifically, the chapter called Shitty First Drafts.
Let your brain write freely for your first draft. Get the words on paper and worry about editing later. For now, just write.
Now like Hemingway said, writing involves a little bit of bleeding. Sweat and tears are also frequently involved in my experience.
Even though I wrote a practical guide with very little insight into my personal life, writing the book itself was an emotional and intimate act. Writing a book will make you feel insecure and stressed and frustrated and a whole slew of emotions—just ask my husband.
So creating an optimal environment while writing is key. In addition to time and place, you need to create a distraction-free environment to focus on your writing.
How to Limit Distractions, a list of possible ideas:
Turn off your phone and/or leave it in a different room
Turn off your wifi on your computer
Turn on “Do Not Disturb” on your computer
Add a “Newsfeed Eradicator” to your Facebook (it’s a free Chrome extension that has changed my productivity!)
Close all other programs other than your writing program on your computer
Use a writing program like Scrivener that has a “distraction-free” setting
Refuse to check your email, to do list, Trello, or social media before writing
Create a writing routine
Write when no one is home if you like writing alone
Go to a coffee shop if you like writing in controlled chaos
Do all your dishes and cleaning before you go to bed so you have a clean space to work in the morning
Actually, that last one sounds random but is KING.
You know what takes FOREVER? Cooking. And eating. And I love those two things!
Cooking meals ahead of time so you can reheat food easily was essential when I was in the weeds working on my book. Having easy ready-to-eat snacks was important too. (And all this is doubly important if you have a spouse or someone who relies on you to feed them).
I’m not going to pretend to give you advice on how to limit distractions if you’re trying to write a book with kids. Pretty sure that’s impossible and you should be given a trophy or a superhero cape if you even attempt it.
Heath’s bonus tip
If you need extra accountability to work on your book, publicly set your publication date and pre-sell copies of your book. While I personally think you should have your first draft of the book done before you start pre-selling, Heath swears this is the only way he ever finished his book. Because he really had to!
Wrtiting is a complex and sometimes draining artform, but we love it. (As you can probably tell if you chose to read through this 1,500 word blog post!) If you’re working on a book, I hope these tips help you get words on paper this week!
One fateful day while cruising down the stretches of farmland along I-5 in California, we felt the RV shift.
“I think we just blew a tire,” Heath said.
We were towing my car on a tow dolly and the dolly tire blew while we cruised down the interstate. We pulled over, backed the car off the dolly, and began the very stressful process of figuring out how in the world we were going to get this fixed and chastising ourselves for not knowing the tire wasn’t able to handle the journey.
Our new tire pressure monitoring system (cool kids call it a TPMS, I’ve learned) measures the two most common causes of flat tires and blowouts: psi and temperature. And if the psi is too high or low or if the tires get too hot, an alarm will start going off.
The readout on the screen will cycle through each tire (we have it installed on 10 tires—six on the Winnebago, four on our tow car) telling you this information too. We keep it on our dash while we’re driving so we can see how the tires are doing.
We got our TMPS from our friends over at TechnoRV who we met at our Summit in February. TechnoRV has a free guide on tire monitoring that I highly recommend checking out before you consider purchasing a system like this. That way you can learn everything you need to know about your tires before spending a few hundred dollars on a TMPS.
Since we have experience with a blown tire, I’d say this system is more than worth the cost to save you a day of dealing with roadside assistance and finding a new tire!
Okay, the official name of this device is “Winegard ConnecT 2.0 WF2 (WF2-335) Wi-Fi Extender for RVs” but that sounds really techy and overwhelming.
Essentially, this handy device extends the range of the RV park wifi (or whatever wifi you connect to) so you have a stronger signal in your rig. It does not make the actual wifi any better or faster, it simply gives you better signal access. So if you’re at a park with crappy wifi, you’ll still have crappy wifi. But if you’re far away from the wifi repeaters in the park, this will extend the signal so you can actually connect to the park wifi.
Using our extender, I’ve found that RV park wifi isn’t really as bad as its reputation. You simply don’t have the good access to the signal that you need, because you’re too far away or because there are a dozen huge metal RVs between you and the wifi router.
The Winegard extender has given us a significant boost at RV parks (and when moochdocking and connecting to friend’s wifi!). If you use wifi often, this is worth it. But we’ve found that we rely much more on our weBoost and cell data than we do on wifi.
The weBoost cell booster is by far the best gadget we travel with. It boosts our cell signal and is key for recording podcasts and uploading Youtube videos on the road. People ask us all the time if it’s good enough to Skype over. We record all our podcasts using Skype, so the answer is yes!
It’s got a hefty price tag, but if you work on the road, it’s well worth it. Especially if you like spending time in remote areas!
Installation does involve drilling holes in your RV, which was our major reservation with the booster. But the booster comes with everything you need to make sure water doesn’t sneak its way through your roof and after a year, we haven’t had any issues with ours.
You can see how Heath installed our weBoost in this short video:
WeBoost 4GX-RV Cell Booster Review and Installation - YouTube
weBoost offers many different types of boosters, but if you’re an RVer, you’ll want the Drive 4G-X RV model. If you’re an RV entrepreneur, this is a must-have for reliable internet on the road.
Okay, so funny story. Heath did a Facebook live assembling this table and we shared the Amazon link on Facebook and Instagram and…the inventory instantly sold out on Amazon.
But they have more in stock now! Yay!
We picked up this table on Amazon after an overnight stay at a hotel that had a similar one by the couch. I was sitting on the couch working on the table when it hit us—this is perfect for the RV! Heath has been searching for another desk option in the RV, and instantly fell in love with this one.
We looked at a lot of options before choosing the one we have, which is almost the same shade of wood as our cabinets.
If you’re looking for an extra mobile desk, we chose this one for three main reasons:
It’s super lightweight.
It’s not on wheels.
The height is adjustable.
