Tenerife-based author Joe Cawley at his desk overlooking the Canary Islands coast

Living abroad was the inspiration for Joe Cawley’s travel memoirs, but ironically it was also one of the challenges he faced when trying to get them published. It was 1991 when Joe and his partner Joy decided to make the life-changing decision of emigrating to Tenerife, a sub-tropical island off the coast of Africa, to run a bar and restaurant in the sun. With many quirky clientele and strange incidents occurring, Joe took notes with the thought of one day putting them into a book.

After many energy-sapping years, they decided to sell up and focus on starting a family. Their first daughter, Molly Blue, was born in 2002. “With a young child at home, Joy made it clear that she was confiscating my passport so I couldn’t jet off to more foreign climes, literally leaving her holding the baby,” Joe laughs. “I needed to find a job closer to home, so I applied for the position of a local magazine editor.” In this role, Joe ran a book review column and so had contact with several publishers. “By this time I’d written the first three chapters of my book based on our bar experience, so I submitted it to around 25 publishers and 12 agents, all of whom rejected it, in many cases because I was not based in the UK. We didn’t want to move back so I made one last approach with a publisher who had sent me a book about the island of Majorca to review,” Joe says.

“As long as you have an internet connection, you can publish from anywhere.”
Joe Cawley

A second life

The publisher liked what she read and published the book, entitled More Ketchup Than Salsa, which went on to be voted the Best Travel Narrative of 2007 by the British Guild of Travel Writers. However, after four years, sales had declined and the book went out of print. “I didn’t want to let the book die after all of the work I’d put in, and I felt like I had more to tell in a second book,” Joe explains. “We wanted to stay on the island, so I was worried that I would face the same geographic challenges of finding a publisher. However, around this time Kindle had just launched in the UK and I was starting to see people like Rachel Abbott, who lived in Italy at the time, hitting the bestseller charts having independently published her book using Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). I reached out to her and some other authors who were also doing well, and they were kind enough to offer me some advice.”

As a result, Joe loaded it up on KDP and Createspace, Amazon’s independent publishing service for print books. “Within a few months, I was selling more copies than I ever had with my publisher and with much higher royalties.”

Indie publishing becomes plan A

Joe was so pleased with the success of his book, that KDP and Createspace were his first choice for publishing his sequel, Even More Ketchup Than Salsa: The Final Dollop. He is also partway through writing other books, which he will publish independently. “It comes down to better royalties, more creative freedom, more control and best of all, it’s more fun,” exclaims Joe. “I live in a very remote area, with goats for neighbours, but with KDP and Createspace, there are no restrictions to becoming a successful author. I have a handful of local spots where I like to write, including a surf bar on the beach, the palm-shaded plaza of my hillside village, and in a writing shed looking out over neighbouring islands. As long as you have an internet connection, you can publish from anywhere.”