Tag Archives: Confessions of a Work Camper: Tales from the Woods

10 Things You Can Do to Increase Your Chances of Having a Great Experience as a Camp Host

Standard

Some aspects of having a great experience as a camp host are matters of chance. You have little control over the weather, the mood of your boss, the number of mosquitoes buzzing around your campsite, or whether your campers are nice folks or jerks. However, here are 10 things you can do to increase your chances of having a great camp hosting experience.

#1 Choose a campground in an area that’s right for you. If you read my previous post 10 Steps to Getting a Job as a Work Camper at a Campground, you’ll know you need to consider where you want to work. If you hate humidity, don’t take a job in the Deep South. If you love humidity, stay out of the desert. If you’re hoping for a cool summer, go up in the mountains. You’ll start out at a disadvantage if you hate your campground’s location.

#2 Ask a lot of questions before you accept a job.

The following are questions you may want to ask:

  • What is my pay rate?
  • How many hours will I be scheduled to work each week? What happens if I work more than my allotted hours? Will I get paid for overtime? Does overtime have to be approved in advance?
  • What duties am I responsible for?
  • How many days off will I get each week? Will I get the same days off each week? When does my time off begin and when does it end? What if my day off falls on a holiday?
  • Will my partner and I work the same hours? Will we get the same days off?
  • Am I allowed to have visitors while I’m on duty?
  • If I drive my own vehicle for work related duties, will I get a mileage reimbursement?
  • If I work after Labor Day weekend, will my hours be cut? If they are cut, by how much?

#3 Get it in writing. Ask for a contract. If there are any disagreements between you and the management in the future, you can refer to your contract.

Skunk cabbage growing in the campground where I was the host for two seasons.

#4 Research the area where you’ll be working before you go. Learn all you can about the nearby attractions as well as what animals and plants you might see. Keep learning once you get to your campground. Go to the places campers ask you about. Learn the answers to the questions everyone asks.

#5 During your research get yourself a really good paper map of the area. Some people are visual learners and will really appreciate it if you can show them how to get from here to there on a map. Also, if you are in a remote location, GPS systems and map apps may not work.

#6 Know the campground rules and follow them. It’s difficult to enforce rules if campers see you breaking them.

#7 Get paid for every hour you work. It’s only fair. Likewise, work every hour you put on your time card. That’s only fair too.

These are the comfortable, sturdy boots I wore during my first season as a camp host.

#8 Use gloves when cleaning toilets. If the company you work for doesn’t provide you with gloves, provide your own. Trust me, it’s a lot easier to clean toilets when you’re not overly worried about getting grossness on your hands.

#9 Wear comfortable, sturdy, closed-toe shoes. Break them in before you start your job.

#10 Laugh every chance you get.  People will be rude. You’ll have to pick up annoying micro trash. It will rain when you were hoping for sunshine or snow when you were hoping for warmth. A sense of humor will get you through the rough spots and make your entire camp hosting experience much more enjoyable.

Blaize Sun was a camp host for two seasons (mid-May through mid-October) in a remote Forest Service location in the mountains of California. She wrote a book about her experiences. It’s called Confessions of a Work Camper: Tales from the Woods. During her time as a camp host she chased a nursing mouse out of a restroom, cleaned feces off the floor, and discovered a dead man. Her sense of humor is all that kept her going on more than one occasion.

Confessions of a Work Camper: Tales from the Woods
I took the photos in this post, except for the image of Confessions of a Work Camper. That’s an Amazon affiliate link. If you click on the image, anything you put in your cart and buy from Amazon during that session will earn me a small advertising fee.

 

 

10 Steps to Getting a Job as a Work Camper at a Campground

Standard

Lots of rubber tramps, nomads, vagabonds, and van dwellers are drawn to the idea of work camping. Working a few months, accumulating a pile of money, then living several months without a job can be quite appealing. While there are a variety of work camping jobs available throughout the year (Amazon CamperForce during the winter holiday season, the beet harvest shortly after that), working at a campground during camping season (typically Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend, but sometimes later in the year depending on the weather) gives workers the added bonus of spending time in nature.

People who’ve never before worked in a campground often wonder how they should go about getting such a work camper job. Today I’ll share with you ten steps to help you get a work camper job at a campground.

#1 Be honest with yourself about your strengths, weaknesses, desires, and dislikes. If the thought of cleaning pit toilets makes you gag, you may not cut it as a camp host. Perhaps you might be better suited to a job at a campground store. Not really a people person? Maybe you should get a job (such as doing maintenance) which doesn’t require contact with the public every day.