Plus there’s a port for running your chargers and plugs through as well. So far Heath has used it for recording a bunch of podcast episodes and totally loves it. (He does put that pillow behind his back so that he doesn’t end up slouching on the couch while he works too!)
10/10 would recommend if you need extra desk space in the RV! We toss it on the bed during drive days to get it out of the way, but the feet are short enough that they slide under the couch as well.
While he refuses to admit it, Heath is terrible at starting fires. (Which is probably in my best interest since if we have more fires, I end up eating way too many smores.)
But since we’re heading to the cool temps of Canada this summer, being able to make a good campfire is essential. So we picked up a fire starter to make starting a fire—and lighting our charcoal grill—ten times easier.
And it is INSANE!
It’s huge, but extremely effective. It starts a fire in just a few seconds and when the fire dies down, you can light it up again easily. Now we don’t have to worry about buying fire starters or using nasty lighter fluid.
The only con is that Heath seems to think it’s a toy and gets that pyro gleam in his eye that tells me to hide the valuables before he lights everything on fire. Boys will be boys.
So if you’re looking for something to save you time and hassle when it comes to starting fires, this is the toy for you
And a classic. We love our little Cobb grill. It’s tiny. It doesn’t put off any heat, so you can move it if necessary. And it can cook so many things! Heath’s all-time favorite was the day we grilled bacon and eggs with our friends Kara and Nate. My favorite is roasting marshmallows over the coals after dinner, obviously.
Those are our favorite RV gadgets right now! What do you love traveling with? Share in the comments
Note: Many of the products on this list were given to us for free. We don’t accept items for free in exchange for reviews, because writing reviews is super boring. Everything here is my honest opinion based on my own experience with the products. That’s why there are so many exclamation points!(!!!) These are the things I love! I don’t recommend any products that we don’t use or like.
I assumed that was for other people… that’s not what I do, but that’s not true. You can learn anything you want to learn, pretty much. The question is do you want to? Are you willing to put in the time? Most people can be taught to do most things you just have to want to do it.
Mic is a traveler of six years, a teacher, a writer, and an entrepreneur in the truest sense of the word, even though she doesn’t think so. Like a lot of us, Michela didn’t know what she wanted to do with her life. She came from a background of teaching so, naturally, thought that was a good fit for her too. After seeing some friends through their teaching travel adventures, Mic decided it was time to try it. When Mic learned she had to go through some red tape to get international teaching documentation, she began transitioning out of her career as an English teacher into a career as a traveling web developer.
What Mic does
Mic is a freelance web developer who RVs with her husband around the world. Mic has a passion for learning, travel, and solving problems which she utilizes every day in her work and other projects.
Other things we talk about in this episode
How hard it is to answer the question “what is it you do?”
Choosing to learn something you have no idea how to do
Learning new skills by helping people you know first
The power of asking for things outside of your comfort zone
Asking yourself if you want to put in the time to do something new
If you work at something at least a few minutes a day, you can learn something new very easily
Why Mic doesn’t consider herself an entrepreneur
At what point you start saying “no” so you can enjoy your travels
Learning what projects to pursue and which ones to walk away from
You’re awesome. It’s because of people like you that I get to sit around in my RV and record podcast episodes with really interesting people. If you’ve been enjoying the show and want to help others find it, I’d love a review from you in iTunes. Each and every review helps more people find the show (seriously, each one counts).
To leave a review, click here and then go to “ratings and reviews”. It takes one minute and I read every one Thanks!
Heath and I have a bit of experience in how to find RV parks after full-timing across America for the past four years. At first, it was all trial and error.
At our second RV park, we stopped at a cheap $13/night park—knowing absolutely nothing about how much RV parks should cost per night. When we turned on our sink, the water came out BROWN.
Lesson learned! We quickly honed our process for how to find better places to lay our heads at night.
There is no single great listing or website for RV parks and campgrounds across the country, so it can make finding the best spot a little tricky.
Let’s talk about how we find great RV parks first.
How to find RV Parks
We usually type “RV parks/campgrounds near me” into Google maps to find RV parks. This will pull state and city campgrounds along with RV parks and mobile home parks. Google has not yet learned the distinction between mobile home parks and RV parks, so you’ll have to filter through those options.
Most higher-end RV parks are owned by corporations or franchised. The best place to find these parks will be on the corporate websites, like KOA.com, rvonthego.com (Encore Resorts), and CampJellystone.com. Google will also pull them up, but if you know what brand of campground you’re looking for, going directly to their sites will be faster!
Passport America also recently released an updated app available free in the App Store too. When we’re looking for stopover sites or trying to save money, we’ll check Passport America first.
Once we have a map view of parks in the area, we reference the parks’ websites to check out photos and details like rates and amenities. Then it’s time to check the reviews on Google, Facebook, and RV Park Reviews to see if the park is worth visiting. It’s important to always take reviews with a grain of salt, but for the most part, reviews are pretty accurate. We always look for notes from other visitors on how easy the park is to get to and how friendly the staff onsite is.
What to look for before booking
In addition to cost, there are a few things to look at when it comes to picking the right RV park, whether you’re staying for a night or a few months. You can usually find this type of information on the park website or in reviews.
This is a matter of principle for me. We mostly use our own internet, but if you don’t have a hotspot, be sure to make sure the park you’re visiting has free wifi. You can also ask for spots close to the router if necessary. We travel with a Winegard wifi extender to boost the RV park signal too.
Ability to accommodate large RVs
Even if your rig is only 35 feet, look for mention of the maximum length allowed in the park. Even in our old 29-foot rig, we drove down narrow, winding roads to RV parks that seemed too dangerous for our rig.
Beauty & Space
There are so many beautiful RV parks right on the water or tucked in a forest. There also plenty of RV parks that are nothing but a parking lot where you can see straight into your neighbor’s windows. I don’t have to tell you which one is better.
