by Paul Gerald, author of The Groundhopper’s Guide to Soccer in England
I had no idea my new book was going to become the hub of a new business. I simply started where I always do with my book ideas: at the intersection of what I know about, what I enjoy doing, what others would like to know about or do, what they might pay for, and what nobody else is writing about. My mind basically thinks in book ideas.
Five years ago, I was visiting a friend in London, and he took me to a soccer game. My mind was blown by the noise, the spectacle, the level of play, the cursing, and the relative ease with which we accessed all of it. I knew that Americans were getting into the English Premier League, but seeing it in person was something else entirely.
That’s when my book-brain kicked in. Soon I had fully formed an idea which has now been published—with editing, design, and a cover by the amazing Indigo team—as The Groundhopper’s Guide to Soccer in England.
Up to that point, I was on familiar ground. I started a blog, because every author should, but then something unexpected happened: people started emailing me, asking which games they should see. I helped them (and also wrote blog posts answering their questions), but then a friend in the tourism industry said I should charge them for my time, effort, and knowledge. To my amazement, people began to pay me, and thus I became a soccer tourism consultant.
Of course, what people really wanted was tickets. So I signed up with a broker, and now I legally resell tickets to all the top clubs in England and many others around Europe. Thus did I become a soccer ticket agency as well. Groundhopper Soccer Guides was on its way.
Obviously, one way that my book is essential to this is that it all started with a book idea, which is simply a lens through which I see the world.
But with the business now including tours and hitting $70,000 in sales for 2018, the book, which has not yet even sold enough to cover its costs, is nonetheless a very important piece of my marketing efforts. It’s a stamp of authority, for one thing: I’m not just a guy with a blog, I’m a guy with a blog and a book for sale on IndieBound and Amazon. (I also hit up every customer for a review of the book on online bookstores and my other services on Google Business.)
I also send a copy of the book to everybody who spends any money with me, so that when they get back from their English soccer adventures and their friends say, “How did you do that?” they can point at my book and say, “That guy helped us!”
The book will always be more than a marketing or authenticity piece, though. It is still how I see the world, and it is still what gets me excited. I don’t want to just sell tickets and help plan and lead trips, although I love doing all of it.
I want, as I always have, to go to interesting places, do interesting things, meet interesting people, and then tell the story so that maybe others can do the same thing. For me, that’s what the writing is all about. It’s what my books are all about.
At the core of that effort, though, is the desire to connect with people over something we both care about and enjoy. In my mind, that will always include a book, or at least a consistent writing effort.
That my latest book has helped launch a whole new way of earning a living—and is possibly giving me the chance to live overseas—is a giant blessing that has flowed from that first impulse during my first English game: the desire to help people know about, and perhaps share, this cool thing I’m doing.
Paul Gerald is the author and publisher (with Indigo’s help) of Breakfast in Bridgetown: The Definitive Guide to Portland’s Favorite Meal. He is also the author of 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles of Portland (Menasha Ridge Press) and three other books. His website is paulgerald.com, and his soccer website is englishsoccerguide.com.