#2 Consider where you want to work. What state or region draws you? Do you want to be close to family members or as far away as possible? Hate sand? You probably don’t want to get a job at the beach. Have breathing problems? You may not want to work in the mountains. Can’t stand the heat? The desert is probably not for you.

Remember that as a rule, temperature drops with a rise in elevation. If you’re looking to escape from summer heat, get a job in the mountains. If you’re always cold, find a place to work at sea level.

Being flexible may improve your chances of getting a job. If you decide you’ll only work in Delaware, you might discover the job market is tight. If you expand your job search to the entire Eastern Seaboard, you’ll have a better chance of finding employment.

#5 Decide if you want to work at a private campground or on public land. Some facilities on public land are run by private companies who have negotiated contracts with the government agency managing the land.

#4 Think about the amenities you need. If you need electricity for medical reasons, don’t take a job at a campground with no electrical hookups unless you will be allowed to run your generator whenever necessary. (Many campgrounds have quiet hours when running a generator is not allowed.) If you can’t live without Facebook and YouTube, don’t work in a remote location without internet access. If you have to check in with a loved one every night, a campground with no landline and no cell phone service is not going to cut it for you. If you need a hot shower every morning and you can’t take one in your rig, make sure any campground you consider working in can provide that for you.

Find out not only how far any campground you are considering working at is from town, but also what is available in that town. Where I work in the mountains, there are communities where I can buy ice and highly overpriced food eight and twelve miles from my campground, but those communities offer no WiFi and no cell phone service. I have to drive a minimum of 30 miles to get to even a small town grocery store. You’ll need to decide how far from civilization you can stand to be.

#5 Assess your rig. Can it make it across country to get to a job? Will it make it up a mountain if that’s where the campground you’ll be working at is? If you’ll have to drive it back and forth to civilization on your days off, what’s your gas mileage like?

Some companies only hire workers with newer rigs. Check with the companies you hope to work for to determine if your rig matches their criteria.

Some companies also require a photo of your rig before they’ll make a hiring decision. When you take the photo, be sure you get your rig’s “best side.”

Before you take a job, make sure your rig will fit in the site reserved for the camp host.

#6 Look closely at your financial situation. Can you afford to work in exchange for a only spot to park your rig and full hookups or do you need to earn an hourly wage? Some state parks do give campground volunteers a small stipend, which can help offset your costs.

Consider how much it will cost you to get to your job. Are you going in the hole to get to work? How many hours will you have to put in before you recoup your expenses?

If you’re working in a remote location, how much will it cost you each time you go into civilization? Factor in the amount of gas you’re using, wear and tear on your vehicle, and the amount of time you’re losing driving.

#7 Start your job search.

If you’re on Facebook, join the groups relating to work camping. Some of these groups include Work Campers Mobile Jobs, RV Hosts & Work Campers of America, Workampers, Journey RV Workampers, and The Camphosts.  Members of these groups share information about work camping jobs, including jobs at campgrounds.

Private companies that hire camp hosts and other workers for campground jobs include American Land and Leisure, California Land Management, Recreation Resource Management, Hoodoo Recreation, KOA, Rocky Mountain Recreation, Scenic Canyons Recreational Services, and Thousand Trails. Go to these companies’ websites to find out what campground positions are currently open.

Several job search websites list camp host and other campground jobs. Try Indeed, Happy Vagabonds, and Glassdoor.

If you’re interested in a volunteer work camper position, go to Vounteer.gov. You can put in keywords (such as “camp host”) in the search bar and even choose the city and state you would like to work in.

Workamper News is another source for finding work camping jobs. There’s a free membership which includes the digital version of Workamper News Magazine and a $47 a year membership that includes the printed version of the magazine and a lots of extras like a résumé builder and a member directory. I’ve never had a Workamper membership, but I know the company is highly regarded by the people who use it.

#8 Write an awesome resume. If you’ve never been a camp host or work camper, accent how the jobs you’ve had in the past relate to the job you want. Research I’ve done indicates that even if a potential employer asks for a resume, the person actually reading it appreciates applicants who keep things concise and relevant.

#9 Interview like a champ. Make a list of questions before your interview. You can find a great list of questions to get you started on the Workers on Wheels website. Take notes during the interview and repeat what you’ve heard to make sure you understand what was said. Ask for clarification about anything you don’t understand. Be honest, but don’t be afraid to toot your own horn. Let the employer know how you will be an asset to the operation.