80% of RV parks are near train tracks. I made this stat up. But a shocking number of parks are feet away from railroad tracks which can make sleep a nightmare. Ask before booking, especially if you’re a light sleeper.
Check-in & Check-out
Most RV parks have standard check-in and check-out times like hotels do. Three o’clock check-in and noon check-out are fairly standard. However, those hours are observed very loosely.
Since check out simply means driving away, you don’t have to worry too much about someone knocking on your door and kicking you out if you leave at 12:15. However, some campgrounds will charge a fee for early check-ins, especially if you’re arriving before noon.
You can’t tell if the sites will be level until you arrive, but it’s worth requesting a level site over the phone. These can be hard to come by!
Last year, we had a six-inch difference between the left and right side of our RV. It took all our leveling blocks, plus borrowing 2x8s from the campground to level our rig. It was incredibly frustrating to set up the rig because of this…BUT we were lakefront and there was a bald eagle that hung out by our rig every day. It’s all give-and-take.
The little things
Great service, inexpensive washers with powerful dryers, clean restrooms with locking doors (not just shower curtains), hot tubs or indoor pools, and gift shops are all wonderful amenities at any RV park. Bonus points if there is a dog park or walking trail!
Reserving Your Site
When you call an RV park to reserve a site—because yes, you’ll have to call since most RV parks do not offer online booking unless they are a chain or corporation like KOA—if they answer the phone, they will ask you two questions right off the bat:
How big is your rig?
30 or 50 AMP?
Then they follow up with asking how many slides you have, if you have pets or kids, and if you want full hook-ups (electric, water, & sewer) or partial hook-ups (electric and water only). Often times you can save a few dollars by using partial hookups and stopping by the park dump station when you leave.
We rarely make advance reservations while camping, because we like the freedom to change our plans. If you prefer spontaneity like us, you should consider making advance reservations for holidays and weekends during the summer when parks will book out. We’ve parked in a few Walmart parking lots because we failed to make advance reservations!
If you’re the make reservations ahead type, you generally will want to give a few weeks or a month’s notice ahead of your reservations to ensure you get the dates you’re looking for. For reservations in national parks especially on holiday weekends, you’ll want to make reservations as early as possible!
How long should you stay in one place?
When you’ve never been somewhere before, it’s often hard to estimate how long you’ll want to stay in a particular area or at a particular park. Some of this will depend on services and the allowed length of stay.
At most RV parks, you can stay for months at a time. This is great if you’re trying to save money, considering moving to that area, or if you’re looking to escape weather (i.e. snowbirding).
If you’re dry camping or boondocking, you’ll eventually run out of water or need to dump your tanks. We never boondock for more than 4-5 nights consecutively, but have friends who have boondocked for up to 3 weeks before refueling. How long you can boondock largely depends on your tank size and any modifications you’ve done to your rig, like solar. Many national and state parks, including national forest or public land for boondocking, will have an enforced two-week limit for your stay.
When we make our travel plans, we typically stay in an area for a week before moving on. This is about average for full-timer travel. In the past, we’ve traveled much more quickly, staying no more than three or four nights at a park, but this becomes exhausting. If you’re working full-time or even part-time in your RV, I’d recommend staying places a minimum of a week at a time so you can easily balance work and play.
In the winter, however, all this changes.
Most RVers winter in Florida or the Southwest. Because these areas are so populated in the winter, it can be difficult to find short-term camping. Most people we know opt to stay in parks for a month or two at a time. We’ve rarely stayed in one place longer than two months, and those longer stays are always in the winter months.
Writing this list was nearly impossible. There are so many amazing parks out there. But if I had to choose a top three, these are it!
1. Sunshine Key Resort & Marina, Florida Keys
Beachfront campsite? Check.
Ridiculously beautiful area of America with a ton of things to do in the area? Check.
This campground is currently closed after Hurricane Irma, but should re-open in 2018. Hands down, this was the most beautiful campground we’ve ever visited.
There’s another nearby RV resort on Fiesta Key that is run by the same company, but I didn’t want my whole top three list to all be in the Florida Keys! Fiesta Key did, however, have an awesome tiki bar on the beach with killer piña coladas, so I’m kind of confused as to why I don’t live there full-time.
This campground is insane. We’ve stayed here twice in our travels and each time I visit, it blows me away.
Four pools, three hot tubs, sauna, gym, tennis courts, 18-hole frisbee golf course, softball field, and the crowning glory: their spa.
During our most recent stay, I pampered myself with a 60-minute massage and it. was. glorious. This was my first time visiting an RV park so luxurious it offered an entire spa and it didn’t disappoint.
And to make it all that much sweeter, this giant park is only $50/night, a steal for the amenities. Plus, even though the park itself is huge, there are lots of trees, fields, and ponds to make it not feel like a giant parking lot.
3. Myrtle Beach Travel Park, North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
This is the ideal summer vacation RV park. There were multiple pools, a lazy river, two restaurants on site, and our site had a view of the lake from our front window and the ocean from our back window. We loved this park so much we made a video about it:
OCEANFRONT RV PARK 😍 - YouTube
But most importantly, this park was north of the crazy, packed beaches that Myrtle Beach is known for and incredibly private and quiet. We visited in May and the weather was perfect. With miles of beach stretching in each direction, I instantly fell in love with this park.Honorable mention:
Texas Wine Country Jellystone Park, Fredericksburg, Texas
Miami Everglades Resort, Miami, Florida
Narrows Too, Bar Harbor, Maine
Nugget RV Park in St. Regis, Montana
How to Find Campgrounds
Finding campgrounds follows much of the above process, although campgrounds are typically easier to find. National park websites will have web pages listing all the available campgrounds in the park, along with pertinent information like length limits and hookup options. Many state parks will only offer one or two campgrounds within the park, which makes finding campsites easy.
