16 years in publishing books, 10 years in blogging. I hope my story will inspire everyone to make a living doing what they love.
It was the year 2000 when I bought my first mobile phone, a Smart SIM-powered Nokia 3310. Texting is just starting to become a craze that year and I must say, I am one of the first few who caught the “text fever.” I am so amused by this technology that I tend to look for textmates to the point that I encouraged my cousins and friends to buy their own mobile phones, too! And it has become my habit to collect and create different kinds of text messages–from funny to inspirational–that I love to forward and share to anyone in my contact list.
One day that year, I had a Eureka moment. I asked myself, why not compile these text messages and make it into a book? Since my course is computer science, I relied on my layout and design knowledge and created the book I called “Text Thots: A Collection of Inspiring Text Messages.” Using my savings as capital, I went to a printing press in Mandaluyong to order 2,000 copies of the book. With the help of my dad, we applied for business permits to be able to distribute this book to National Book Store. In less than a month, the 2,000 copies were sold out and orders from all over the country came pouring in! “Text Thots” entered no. 4 of the bestsellers list in the non-fiction category and the next month it hit no. 1 and stayed there for a couple of months more. It had several printing runs after that and we released 5 more editions of the book and each one also made it to the bestsellers list. Everything was going so fast and overwhelming that I quit my job and handled the business that same year.
Me, my mom and dad were just living at my aunt’s house that time. After my resignation, my aunt allowed me to make her house my office and warehouse. I named my small company “Lifebooks” with just me and my dad doing the packaging and delivery to bookstores. My aunt helped, too, in taking phone calls all day to take orders from customers while we’re distributing the books. Several paychecks later, I decided to buy a second-hand Mitsubishi Lancer and learned how to drive. Instead of hiring a taxicab, we are now using my first car for delivery.
We celebrated Christmas and New Year’s Eve inside the church thanking God for such an incredible year. I also remember that it was the first time we had a decent Holiday feast. Such a turning point the year 2000 for me was. It was the turn of the century and at the same time a life-changing moment for me. But my story doesn’t end there.
The next year, 2001, another idea hit me. Why not acquire license to reprint a book from the US, locally? With the help of PLDT DSL, I searched for various US publications online and emailed numerous publishers for my proposal. Fortunately, a few of them responded.
I acquired license to print locally a book titled “Ripples of Joy” by Cheryl Kirking, it’s a compilation of inspiring stories. It’s our very first “imported” book and I chose this title because it’s in line with the genre that we are publishing which is inspirational. It has sold very well, I must say.
But it’s our second locally reprinted American book that made it on top of National Book Store’s bestsellers list–“365 Moments to Cherish” by Robert Strand. We continued publishing inspirational, devotional and self-help books through the years and some of them also hit the bestsellers list like “Believe You Can” by John Mason, “6 Attitudes for Winners” by Norman Vincent Peale, among others.
The business grew significantly in 2001 that we were able to purchase a van and hire two drivers for the delivery of books. In the next five years, I was able to purchase a 3-storey house for my mom and dad in Bicutan, Parañaque City, and we transferred the office/warehouse to Sucat, also in Parañaque. Me, on the other hand, is living in a condominium in Makati which I am paying in installment basis.
In 2006, I tried online publishing and learned how to blog. There’s no Facebook, Twitter and Instagram yet that time that’s why my blog–Starmometer.com–has been hitting millions of pageviews every week. Never did I imagine that the site will attract millions of visitors around the world that I felt the need to update it 20 hours a day (4 hours for sleep hehe), and upgraded my internet speed to match the demand. Needless to say, it became so lucrative that I am juggling my time for the business and for updating the website.
In 2014, I ventured into publishing fiction books in addition to Lifebooks’ inspirational titles. The first tagalog novel that we published was an instant bestseller in National Book Store and it was even made into a movie! I searched for promising writers from Wattpad (a community of amateur writers online) and made first-time published authors out of more than twenty of them. Aside from organizing a pool of fiction writers from across the country, I also hired several artists and I get in touch with all of them via Facebook Messenger. With the wonders of technology, I get to set a virtual meeting with my writers and artists even though most of them live outside Metro Manila.
To date, we have 120 fiction titles and counting and twelve of these books were already adapted on television via TV5’s Wattpad Presents.
It has been 16 years since I had the biggest turning point of my life. From being a simple employee, Smart and PLDT were very instrumental in my success as a publisher both online and in print and my becoming a business owner. Until now, their innovations make my small company competitive in the global stage. They changed the way I live, and helped me a lot in fulfilling my dreams and empowered me to make a living by doing what I love. Now I am looking forward to upcoming innovations like IoT, Smart Homes, 5G, and VR and I have an inkling that it’s going to help my business in the long run.