#10 Apply early and don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Work camping positions in popular locations fill up fast. If you are willing to apply for several different positions, you increase your chances of being hired somewhere. If this is your first shot at work camping, you may want to take a position that is less desirable to you so you can get your foot in the door and some experience under your belt.

Blaize Sun got her first work camping job as a camp host and parking lot attendant in 2015. She wrote about her work camping experiences in her book Confessions of a Work Camper: Tales from the Woods. In May she’ll start her second season working in a campground store.

Confessions of a Work Camper: Tales from the Woods
I took the photos of the pit toilet and Smokey the Bear. The photo of Confessions of a Work Camper is an Amazon affiliate link. If you click on it, whatever you add to your cart and buy while on Amazon will earn me a small advertising fee.

How You Can Help the Rubber Tramp Artist

Standard

Before I get into all the ways folks can help the Rubber Tramp Artist, I want to say thanks to everyone who’s already helped. Thanks to everyone who’s bought a hat or a necklace or a collage. Thanks to everyone who’s purchased my book Confessions of a Work Camper: Tales from the Woods either through  Amazon or directly from me.  Thanks to everyone who’s made a donation through my blog, handed me a giftcard, or helped me out of a financial pickle. Thanks for every comment, every “like,” every word of encouragment and support. I get by with the help of my friends and fans.

All that said, I can still use help, financial and otherwise. There are lots of ways you can support me and my writing. Perhaps yo can take one or more of the following actions?

#1 Do some holiday shopping through my blog. My creations make great presents, and wouldn’t it be cool to support a struggling artist?. You can give friends and family warm winter hats, hemp jewelry, and colorful collages I made with my heart and hands. (If you don’t see exactly what you want, just ask. I have many many more necklaces than what’s shown on the jewelry page, and I may be able to make a custom piece for you.)

Confessions of a Work Camper: Tales from the Woods
If you order copies of my book Confessions of a Work Camper: Tales from the Woods from me, I’ll sign them and write something super nice to your recipient.

#2 If you do need to buy from a big business (and I know my wares may not please everyone on every holiday shopping list), you can go through my affiliate link when you shop at Amazon.

Say a reader wants to buy something from Amazon. The reader can go to my blog first and click through my site to get to Amazon. A reder can do this in a couple of ways.

The first way is to find the Amazon.com link in the column to the right of the main body of the post. The words “Just click here!” are in orange; that’s my link to Amazon. That link will take readers to Amazon and get me credit for items placed in their carts within 24 hours and purchased (usually) within 90 days.

If that link is too hard to find or too small on a cell phone, there’s another way to do it. On the top of every page of this blog, there’s a link for the page about my book Confessions of a Work Camper: Tales from the Woods. Go to that page. The image of the cover of my book is a link to Amazon. Click on the image of the cover of my book, and you’ll go to Amazon.com. Once a reader has gone to Amazon via either of these methods, s/he can shop for any item. Any item s/he puts in her/his cart in the next 24 hours and purchases within 90 days (usually) will earn me an advertising fee.

Going through the Rubber Tramp Artist blog to shop on Amazon costs the reader/shopper nothing extra. Amazon pays the advertising fee, not the reader/shopper.

Every month, I receive a list of items folks who clicked through my blog purchased from Amazon, but there’s absolutely no names linked to these purchases. I’ll never know who bought what items.

Of course, I’m not encouraging folks to buy things they don’t want or need. However, by going through my blog to make Amazon purchases they’d be making anyway, readers can help me earn a little money to keep me on the road.

#3 If you read Confessions of a Work Camper, review it. Whether on Amazon, Goodreads, or your Facebook page (or all three!) reviews of my book help get the word out. Reviews help people find the book, which hopefully will lead to people buying the book.

#4 If you read one of my blog posts and you like it, click the “like” button with the blue star at the bottom of the post. (You will be asked to sign in. You can either sign in with Word Press or with a Google account.)

#5 If you like a post, please please please share it. Everything on the Rubber Tramp Artist blog and the Rubber Tramp Artist Facebook page is public. If you think your friend(s) would like something I wrote, share it with them.

#6 If you see one of my posts in your Facebook feed and you like it, click “like” (or any of those other emotion icons). The more likes a post gets, the more likely it will get more attention. It’s a snowball effect, my friend The Poet says.