Many RVers worry that they will be unable to visit parks due to the size of their RV. For the most part, you will not have to worry about this. We’ve visited 16/59 national parks in America (plus many state and national parks in western Canada) and we’ve always been able to take our 33-feet rig through the park. While size may restrict which campground you can visit, most parks can accommodate you at one or more campgrounds.
If you have a larger rig and are nervous about visiting a park, I highly recommend calling a ranger before you visit. They can answer your questions and give you directions to help you avoid any limited access roads. We had to do this once when we ended up at the wrong entrance to Grand Teton National Park. Rangers are full of helpful information and can give you suggestions for how to maximize your visit.
Reserving Your Site
Most state and national park campgrounds operate on a first-come, first-served basis. Some parts of some campgrounds are reservable online, but the reservation process is clunky and confusing. We opt for first-come, first served, and we can usually find a campsite if it isn’t a weekend. However, this is stressful. If you’re planning a road trip and want to guarantee a stay at a certain park, book ahead! Campgrounds at state and national parks book out before RV parks, so as you’re planning your next trip, start booking your campgrounds first.
Our Favorite Campgrounds
1. Tunnel Mountain Village 1 Campground, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada
Sorry America, but Banff is the most beautiful in North America and this campground offers incredible mountain views. Go to Banff. You will love it.
Plus a bear casually strolled by while we sipped on our coffee one morning. Nature is wild.
2. Kirk Creek Campground, Los Padres National Forest, Big Sur, California
Campgrounds along the Pacific Coast Highway book out six months in advance. We didn’t know that when we started our scenic drive three years ago. We passed dozens of campgrounds, all of which were full.
But we lucked out when a ranger took pity on us. Someone had paid for a three-night reservation but had never shown up. So the ranger gave us the last night (though he still made us pay). This campground is on the cliffs of Big Sur, and you can listen to the waves hitting the rocks while you fall asleep.
3. Signal Mountain Campground, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
This campground has crazy lake and mountain views—if your RV is under 30 feet. We camped here in our first rig, which was 29-feet in length. Two deer came up to our window while I was cooking soup (in July, because it gets COLD in the Tetons) and Heath jumped in the lake as his “shower” since we didn’t have hookups. He said it was the coldest water he’s ever been in, but with the best view.
Finding RV parks and campgrounds can be stressful, but hopefully this gives you a little insight into how we find our destinations! Where are the best places you’ve camped? Give us your recommendation!
Today we’re talking about how people find your book on Amazon, the Amazon algorithm, and how you can use them all to your advantage.
Algorithms control Amazon’s search results (and a whole host of other techy things we won’t dive into) and when you make the algorithm happy, more potential customers can see your book.
Let’s start off with the two factors you can control.
Keywords and Categories
When you set up your book in KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing), you will choose two categories and seven keywords for your book. I always lump these two together when talking about them because, well, the boxes to fill them out are right next to each other in KDP.
Let’s talk about keywords first.
Keywords are so hard for me. I have to choose up to seven—and no more than seven—words to describe my 35,000-word book. The word RV comes to mind…but does that count as a word, or is it just an acronym? These are thoughts that keep me up at night.
So I asked Kelsey, who has done work with Amazon keywords before, to help me with this.
There are two ways to choose keywords:
Guess based on your knowledge of the book
Research Amazon search terms
One of these is better (and easier!) than the other.
Kelsey showed me a software called Merchant Words where you can download Amazon search terms. So we can tell Merchant Words the general type of product we’re selling—so for my book, we would say travel—and they will give us a huge list of all the related search terms. You can download this list via CSV and even see how often these terms are searched on Amazon each month. From this list of 300 keywords, we chose our seven! (I’d like to say this was easy, but this whole process took around two hours and lots more research into what keywords were being used by competing books, etc.)
When it comes to doing something you’ve never done before—i.e. publishing a book—I’m all for using tools that will save me time and headache. Merchant Words costs $60/month, which is crazy expensive if you’re just selling one product. But if you think about how much time and stress it can save you, I’d say it’s worth it…if you immediately cancel your account after one month.
Okay, onto categories!
Your categories will be how you classify your book. Unlike keywords, you choose your categories from a list provided by Amazon.
On your book page, categories look like these:
As we discussed in the podcast, these categories do NOT look like this in KDP. Here on the actual book page, they look so clear and easy to read.
For whatever reason, they are SO CONFUSING in KDP. I did choose camping and road travel as two of my categories, but apparent categories like “Food, Lodging, & Transportation” and “Auto & RV Travel” aren’t options! Outdoors & Nature and Hiking & Camping weren’t options either.
Very weird, I know. I wish I knew why Amazon does this, but they do.
I chose my categories by looking at the categories of multiple books similar to mine. I went through the first three pages of results on Amazon taking notes. I spent hours choosing my categories because as you can see in the screenshot above, you want to be classified in the right categories so you can sell more books! If you’re in the wrong category, you’re in the wrong competition.
Because I’ve been number one in my categories, I now have that handy #1 Best Seller banner that Amazon adds to your book page. This gives more social proof to your book for potential customers and makes your book stick out among other search results.
Be sure to select categories that are as niche to your content as possible. I could’ve just chosen “Travel” as my category, but that’s too broad and there’s a TON of competition in all of travel. The smaller and more specific the niche, the better off you’ll be and the more likely you’ll be able to that coveted best-seller banner from hitting #1 in your category.
Your Amazon Sales Rank
Your sales rank tells you exactly where you stand among the millions of books sold on Amazon. At this exact moment (now that my book is seven months old), my rank is at #4,505. But as you saw in the screenshot above, I’m also #1 in Auto & RV travel and Camping and #2 in Road Travel.
