Keep It Free And Pay It Forward
Q. My husband and I have been doing pretty much the same thing you have done in the southwest. We are gone from home for about 3 months every year exploring Anasazi Ruins, hiking, and RV camping in a 25' Bigfoot travel trailer. We know of many places to camp free, but would like to know more.
I think it is ironic that for people as cheap as you seem to be (and like ourselves) that you are selling this information. Keep it free and pay it forward. We are always willing to give out this kind of information free. Would like to hear from you about why you are making this a fee instead of free?
Marianne's Reply: Just like you and your husband, we give out our campsite information freely to everyone we meet when we're on the road. We know that's the boondocker's code of conduct, we were new to this ourselves once, and we do pay it forward.
Now that I have it all in book form, it's that much easier for us to share our information with others we meet. Depending on how good a connection we make with people, it may be just telling them about a few campsites in the area they're going to, or it may be giving them access to the entire set of e-books. The great thing about e-books is that they are so easy to give away...just a link to the download page, an attachment to an email, or burned onto a cd. We may be cheap, as you call us, but we're far from stingy.
Also, we have some integrity. Now that I write my e-books, when other RVers tell us about a campsite we don't already know about, I tell them I'm writing these guides and ask them first if they mind me sharing the information they've given us. As a result, there are a few campsites I have not divulged because I was asked not to.
To the rest of the world, the people we haven't met, I don't mind at all charging for the information that I've worked many, many hours to put together.
The guidebooks don't write themselves but took me nearly 2 months each to write (that's now that I know what I'm doing). On top of that I pay an editor to go over them. And my commitment to my clients doesn't end with the purchase. Over the years, each guide will be updated (some several times) and the new edition sent FOR FREE to all who have bought it previously.
They are much more than just a list of free campsites and I'm proud of them, knowing that I provide value. Of nearly 500 books sold to date, I've had not one return or complaint. Instead.... the list of unsolicited testimonials that you see on my website just keeps growing.
Then there's the website itself. It costs money and time. A website that gets to the top of the google search engines pages to be found by the New York Times doesn't just build itself.
Of course, like you say, as frugal RVers we are all looking for more free camping options. When I realized there wasn't any one really good, reliable source to tell us what we were learning as we traveled, I saw an opportunity to fill a niche, so we took the time on our last trips to bump down extra dirt roads, to ask more questions of the locals and the Forest and BLM office staff, and to look for boondocking options for larger RVs as well as those that would suit us. A lot of extra time and gas was spent on research that we wouldn't have done if I wasn't writing the guidebooks. If I only put in the ebooks the spots that are listed on the "free campgrounds" website, then the books wouldn't sell, and if they did, I'd get complaints and requests for returns.
No, I've never felt a pang of guilt around selling the e-books. The only concern I do have is becoming too successful - that as more boondockers find out about and use these campsites, we might find there's too much competition, especially for the best locations. That's the part that I am feeling slightly guilty about. However if, as you suggest, I just give all the information in my e-books away for free, I guess that would just increase that problem faster. What's the solution? Should we all be stingy and keep our good finds to ourselves???
Hope I've answered your questions and perhaps we'll run into each other on the road someday. If you haven't yet bought my books by then, I'll be happy to give them to you for free...if I don't think you are just trying to get them from me for free because you're cheap :-) Yes, that's a smiley face!