According to a 2014 article in Time,

If your posts keep people engaged, as measured by likes, comments, shares and time on screen, the social network will reward you with further reach.

Enough “likes” could help expand my audience.

#7 Invite your friends to like the Rubber Tramp Artist Facebook page. It’s easy! On the right side of the Rubber Tramp Artist Facebook page, under the blue “Send Message” button and rating stars, you’ll see “Community” and “Invite your friends to like this Page.” Click on the “Invite your friends” link, and you’ll be taken to a page where you can click to invite people.

#8 Leave a comment on either Facebook or at the end of a blog post. To leave a comment on blog posts, click on the “Leave a Comment” link above my bio. (The first time you leave a comment, I have to moderate it, so don’t worry if your first comment doesn’t pop up immediately.)

If you’re on Facebook, I trust you already know how to leave a comment.

I really do want to know what you think! Also, comments encourage me by letting me know folks are reading my posts.

#9 Subscribe to my blog. Subscribers get an email whenever a post pops up, so subscribers don’t have to worry about missing something new.

#10 Hit the yellow “Donate” button to the right of each post, right above “Subscribe.” I don’t charge anything for my blog posts because “free” is my favorite price. However, if you like something you read and you have a few bucks to kick down, I promise to put your dollars to good use.

Thanks to everyone who has helped and will help. I couldn’t do what I do without my fans and friends.

Photo of the Rubber Tramp Artist and Jerico by The Man.

 

12 Ways Being a Camp Host/Day Use Area Attendant Was Easier than Working in the Store

Standard

My last post was all about the ways my current job as a clerk at a mercantile is easier than my former job as a camp host/day use area attendant. Today I’ll share some of the ways being a camp host and a day use area attendant was easier than what I do now.

#1 As a camp host/day use area attendant, I wasn’t expected to suggestive sell anything.

I took this photo of a giant sequoia.

#2 I worked outside and could catch a breeze. The yurt I work in now sometimes reaches 90 degrees and breezes are rare. The yurt has open windows, but most of them are partially blocked by shelves full of merchandise. The additions of a fan near the cash register and a swamp cooler help, but I often miss being outside in the shade.

#3 I’m currently tempted by consumer products all day.  There’s not a lot I want in the store (the clothes are either polyester blends or don’t come in my size), but I do find myself wanted ridiculous things like wooden postcards and patches that are supposed to deter mosquitoes by enhancing the B vitamins in my system.

#4 At the parking lot, I sat in my chair between collecting fees. There are no chairs in the store, and sitting on the counters is frowned upon. These days my feet and legs are quite tired at the end of my shift.

#5 I miss my parking lot co-worker who quit his job before I arrived.

#6 I no longer have my own campsite. The Man and I share my old campsite with the current camp host. It’s not terrible, but sometimes it does feel a bit crowded.

#7 In previous seasons, I was the only person who touched the money for which I was responsible. At any given day at the mercantile, up to four people could have hands in the cash drawer.

#8 I have to tell people about the yurts on site multiple times each day. In the past, I usually only talked about the yurts every week or two.

#9 It’s not fun to tell people items they want are out of stock.

#10 I seldom worked more than seven hours in a day as a camp host/day use area attendant. Working in the store, I pull two nine hour days each week. I’m looking forward to the overtime pay, but on those days, I miss the two hours of free time.

#11 While people don’t seem to care what a parking lot attendant or a camp host looks like, I feel I should look a little more presentable while working in the store. Now I try to keep my clothes clean and my hair (somewhat) cute.

#12 As a camp host, I set my own work hours. I could sleep late or spend a few hours writing in the afternoon before fulfilling my camp host obligations. The store has a schedule, and when I’m on the schedule, I have to be there, no matter what I’d rather be doing.

If you want to read more about my adventures in the campground and day use area, check out my book Confessions of a Work Camper: Tales from the Woods.  The collection of essays is available on Amazon as a paperback and an eBook.

Confessions of a Work Camper: Tales from the Woods

Rubber Tramp Rendezvous (RTR) 2017

Standard

Here it is August, and I haven’t yet published a report on January’s Rubber Tramp Rendezvous (RTR). Better late than never?

There were a lot of people in the RTR section of Scaddan Wash in January 2017. I never did a count of my own, but I heard reports of upwards of 600 people there. I don’t know how anyone was able to arrive at a figure. Were rigs counted? If yes, how did the counter know how many people were staying in each rig? When was the counting (of rigs or people) done? People and rigs came and went througout the entire time the RTR was underway. Folks were here today, gone tomorrow, back on Wednesday. I don’t know how an accurate count could be made with all of that coming and going.