When I first got my book live on Amazon, I focused on the sales rank in my categories. The big number meant nothing to me, because who cares about being in 4,000th place? Plus I wasn’t sure how it was calculated or how it affected anything, until someone in my launch team (a fellow published author) said this:
This was from back when I had just gotten my book like on Amazon for pre-orders. I wasn’t sure if #7,700 was good, but I was happy it meant at least someone was buying my book!
Then a friend who did retail arbitrage on Amazon—where you buy stuff and then re-sell it on Amazon for more than what you paid for it—said that book re-sellers look at books in the top 10,000 to choose which ones are worth buying to be re-sold. So that’s how I’ve come to decide that if your book is in the top 10,000, you’re killing it.
Sales rank is aptly determined by how many books you’ve sold. We talked back in part one about how I made my book available for free to increase my sales. Each free book “sold” counts as a sale toward your sales rank, HOWEVER, when your book is free, you’re ranked in the Kindle free store, not the Kindle store.
A quick note on the distinction here
Kindle Free Store = you’re competing with all the books available on Amazon for free. It is my greatest achievement in life to know I once outsold a book called “Get Lucky”.
Kindle Store = You’re competing with all the paid ebooks available on Amazon. That means you’re competing with fiction books, books that have been turned into TV shows, ebook versions of NYT best-sellers, books by presidents, and everything James Patterson has ever written.
In either store, the higher the rank, the better. You’ll get more visibility when your book is free plus can get a much higher sales rank than you can get in the Kindle Store. It’s a good reminder to Amazon that your book is selling like hot cakes.
I’ve always found that after free book days, my paid sales are through the roof. For my most recent free book day, I gave away over 1,000 free books and then sold 66 paid books the next day. 66! That’s my best day of book sales ever. (Another reason to take advantage of those free book days people!)
These paid sales boosted my Kindle Store sales rank higher than normal, plus since my book is selling more post-promotion, I am making more. (In fact looking at the numbers, I made more on the free day + the day after than I would on any two normal days of sales.) One clarification someone reminded me to include here: the free promotions are available to authors who enroll their book in the Kindle Unlimited program.
Okay every time I talk about sales rank, I basically end up rambling about how to game your rank by free ebook promotions. Let’s get back on track!
To sum up, the higher the sales rank, the better off you are—regardless of store.
Now the above factors (sales rank, keywords, categories) make Amazon’s algorithm happy, and reviews do to, but reviews are your most important asset for convincing future customers to buy your book too. You want as many reviews as possible (100+) and if your book is any good, there should mostly 4- and 5-star reviews!
To get reviews, all you have to do is ask.
You can do this by adding a page to your book at the beginning and/or end of your book asking readers to leave a review on Amazon. (I actually don’t have one of these pages, but most books I read do!) This is easy for asking for reviews in a passive way.
The other way to get reviews is to ask people one-by-one. This is the approach I went for because I’m a glutton for feeling awkward apparently.
I created a launch team of 50 people and asked each of them individually if they would be willing to review the book. Then I emailed them and asked them via a private Facebook group to leave reviews during launch week. This led to 55 reviews in the first week of launch.
Now, Amazon has strict rules about asking for reviews. For instance, you can’t reward people for giving you a review. You’re not even supposed to give them advance copies of your book in exchange for a review. This was incredibly common a few years ago, and Amazon has been cracking down on it more and more. So it’s important that if you do assemble a team of reviewers, you can’t do this type of exchange for a review. The key here is the exchange—if you just ask that person for a review, that seems to be okay.
Amazon also will not allow reviews by friends or family. My friends Kevin and Mandy both left reviews for my book, and their reviews were removed by Amazon instantly. I don’t know how Amazon knows all this information about my life, but they do! So be aware of this when assembling your launch team.
Note: You can pay a service to leave reviews for your book. Don’t do this. Not only is this lazy and scammy, those reviews will mean nothing to you because they aren’t real! Hustle for real reviews.
Phew. I could talk about Amazon all day and book strategies and KDP all day but that’s all for part 3! Up next: writing strategies and tips for writing tens of thousands of words.
Question: Are you thinking about writing a book? What’s been holding you back?
You’ve probably never heard of Fiordland National Park, unless you’re planning a trip across New Zealand.
Heath and I have visited dozens of national parks across the globe, but Fiordland is my favorite. It’s staggeringly beautiful and there is so much to do! Here are our absolute favorite things we did (or tried to do!) in Fiordland!
Take an Overnight Cruise through Doubtful Sound
An Overnight Cruise in Doubtful Sound, Fiordland National Park | NZ Ep. 21 - YouTube
You’ll have to watch the video to see the beauty and prestige of cruising Doubtful Sound, but I can it was 100% worth the cost.
We shared a quad bunk with two other people—but those two other people upgraded to a private room so we had the room to ourselves! We didn’t get to sneak a peek at any of the private rooms, but whatever room you go with, the views and activities on the boat are worth it. And the food! So. Good.
In addition to meals and cruising the Sound, we went kayaking in the afternoon, had the chance to go swimming (nope! too cold!) and there was an educational seminar on the national park.
Kayak through Doubtful Sound
During the right times of the day and year, you can kayak with wildlife but we didn’t see any on our trip.
We typically travel with inflatable kayaks, and we dearly missed them in New Zealand. There are so many lakes, rivers, and seas to kayak and without our inflatables, we missed out on so much water! So we jumped at the chance to kayak across Doubtful Sound. My dream was to kayak under a waterfall, but there oddly weren’t any where we docked! Rumor is you can kayak next to falls in Milford Sound, though.
The cruise provided all the equipment we needed for kayaking and with temps in the 50s, we bundled up in waterproof jackets too. My clothes ended up soaked, so learn from my mistakes: don’t wear white.
Fun fact: The water in Doubtful Sound is nearly black. The crew told us if you filled up a glass with the water, it would look like brewed tea. That’s because so much of the water in the sound is rain that has run down the mountains. As it flows down, it picks up tannins darkening the color. There are so many tannins in the water, it looks black!
