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How Kevin Tumlinson Paved His Path up the Mountain

If you had to write your first book in a large spiral notebook with a taped-together cover to become an author, would you?

That’s how Kevin Tumlinson, an accomplished Thriller and Speculative Fiction writer, began his publishing journey in 2008. On an average Tuesday evening, I had the pleasure of meeting with Kevin to talk about his career as an author, podcaster, and director of marketing and public relations at Draft2Digital. Our conversation, however, was far from average.

Kevin’s story is both inspirational and relatable to a lot of writers now. He started with a spiral notebook, and his desires bloomed to become a diverse portfolio of over seventy titles, multiple traditional deals, and ventures in the author sphere with Draft2Digital. Today, he makes room for it all among regular cross-country travel in his RV with his wife, where he seeks new and interesting places and people—all of which feeds back into his work by inspiring his own writing.

Our conversation was a series of statements made and promises kept—of understanding his humble beginnings, which have since led to his roles in the author community as the host of the highly listened-to Wordslinger podcast and the marketing director of Draft2Digital, and to traditional publishing deals alongside his self-published work. Kevin says he meets new people and writes books because people are looking for something, they are burdened, and the world is heavy. Speculative Fiction makes sense for him, he says, as he’s curious about the world and himself. He places an emphasis on meaningful relationships in business and in his personal life, always learning, inspiring others, and looking for history to uncover.

Humble Beginnings

Kevin, like a lot of us, began writing young and never stopped. Passions, when unfettered, become a part of who we are, and Kevin is no exception. Publishing his first novel was a rough experience, he says. It was a traditional deal in which he felt like he didn’t have representation, and after all of his traveling and marketing expenses, he only saw 3 percent returns. Eventually, he decided to pay back his advance and regained the rights to the story. Admittedly, he thought his career in writing was over until he discovered CreateSpace and later Smashwords. His spark of inspiration grew into a raging inferno, and Kevin saw a way forward, which he attributed to his discipline as a writer. He began focusing on writing more books and feeding readers what they craved—in his case, Archaeological Thrillers inspired in theme by the locations he visited.

Kevin focuses a lot on personal freedoms as a writer. He writes for the reader and for himself in a way that resonateswith the reader. He says early in his career, he’d respond to every comment and email, but as his business grew, he discovered he could write personable, relatable content to reach his fan base en masse. With time, he says he began to shift his perspective from churning out novels to enriching himself and others through different mediums, such as his Substack and now through Draft2Digital.

Today, Kevin travels the country in an RV with his wife, finding pockets of historical inspiration from the places he visits. He says when he writes, he imagines a ghost or an echo of a person in his mind, his ideal reader, and writes with respect to the reader and the craft. He credits some of his inspiration to a 2012 commencement speech by author Neil Gaiman, who said that a career is a mountain, and everything we do should be about moving up the mountain.

And what is Kevin’s mountain?

“My goal is to be a full-time, independent, wealthy, and successful writer of good works and good stories, inspiring others and supporting myself and my family through my words,” he says.

Kevin notes that motivation wasn’t all it took to reach the top of his mountain. He says his first million words were practice—he had to learn to write well. He often journaled, writing about gratitude, affirmation, biblical studies, and philosophy. Journaling helped with expressing his heart and the things in his head, and he’s made it a part of his daily routine, he says. He was adamant in his beliefs that writers express themselves from the heart, and writing outside of genre fiction has shaped his expression of his unique voice on the page.

Inspiring Others

Kevin was loaded with wisdom about expressing himself and letting his personality show on the page to better connect with readers. However, he was quick to let me know that writing for him was a calling—and he’d continue to do it even if he didn’t make another dollar from his stories. This all being said, Kevin is also involved in the writing community at large, where his sole intent is to continuously grow the offerings of Draft2Digital and create an even playing field for other independent authors.

Draft2Digital is one of the world’s largest distributors of books, connecting authors to major retailers such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and Kevin is the director of marketing and public relations for the company. Kevin’s start with Draft2Digital came from his friendship with fellow Thriller author Nick Thacker. Nick was not only an author coach for Kevin but the reason he switched from writing Sci-Fi to Thrillers, Kevin says. After Nick dared him to try the genre on a live podcast, Kevin held up his end of the deal and never looked back. Kevin credits his friendship with Nick as yet another catalyst for his writing career.

Both through his work with Draft2Digital and as an author himself, Kevin has seen how the author community has evolved over the years, and he believes authors need to know there are people out there on the same path—and that he is there to help them. One effort he’s spearheaded is his regular weekly podcast titled the Wordslinger podcast. On the show, he connects with other writers in the community, sharing thoughts, ideas and stories related to publishing. “We are all trying to build something to help authors accomplish their dream, no matter what form that takes,” he says. “Authors are not alone.”

Inform, Inspire, Educate, Entertain

Given Draft2Digital’s position in the author ecosystem, I wanted to know what else the company was working on. Kevin didn’t disappoint. He says Draft2Digital is rolling out the integrations between Smashwords—another online distributor of e-books, one of the largest available—and the recent acquisition of selfpubbookcovers.com—a resource for authors looking for affordable premade book covers. This all seemed to feed Draft2Digital’s larger mission, which is one Kevin says he himself shares: to make it easier for authors to write and distribute their stories.

Nearing the end of the conversation, I felt like I had known Kevin for many years. His position in the author sphere seemed to be that of a guiding wizard, there to help me see it up my individual mountain. I asked Kevin if he’d share his mission statement, the mantra he uses to keep going even when it’s tough and the words won’t flow. “My mission is to inform and inspire, educate and entertain in the service of God and humanity,” he answered.

Kevin and I ended the conversation with a few thoughts about what the future looks like for him. He says he’s no longer in production, pumping out books at a break-neck pace—he says he can remember spending a day writing for eighteen hours to the tune of sixty thousand words.

His plan now is to continue to travel, meeting new and interesting people and finding the gems in all the places he goes. He’s entered a new era in his author career, and now he spends his time writing for himself, gaining faithful readers and an audience for life. He’s discovered people who are forgiving of his mistakes and supportive of his dream, who encourage him and are positive. He recalled when a reader asked for prayers so that his wife could make it through surgery, and he admits that until that point, he’d lost sight of those he was talking to: real people who need his stories.

Kevin isn’t a book machine; he’s an author, authentic, and a man dedicated to a mission we can all stand behind.

David Viergutz

David Viergutz

David Viergutz is a disabled Army Veteran, Law Enforcement Veteran, husband and proud father. He is an author of stories from every flavor of horror and dark fiction. One day, David’s wife sat him down and gave him the confidence to start putting his imagination on paper. From then on out his creativity has no longer been stifled by self-doubt and he continues to write with a smile on his face in a dark, candle-lit room.

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