In any case, there were a lot of people in the RTR area, way more than when I attended in 2015 or 2016.

There were also more people there this time in fancy, shiny, expensive rigs. I wondered if those people had missed the tramp part of the rendezvous or the cheap in the name of the Cheap RV Living website. Mostly, I wondered what the folks with money were getting out of a gathering where people learn how to stretch their precious few dollars in order to live a life of freedom. I guess learning how to find free public land on which to boondock is the same whether one’s living in a 90s era converted cargo van or a brand new Dodge Sprinter.

So many people arrived early, there was demand for a seminar before the Rendezvous had officially begun. I sat through the beginning of that one. It consisted mostly of folks who’d never attended the RTR asking questions, and the organizer of the event saying those questions would be answered at a seminar held later in the gathering. After a while, I got tired of hearing questions I knew the answers to not being answered, so I grabbed my chair and left.

I did attend the official Welcome to Quartzsite seminar. I don’t think I learned anything new. The seminar seating was definitely crowded that morning; I’d guess there were a couple hundred people there, but I’m not so good at estimating attendance. Again, people mostly seemed to be newcomers.

Although I didn’t attend any other seminars, I did attend the two women’s meetings. Both of those meetings were also crowded. At the first one, the facilitator offered a list of questions each woman could answer by way of introduction. During the explanation of how the introductions would work, the facilitator instructed us to limit our intros to two sentences so everyone would get to speak during the meeting’s two-hour time frame. Most women were able to limit themselves, but others went on for paragraph after paragraph. Some ramblers even seemed offended when the facilitator gently reminded them of the two sentence limit.

I wondered why the longwinded women thought they were more important than the rest of us who had complied with the two-sentence limit. Did they really think the rest of us wanted to sit and listen to them drone on and on about themselves? I, for one, did not.

When I arrived the next week for the second women’s meeting, I was shocked to see a documentary film crew setting up to record the discussion. I was astounded to find most of the women in attendance had no objection to being filmed. I said I did not want to be filmed and offered to leave rather than cause a problem, but the woman doing the filming said she’d turn off the camera and sound recording equipment whenever I spoke. Despite her offer (which I believe was made in good faith), I mostly remained silent and kept my head down throughout the meeting.

It was probably my last women’s meeting in an RTR context. The new gals tend to want to discuss things I feel like I’ve already figured out–how to go to the bathroom in the van, how to feel safe, how to keep from feeling lonely. I’m not sure what things I don’t know about that I need to talk about in a women-only group, but I know we’ll never get there if we have to talk about elimination and personal safety every year. Also, if the meetings are being recorded and I don’t want to be recorded, what am I contributing while sitting there silently with my head down?

I was primarily at the RTR to promote my book Confessions of a Work Camper: Tales from the Woods. I feel like my sucess in this endeavor was limited at best.

Coyote Sue and I shared billing at a late afternoon seminar. She was to talk about selling on Ebay while on the road, and I was to talk about being a camp host and to read from my book. We got rained out. We postponed the seminar for later in the evening. We were finally able to give our presentations to a small group before the sun went down. Everyone in attendance listened politely when I read, but I think most of the folks there wanted to hear what Coyote Sue had to say.

My main reading, the one I’d promoted throughout the RTR, was a huge disappointment. Only a handful of people attended, most of them people I already knew. Again, people were attentive, and they laughed in the right places, but since I’d been hoping for a crowd, seeing less than a dozen people in the audience made me feel a little sad.

I sold some copies of the book at the RTR, but I barely made a dent in the 100 copies I’d had printed. Perhaps I should have dreamed smaller.

Because I was trying to promote my book, I’d set up camp near the main gathering spot. I was close to the free pile and close enough to pop in at morning announcement to mention my book, hats, etc for sale.  This proximity to all the action meant my privacy was often invaded, especially, it seemed, as I was trying to cook dinner in the evening. I spent quite a bit of time feeling I had nowhere to hide. Honestly, I don’t mind answering questions (even the same question for the 10th time) but maybe don’t try to interrogate me when I’m obviously busy.