Drive from Manapouri to Milford Sound
We’ve taken a ton of scenic drives in New Zealand—to Glenorchy, up Lake Hawea, down the coast—but this is hands down my favorite. You can watch all the beauty unfold in our latest video:
This is a real place, guys. | NZ Ep 22 - YouTube
This drive is estimated to take about an hour if you go by Google Maps, but this drive takes nearly three hours. The road is extremely curvy and there is a looooong tunnel you may have to wait for. Give yourself plenty of time to make this drive, or split the drive into multiple days!
We camped at Cascade Creek Campsite using our DOC pass to break up the drive, but it still took us a few hours to make it to Milford…mostly due to the number of necessary waterfall stops. Fortunately this road has plenty of places to pull over and ogle at the scenery.
Take the 20-minute Chasm Hike
Our rule is that if more than one person suggests something, you have to do it. Which is how we found this little 20-minute hike. It’s super easy and fairly flat. Sometimes when I hear a hike is only 20 minutes, I think to myself, “Is this worth it?” I’d rather do a hike that’s a couple hours and offers me more views than just the rainforest.
But the Chasm was really cool! It’s New Zealand’s version of Watkins Glen I would say. The rushing water is crazy loud and the rock formations the power of the water has created are gorgeous. It looks like a theme park landscape, if you ask me. If you want a quick stop to stretch your legs, this is the stop to make!
Kayak or Take A Day Cruise through Milford Sound
We clearly missed this in the video, but everyone said it’s amazing! A bit more touristy than Doubtful Sound (since you can drive directly to Milford versus the boat – bus – boat combo for seeing Doubtful), it’s still stunning and worth the visit! We didn’t do both so I can’t say which is better, but every we talked to agreed Doubtful is better.
PS I had friends who flew in a helicopter from Queenstown to Milford where they then hopped right on a cruise, which they said was 100% worth it, BUT we are more budget-conscience travelers.
Hike Key Summit (Or any part of the Routeburn Track)
So many people recommended this hike to us! At least a dozen. And here I am, recommending it to you. If you go to Fiordland, do. this. hike.
It’s uphill for most of the hike, but it’s not as intensely steep as Roy’s Peak. The entire hike took us a little over three hours and if you’re not in shape—ahem, like me—then you can probably handle this hike. Just bring lots of water and snacks!
There are waterfalls, streams, and mountain views as you hike through the trees, but once you get above the vegetation line, the views are truly SPECTACULAR.
Definitely the best end of hike views I’ve ever had.
Plus once you get to the top, there’s another 45-minute loop nature trail where you can walk around and soak up the full view of the mountain peaks around you.
I would give this hike a 10/10.
If you make it New Zealand, I recommend you tackle everything on this list! Allot three days for Fiordland at a minimum and enjoy the world’s best national park**.
Less Junk, More Journey has built a Youtube channel with over 80,000 subscribers. So when we asked them to speak at our 2018 RV Entrepreneur Summit, we wanted to hear how they make such engaging video content.
In this keynote turned podcast, they share how to use your story to connect with your followers and potential customers.
If you want to learn more about storytelling, I highly recommend picking up StoryBrand by Donald Miller. He goes in-depth into the concepts Nathan explains in this episode and gives practical tips for sharing your story with potential customers.
More About Nathan & Marissa
Life was good, but we knew there was more. More than keeping up with the Jones’s and the daily grind. We wanted a life of adventure and memories.
After the birth of our daughter in 2014, she was the spark that ignited that dream into reality. As parents, we wanted more time as a family and the idea to downsize was born as well. As we made the decision to sell the house, we came across a video of the idea of putting our tiny home on wheels and traveling. It was the perfect solution for our desire of an epic journey and family time.
After a year of preparation, we sold most of our stuff, moved into an RV and hit the open road in 2015. Because video was such an inspiration for our own journey, we started a YouTube channel called “Less Junk, More Journey”. Our channel shows the ups and downs of RVing and paves the way for others to trade junk for journey.
With almost 3 years of Full-time RV Living under our belt, we couldn’t be more free. Our journey keeps us moving ahead and keeping up with the Jones’s is now a thing of the past.
The past couple months Alyssa and I have been in New Zealand and while we’ve been posting pretty frequently on Youtube, I haven’t written any.
When I first started blogging a few years ago this was the only real medium where I created content. now, with the podcast and Youtube I’ve sort of neglected this thing. Sorry blog.
Long story short, I really miss writing. For me, writing is one of the best ways for me to express what’s inside my head. Whenever I’m struggling through a problem, I write. When I’m stressed or anxious about the future, I write.
And my favorite kind of writing is when I’m just working things out and sharing what’s on my heart. For a good bit of this blog, that was definitely the intention.
However, lately I feel like I’ve mostly written how-to posts like this one. While I like being useful, I’m currently in a mental place where I just want to share what’s happening in our lives VS write a “top 10 things you should do in New Zealand” post, which sounds boring (but I probably will write that one at some point because I’m sure people are Googling it and I have a lot to say on the matter, sorry for being click-baity).
For today’s post, I just wanted to sit down and share an update of what is happening in our lives at the moment (and tentatively for the rest of the year).
Here’s a few things I cover in today’s post:
Highlights from 2018 (so far)
What work projects we’re currently working on
Our (tentative) plans for the rest of the year
What I’m working on personally
Our next big dream
Highlights from the First 5 Months of 2018
February: We Hosted Our Second RV Entrepreneur Summit
Pretty much all of January through February Alyssa and I were really heads down and focused on hosting our second RV Entrepreneur Summit. We sold out of tickets again this year and doubled in size from 120 to 250 attendees, which was crazy awesome.
Last year we didn’t know that we’d host a second conference, but the feedback we got from RVE Summit #1 was that we couldn’t NOT host another one, so we did.
