Self-Published Book Leads to Traditional Contracts and Foreign Rights Sale By Tim Leffel

After circling the globe three times, my wife and I settled down and had a baby. I was a travel writer who suddenly couldn’t travel much, so it seemed like a good time to write that book I’d had in my head for ages: The World’s Cheapest Destinations.

I didn’t feel like I had the patience or the track record to break down the New York publishing doors. So after researching the options, I published it as a POD title through BookLocker in early 2003.

My modest expectations of selling a couple hundred copies didn’t take long to exceed. I got some nice write-ups, I started a website and blog, and eventually journalists started calling looking for cheap travel ideas. As I built a reputation as one of the leading bargain travel experts, the book sales kept increasing and I got into storied publications such as the Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, and USA Today.

By just writing articles, being visible, and being generous with my time, the results snowballed and the first edition sold close to 3,000 copies. A second edition followed. It did even better, with mentions in Maxim, Men’s Health, Fortune, and many big newspapers. I sold the Italian rights for that edition, landing a nice bonus.

I eventually got an agent and landed two traditional publishing contracts for other travel books. Both deals were partly a result of the strong sales I accomplished on The World’s Cheapest Destinations – many thousands sold net (no returns), without any bookstore presence whatsoever. I am on the third edition now of my BookLocker title and expect it to once again outsell the books I have out through the “regular” publishing and distribution channels. And hey, it’s good for the environment: no wasted print runs! For a niche title from someone with a platform, print-on-demand and BookLocker are a winning combination.

You can see Tim Leffel’s Cheapest Destinations Blog at He is author of Make Your Travel Dollars Worth a Fortune (Travelers’ Tales) and co-author of Traveler’s Tool Kit: Mexico and Central America (Menasha Ridge Press). His is also editor of the award-winning webzine Perceptive Travel.