Because there were so many people at the RTR, the group meals were cancelled. The chef who’d bottomlined the soup and chilli dinners in 2015 and 2016 had to work for money in 2017 and wasn’t able to attend the RTR. The main organizer didn’t feel able to make the dinners happen successfully with so many eaters on hand, and no one with experience with feeding crowds steppd up to the challenge. I didn’t hear an official statement of why the potato bake didn’t happen, but I’m guess the couple who’d hosted it in the past didn’t feel up to the logistical nighmare of feeding the teeming masses. I was disappointed the meals were cancelled because at the previous RTR’s they’d served as my prime opportunity for social interaction. (One fellow did provide a bunch of hot dogs for a hot dog dinner early in the gathering, but I didn’t attend since I don’t eat hot dogs.)

I don’t know if there’s another Rubber Tramp Rendezvous in my future. I don’t know where I’ll be in January 2018. Also, I don’t know if I can learn anything new from the RTR. If I go to another RTR, it will be mostly to visit with friends.

If I do go to another RTR, I expect there will be a lot of people there. Folks can’t expect a free event to be promoted far and wide on the internet and not get crowded. If I attend another RTR, I’m going to park away from the main gathering areas, on the outskirts, where I can cook without an audience.

I took the photo in this post.

You can read about my experiences at past Rubber Tramp Rendezvous: the first week in 2015, the second week in 2015, some thoughts on the 2015 RTR2016, the first women’s meeting in 2015, the second women’s meeting in 2015, the free pile at the RTR, and Burning Van.

Amazon Associates

Standard

Since October 2016, the Rubber Tramp Artist has participated in the Amazon associates program.

The Princess Bride: S. Morgenstern's Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure
Here’s how it works. Say I’m writing a blog post about The Princess Bride. I get information from Amazon that allows me to put an image of the book’s cover in my post. Nifty! I now have a nice image related to my topic to go along with my text. However, the image isn’t just a nice picture; it’s also a link to the book on Amazon’s page. If a reader clicks on the image, the link will take him/her directly to Amazon’s website. At that point, any qualifying items placed in the reader’s shopping cart within 24 hours of their arrival at Amazon via my Associates link will earn me advertising fees.

Of course, Amazon is not just about books. I could also write about the movie The Princess Bride and get information from Amazon to put an image of the DVD cover in my post. That image is also a link to the DVD’s Amazon page. Clicking on the image of the DVD on my page will take my reader to The Princess Bride DVD Amazon page. From there, if my reader puts a DVD of The Princess Bride or any other item in his or her cart within 24 hours and purchases those items before the shopping cart expires (usually after 90 days), I will get an advertising fee.

The Princess Bride

Here’s another scenario: Say a reader wants to buy something from Amazon I’ve never even mentioned on the blog. The reader can go to my blog first and click through my site to get to Amazon. A reder can do this in a couple of ways.

The first way is to find the Amazon.com link in the column to the right of the main body of the post. The words “Just click here!” are in orange; that’s my link to Amazon. That link will take readers to Amazon and get me credit for items placed in their carts within 24 hours and purchased (usually) within 90 days.

If that link is too hard to find or too small on a cell phone, there’s another way to do it. On the top of every page of this blog, there’s a link for the page about my book Confessions of a Work Camper: Tales from the Woods. Go to that page. The image of the cover of my book is a link to Amazon. Click on the image of the cover of my book, and you’ll go to Amazon.com. Once a reader has gone to Amazon via either of these methods, s/he can shop for any item. Any item s/he puts in her/his cart in the next 24 hours and purchases within 90 days (usually) will earn me an advertising fee.

Going through the Rubber Tramp Artist blog to shop on Amazon costs the reader/shopper nothing extra. Amazon pays the advertising fee, not the reader/shopper.

Every month, I receive a list of items folks who clicked through my blog purchased from Amazon, but there’s absolutely no names linked to these purchases. I’ll never know who bought what items.

Confessions of a Work Camper: Tales from the Woods
Of course, I’m not encouraging folks to buy things they don’t want or need. However, by going through my blog to make Amazon purchases, readers can help me earn a little money to keep me on the road.

I appreciate everything folks have done to help me since I’ve started this blog. Thanks for every donation, every necklace and collage and hat that’s been bought from me, and every Amazon purchase that’s originated from this blog. Also, a big THANKS to my computer guy who set things up so I could participate in the Amazon Associates program.

 

What I’m Learning About Self-Publishing a Book

Standard

Confessions of a Work Camper: Tales from the Woods
I recently self-published my first book, Confessions of a Work Camper: Tales from the Woods. It’s a 200+ page collection of short essays about my experiences as a camp host and parking lot attendant at a popular trailhead in a National Forest. Some of my readers have expressed interest in publishing books of their own, so I thought I’d share what I’ve learned about self-publishing so far.