We started scheming for this year’s summit almost as soon as we wrapped up the first one in 2017. I remember being in Maine last summer brainstorming the theme for this year’s conference, what the backdrop would look like, the speakers we’d invite and everything else that goes along with event planning.
Of all the projects Alyssa and I have done together, I think hosting the RVE Summit has been (at least for me) the most meaningful.
We not only enjoy hosting the actual event, but even the planning process is something we both get excited about. The conference would be months out and we’d be sitting in the RV over a glass of wine and thinking about how we could make it a great experience for people. In the weeks leading up to the summit we’d go on daily walks around the campground and constantly be planning little details like where the food truck would be and where we’d hang lights.
The actual event itself is always a complete blur, kind of like your wedding day. You’re basically just running around and saying hello to everyone and making sure that everything is going the way it should be. Afterwords you take a breath and say, “I think that went well.”
For me the coolest part about hosting a conference like RVE Summit is to see what happens afterwards. I’ve seen so many social media posts where people are meeting up with fellow attendees on the road or starting a new business, it makes my heart incredibly warm to know our conference played a small role in that.
Plus, the weeks leading up to the conference we get enough quality friend time to last us for months. So much of our time on the road the past few years has just been us two, so when we finally are surrounded by like-minded people, it fills our community gap in a major way.
A few things I’ve learned from two years of hosting our own conference:
#1: It‘s crucial to have a partner and/or wife with event planning experience.
I can’t even pretend that I carry an equal amount of weight in planning the summit. Alyssa leads and executes on a level that I can’t compete with. She’s detail oriented and is really what makes the event run smoothly. I sometimes struggle with taking my head out of the clouds to execute on all the day to day details, but she excels there (and I think that’s why we make a good team).
My job for our summit is to mostly keep in touch with all our speakers, sponsors and partners and make sure that everyone is happy. Alyssa literally does everything else (thanks Alyssa).
#2: You don’t have to be an expert or pretend to be an expert to bring together valuable advice and community.
When I started the RV Entrepreneur podcast Alyssa and I had been on the road for a year and just started our video production business.
I was worried that by starting a podcast about building a business that I’d seem like a fake. Because of this, I made the podcast centered around other RV entrepreneurs and their advice/lessons. When relevant, I would also chime in and share my experience as well. I just didn’t want it to seem like a 25 year old kid with a small business who was trying to be another “entrepreneurship expert” or something.
I wanted to focus on gaining that experience on my own. But I also loved hearing people’s stories and the interview process and being able to share what I learned while we get Campground Booking off the ground and dabble in other projects.
Both from hosting the podcast and the conference, I’ve learned that just because you’re still learning something yourself and aren’t an “expert”, it doesn’t mean you can’t provide value by connecting like-minded people, sharing your honest lessons, and building a community of passionate people.
#3: Say no to almost everything during the month of the conference.
This year Alyssa and I spoke 3 times during the month of our conference. We flew to San Diego, New York City, and Toronto all right before and after the summit. It was exhausting.
Speaking at a conference called VOX Con in NYC a couple weeks before our Summit
I said yes to several speaking commitments and a video gig because I always tend to over commit. I have this problem where I say yes to things months in advance because it seems like forever away and like I can balance it all, but then the time comes and all of a sudden it’s our conference month and I have us flying everywhere. Oops.
All of our trips in February were great opportunities that I’m incredibly grateful for and all turned out really well, it was just bad timing with our own event going on. A conference takes focus and next year I’m telling myself to be vigilant on saying no to more opportunities around our conference.
Alyssa’s first book signing in Toronto. Hosted by our friend Shane who runs the Toronto Camping and RV Show the weekend after our summit. Shooting a video for Winnebago in February for their new line of handicap accessible vehicles at their San Diego dealer meetingApril – June: Our First Big International Trip to New Zealand
Alyssa and I have both had a goal of traveling internationally together and this year we finally made it happen. We finished paying off student debt last fall and felt like we could splurge a little to go somewhere. New Zealand has always been near the top of the list (plus it is a country friendly to RVers), so that would be our first place to explore abroad.
We set aside two months of time to explore New Zealand. Almost everyone we questioned about New Zealand said they’d spent a week or two and that wasn’t enough. We reasoned that two months would be plenty of time to explore a country the size of Colorado (could have easily spent more time there).
We had no idea if we’d need to buy a campervan or rent one, but we knew that we wanted to explore New Zealand by campervan VS renting a car or Airbnb.
Through a recommendation from a summit attendee (thanks Richard), we found a rental company called Wilderness Motorhomes and decided to go with them. They offered an on board wifi package for $10 NZ/day, which was ideal since I’d be taking some meetings/calls while over there. Plus, their rigs looked beautiful and they had stellar reviews.
We ended up falling in love with the size and mobility of a smaller unit (23.5 feet) and could see our future RV travels being in a smaller rig.
Aside from the RV and travel side of things, I was pretty nervous about going abroad. Up until we left, Alyssa and I still had a number of clients on retainer for social media/video work and we’d just launched Campground Booking with several campgrounds in Canada. I was concerned that traveling abroad would just put a major halt on our business and everything we’d been working towards. I also didn’t know how the connectivity would be and I guess I was just nervous in general (I’d never been away for that long).
It seems silly now because everything has worked out fine, but it’s the truth. Also, since we were so heads down on the summit until we left, we had hardly any time to plan our route or do research or even daydream about what the trip would be like.
I’ll spare you the gushing about New Zealand because at this time we’ve published over 16 videos on our Youtube where we do that pretty much the entire time. New Zealand was a pure dream. It was hands down the most scenic landscape I’ve ever seen and just as beautiful as everyone says it is and I can’t wait to go back.
Okay, I had to gush a little bit. It’s awesome and if you want to see what our days were like, you can watch lots of them on Youtube.
Picking up our Campervan Rental in New Zealand! NZ Ep. 3 - YouTube
Key learnings from our first big international trip:
I need to move slower.
Because we had a limited time in New Zealand and we’d finished off some client projects, Alyssa and I went ALL IN to our travels and towards the end of our trip we were both feeling exhausted.
We averaged driving two hours per day and when we returned the rental RV back to Wilderness, the lady who checked our odometer said we’d put the most kilometers on a rental that she’d ever seen (high score for us, woohoo!).
I think we were both afraid of missing something so we tried to do everything, and that just isn’t sustainable for a very long time (or our business) and not how we’re used to traveling. I share this with hesitation because at the end of the day the fact that we could take a two month trip over to New Zealand is INCREDIBLE/AMAZING in every way. I just have been feeling the need to slow down.
People in other countries work less than Americans (or so it seems).
The first thing Alyssa and I noticed upon arriving in New Zealand on Good Friday was that everything was closed (literally everything). In America most places stay open 24/7. But even aside from major holidays, it just seems that the Kiwi culture takes significantly more vacation days than Americans and spends more time outside (after all their country is beautiful).
I enjoyed getting to talk and hang out with Kiwis and hear their perspective on life and work and camping and everything else. I think this will be one of my favorite parts of traveling to different parts of the world, the various outlooks and ways other cultures see the world. It makes me feel small in the best of ways, which I know is a travel cliche, but a true one.
It’s easy to get lost in the hustle, hustle, hustle culture of American work and never even realize that most of the world has such a thing as “encouraged sabbaticals” and “gap years” and things that make you realize your work is not your identity.
Speaking of work…
Projects We’re Currently Working On
#1: Campground Booking
Earlier this January my two cofounders (Bob Orchard and Paul Ryan) and I officially launched Campground Booking. This is a business I’ve been working on since 2016 and it has taken awhile to actually have paying customers (which we have now, yay!).
While the goal was originally to create a website that was the end all, be all site to find and book your campsites (and still is), we started off by creating a property management system for campgrounds. As a bootstrapped business, our goal was to build something that we could actually charge for and make money with (where a strictly booking site we’d have to spend most of our time marketing, creating listings, content, etc).
Since launching in January we’ve processed a little over $200k in campground reservations and over 1,500 campers have booked a site through us. We’ve learned a ton and our software still has a long way to go, but Bob and Paul have done an awesome job of making an easy, intuitive product for campgrounds to use.
In addition to our property management system for campgrounds, we have created a way for travel and association-type websites to use our listings to power reservations on their website. For example, one of our partners is a website called Travel-British-Columbia.com and we are currently powering the campground listings on their website. When someone books a site at a campground listing on their site, we charge a small fee.
Some days we work all day, some days we speed around on jetboats and explore cool towns, and some days we just drive. Actually, most days we are driving.
Today’s vlog shows what a completely typical RV life day is like, starting with our morning routine and ending at an RV park (err, holiday park! I always forget this is what RV parks are called in New Zealand!)
A Semi Typical Day of RV Life | NZ Episode 20 - YouTube
Let’s talk a little more about morning routines.
Heath and I LOVE having a routine. When the view out your bedroom windows changes every night, it’s so important to have something steady in your life like a routine. It keeps you grounded and keeps the constant change in your location from being overwhelming and exhausting.
We have very similar morning routines—albeit Heath wakes up significantly earlier than I do. We drink two cups of coffee each day—Heath drinks two cups of half-caf French press and I drink two cups of decaf instant coffee. Decaf coffee was so hard to find in New Zealand I had to drink instant! (Back in America we travel with a cheap espresso maker so I have two decaf lattes a day.)
While we sip on our coffee, we read on our Kindles. We borrow new ebooks from our local library back in Texas every week. My favorite reads of the trip: Dark Matter and Big Little Lies. I think one of Heath’s favorite reads lately was Capital Gaines by Chip Gaines. He reads business books; I get sucked into novels.
Then Heath moves onto journaling and I move onto yoga. If I don’t move first thing in the morning, I’m lethargic and cranky all day. So yoga and a little pilates are my best start to my day. I’ve only ever been to one yoga class—it was in Spanish so I was in way over my head—but I loved it! I’ve borrowed a few books on yoga poses that I work through every morning. I’m not great at it, but I’ve decided to never let that stop me from trying.
Heath is obsessed about journaling! I believe journaling is one of the number one things you see recommended for a morning routine. Heath uses One Note, which is a free app by Microsoft. He has kept daily journals for years and swears by them. He also re-reads them periodically to remind himself how much he has grown or changed over the years, which is pretty cool and makes me wish I enjoyed journaling. (All my journals always turn into to do lists! Is any one else guilty of this??)
We work through our whole morning routine in about an hour and then move onto work, breakfast, and packing up the RV.
Our morning routine is simple, but it is oddly comforting. I like knowing exactly how the day is going to start—all the while knowing that the day will also take me somewhere beautiful that I’ve never been before. I think that’s my favorite part of RVing. You can see something new every single day!
As you saw in the video, this day of driving, dumping the tanks, showering on the side of the road, and exploring town is our typical day. A bit of travel, a bit of work, a bit of driving. I don’t think there’s a perfect balance, but it’s all blended together every day.
Before we flew to New Zealand, my dad sat us down to watch “Aerial New Zealand.” Heath and I don’t watch much TV, but my dad swore this was amazing. So we sat down to watch the show on the Smithsonian channel and oh. my. gosh. If you want to be inspired to travel New Zealand, watch that show!
In the show, we heard of jetboating for the first time. We knew if we only did one thing while in New Zealand, it was this. It didn’t disappoint.
JETBOATING IN NEW ZEALAND | NZ Episode 19 - YouTube
Jetboating quick facts:
The boats go up to 85 kph (or over 50 mph!)
The boats don’t have brakes
To stop the boat, the captain will spin the boat in a circle