#1 Writing the book was the easy part.

Confessions of a Work Camper includes 15 never-published-anywhere-else essays, as well as newly written introductions to each chapter, and some fun lists, but the bulk of the book has appeared in blog posts. For the most part, the book was written before I decided to self-publish it.

The steps that came after writing were the more difficult parts for me.

#1a Proofreading is a pain.

Believe it or not, I edit my blog posts several times before I schedule them. I thought I’d been doing a great job proofreading until I put the texts of posts into my book document and found typos all over the place. So I did more proofreading and editing. Then I did more proofreading and editing. Then I took a friend up on her offer to help, and she read the entire document and offered some corrections. Then I read the entire book aloud and found more mistakes. So when it was time to approve the proof of the book, I did so without reading it one more time. That was a mistake.

When I started reading my essays again in preparation for reading them aloud to an audience, I immediately found more errors. I’m not talking about formatting problems. I’m talking about wrong words in sentences. Since the words aren’t technically misspelled, the spell check didn’t alert me to them, and my eyes glided right over them. Sigh.

Every typo is an embarrassment to me.

The first edition is barely complete, and I already need to work on the second edition.

#1b It took me a while to figure out how to use CreateSpace.

I needed some form of Adobe to use CreateSpace’s cover creator. I couldn’t get Adobe to work with Firefox. I had a telephone conversation with a CreateSpace representative in South Africa. He was exceedingly nice and very helpful, but Firefox and Adobe still wouldn’t work together to let me use the CreateSpace cover creator. I ended up using Google Chrome to do anything on CreateSpace that required Adobe.

I put the text of the book in a Word Starter document. (Word Starter is the word processing program my laptop came with. I never upgraded.) When I transferred my text into the document formatted for CreateSpace, any words in italics transferred to all caps. Since I use italics to indicate thoughts or conversations, this glitch made it seem as if all the people in my book were YELLING AT EACH OTHER. I had to go into the CreateSpace document and manually change each instance of capital letters into italics.

When it came time to approve the book’s formatting online, formatting that looked fine in the CreateSpace Word document looked all wrong in the examples of the actual book. I spent an entire morning working on the formatting, and it’s still not perfect.

I’m not saying CreateSpace is impossible to use. When I got frustrated with it, I reminded myself that people many people use CreateSpace to self-publish every day. However, there is a learning curve when using CreateSpace. (The Poet had warned me of the learning curve when she first told me all she knew about publishing with CreateSpace.) Until a writer learns the ends and outs of CreateSpace, getting a book ready for publication may take more time than expected.

#2 That book’s not going to promote itself.

Again, writing the book was easy, compared to getting people to buy it.

My book was first released as an ebook. In the first day the ebook was available, it sold nine copies. This is great! I thought. From there, sales dwindled. Once my friends who read ebooks bought their copies, I had to figure out how to get strangers to buy it.

#2a Public libraries aren’t so keen on buying self-published books (and sometimes they don’t seem to want to buy any books at all).

I had the idea to get all my friends across the country to ask their local libraries to buy my book. To make it easier for them, I researched different libraries to find out how my supporters could go about requesting a book for purchase. Many libraries have an online form for such a request, but while some library systems (I’m looking at you, Las Vegas, NV and Richmond, VA), say sure, patrons can suggest a book for purchase, I found no indication of how to do so.

I filled out an online request for the purchase of my book with a library system in a major U.S. city where I happen to have a library card. I received a response saying they don’t even consider buying a self-published book unless it has at least 50 reviews on Amazon or GoodReads. (I currently have seven reviews on Amazon and none on GoodReads.)

#2b I’m not much of a hustler, so figuring out ways to promote the book hasn’t been easy. I’m encouraging folks who’ve read the book to leave reviews on Amazon and/or GoodReads. I’ve set up an author’s page on GoodReads. I’ve announced the book (repeatedly) here on my blog and on the Rubber Tramp Artist and Blaizin’ Sun Creations Facebook pages.

I’ve done two readings so far, and have another scheduled for the day this post runs. The two readings were at the RTR and both were small. Making a reading a success seems to take a lot of promotion, including hanging flyers and sending emails. I haven’t given up, but it’s a lot more work than I expeted.

#2c It takes CreateSpace a while to deliver 100 copies of a 200+ page book.

It was Christmas before I was able to approve the book for publication and order the 100 copies I wanted for promotion. I thought I’d get them by the first week in January, which was based upon absolutely no concrete information. Instead, my estimated delivery date was January 17. I was hesitant to schedule reading where I hoped to sell copies of the book when I had no copies of the book to sell.

#3 Lots of people want to write a book.

When I mention I’ve recently self-published a book, the person I’m speaking to often says s/he has written a book or wants to write a book. I try to be encouraging while also making clear that writing a book is only the first step in getting it read.

 

Confessions of a Work Camper Is Available NOW

Standard

Confessions of a Work Camper: Tales from the Woods
It was a Christmas miracle!

I received the proof of the paper copy of my book, Confessions of a Work Camper: Tales from the Woods. It looked good enough for me, so approved it. Within a couple of hours, the paperback version was available on Amazon.

For only $10 (plus shipping and handling) you can own your very own paperback copy of my book. For $3.99, you can read it as an ebook.

If you’re forgotten what it’s all about, here’s a reminder:

Follow the adventures of a campground worker as she chronicles the delights and disasters of working with the public away from all the conveniences of modern life: electricity, running water, internet access, or phone service. Join her on the top of a mountain, as far from civilization as she’s ever lived, in this collection of creative non-fiction essays.

If you click on the image of my book above, it will take you right to Amazon, and I’ll get an advertising fee.

I’m pretty excited about this book. It’s my first. I don’t think I could possibly be any prouder.

So Proud!

Standard

My apologies for two posts in one day, but my book Confessions of a Work Camper: Tales from the Woods is now live and available for purchase in the Kindle Store. I couldn’t be prouder!

Click on the image of the book’s cover to go to Amazon to find out more or to purchase. (If you shop on Amazon using this or any other of my other other affiliate links, I receive an advertising fee.)

If electronic books aren’t your style, don’t worry! The paper version will be available soon.

Thanks to everyone who’s helped make this book happen…

In Which I Decide to Write a Book

Standard

My friend the Poet visited me at my campground over the summer. During the visit, the topic of self-publishing books came up. The Poet planned to self-publish a book. I hadn’t given self-publishing an actual book much thought. Sure, I’ve published zines before, but a whole book? That seemed beyond my capabilities, but the more I thought about the project, the more I thought, I could do this!

A couple weeks after The Poet’s visit, I decided on a Tuesday afternoon that I would self-publish a book (called Confessions of a Work Camper: Tales from the Woods) collecting my stories of work camping. Before a week had passed, I made decisions about chapters. I wrote intros for each chapter, as well as an intro to the whole collection. I decided in addition to stories that had already been posted on my blog, the book would include brand new, never before published stories. I wrote several of these new stories.

I want the book to be ready for purchase for the winter holidays, which means I have to work pretty fast. When I got to civilization, I asked the Poet for all the information she had about self-publishing. She graciously sent me an informative email within a couple of hours. I choose a company to work with and did some of the preliminary work of setting up an account.

I also did a quick Google search on “confessions of a work camper” and “confessions of a camp host,” and with the exception of a couple of poorly written blog posts, I found nothing. Could I possibly have come up with an idea for a book that’s never been written? (Part of me thinks I should not go public with this idea, lest someone else scoops it up before I can complete my project. Oh well. I’ve never been much good at keeping my big mouth shut. Also, I feel like if I go public with my intentions, I will have to follow through if I don’t want to look like a fool.)

I wrote to another friend who is a published (as in by a publishing company) writer. She offered to help me with the book and told me to think about goals for the book. Goals? Ok.

My Goals for My Book

#1 Generate income

#2 Generate interest in me as a writer

#3 Bring more readers to my blog

#4 Amuse readers

#5 Educate people about the possibility of work camping.

Because I am worried my blog will suffer while I am working on the book, I have been recruiting guest bloggers. I’ve invited several friends to write for the blog while I am busy with the book. In less than an hour, three people said yes and one said maybe. If other folks want to share stories, please contact me. I am looking for nonfiction pieces of a personal nature, 300 to 2,000 words. I’m most interested in travel and van dwelling stories; pieces about class issues; recommendations for books, articles, zines, websites, music. I don’t want to put a lot of work into guest posts, so please edit carefully before you send me anything for consideration.

This entire book project is exciting and overwhelming, but mostly exciting. I think I will feel less overwhelmed when I am no longer isolated on a mountain with no internet access. It won’t be long now.