OK, OK! I Will Write that Ham Radio Book!

Ever since I began writing articles about my hobby of choice–amateur or “ham” radio–for my ham radio web site and several others, people have been asking me when I was going to do an amateur radio book.  The truth is, I have just been too darn busy to even think of such a thing. And I also knew, in my heart of hearts, that it be would difficult indeed to get any kind of decent book contract for such a niche book.  I presented my idea of a half-fiction/half-nonfiction book to the ARRL and they passed, so that confirmed my feelings. If they had no interest, I doubted anyone else who published books would either.

Fast-forward to July 2012.  Things have changed, both in my personal life and in the wild and woolly world of big-time book publishing.

Riding the Shortwaves: Exploring the Magic of Amateur Radio by Don Keith N4KC

Don Keith N4KC has just published his new book of short stories, articles, advice, and more about ham radio.

First, I retired from my 60-hour-a-week day job back in May.  And as I shuffled through the articles I had in the can, several more I was working on, and a few still in my head, I realized I was closer to a book than I had thought.  And I truly believed I had something that would be different and could find a readership.


Secondly, as I investigated Kindle Direct Publishing at Amazon.com for the re-issue of a couple of my previous now-out-of-print books, I realized that I should absolutely pull the ham radio book together for that outlet–Kindle and some other e-book readers–at least.  Amazon has become a real threat to traditional publishing companies–especially when it comes to e-books–as the old-line publishing houses struggle to figure this newfangled thing out.  At the very least, it gives me the opportunity to make my book available at a very reasonable price to those interested in amateur radio.  No, I don’t make much money at the price I set, even if I actually sell some downloads of the book, but that is not really the object anyway.  As I have said many times, and not totally facetiously, if I wanted to make a fortune writing books, I would write pornography (See FIFTY SHADES OF GREY).

Then, as I considered other options, I realized that Amazon offers a truly unique opportunity for works like this one that allows me to offer the book in a traditional paperback format with minimal investment up front.  Remember, I’m retired, on a fixed income these days!  Amazon’s is a print-on-demand deal, but they seem to have it down to a science.  I ordered some copies as soon as I got the book and cover uploaded and accepted for publication.  The very next day I got the email that they were being shipped that day. Wow!

Again, this was with very little upfront cost and minimal hassle.  Now, the paperback will be available not only via Amazon.com, but through major distributors, for order by libraries, and even in many European markets. We will see how good the print job is, but believe me on this: the major houses don’t necessarily produce the highest quality book any more either.  They have to cut where they can to make a profit and printing, binding, and warehousing is a big drain on them.

Talk about rapid technological change and its effect on society and the media!  Broadcast radio, TV, the Internet and telephone communications are not the only things evolving at a dizzying pace.  Include the anachronistic business of book publishing in that mix, too!

Realistically, will tons of booksellers and all the Barnes & Noble stores order a box full of the books each?  Or will hundreds of thousands of libraries order up a couple dozen copies each?  Of course not.  The big publishers do have sales staff to encourage that sort of thing. But a) no big publishing house was going to do a contract for RIDING THE SHORTWAVES: EXPLORING THE MAGIC OF AMATEUR RADIO and b) even if they did, it would be somewhere near the bottom of the sales staff’s sample case, so c) Amazon’s various self-publishing options are perfect for this kind of book.

By the way, if you have any interest in the dynamic and rapidly growing hobby of ham radio–believe me, it ain’t your weird uncle’s past-time any more!–then you may want to stop by Amazon.com and take a look “Inside the Book,” read the description, and maybe buy a copy or two…for yourself or someone you know and want to spark the interest in our amazing hobby.

See, right there in that last sentence, I did more publicity for RIDING THE SHORTWAVES than the big publishers do for most of the books they print up and ship out!


Don Keith N4KC
www.donkeith.com    www.n4kc.com 


Don Keith, N4KC, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from Alabama, USA. Contact him at [email protected].

9 Responses to “OK, OK! I Will Write that Ham Radio Book!”

  • Matt W1MST:

    That’s exciting, Don. Congratulations! Your writing is fantastic and I’m sure this book is no exception.

    When you buy Don’s book, don’t forget to leave a review on Amazon.

  • AI4IC:

    Congratulations on your book!

    How are chances that your book will be available for the Nook or other reading devices? As an author, do you have to pick either Amazon/Kindle or B&N/Nook, or is there a way to publish for both?

  • Don N4KC:

    Hopefully Nook will happen someday, but they just don’t offer the self-publishing capabilities of Amazon. Kindle format works on several other e-book readers, just not the Nook. There are free downloadable programs that can convert one to the other, though. Calibre is one that comes to mind.

    I would appreciate reviews on Amazon, eHam.net, or anywhere, or just drop me an email with your thoughts, pro or con. [email protected].


    Don N4KC

  • W2LJ:


    Thanks fot the news! Purchased and downloaded last night. Ddidn’t get a chance to start reading – though I am sure it will be a “good ‘un”.

    Larry W2LJ

  • Don N4KC:

    Larry, thanks. Please let me know what you think about the book. It IS different!

    Don N4KC

  • W2LJ:


    Just started reading ….. and I have to say – if the rest of the book is as good as the Introduction and Chapter One …… AWESOME !!!!

    Thanks so very much, OM!

    Larry W2LJ

  • Don N4KC:

    Larry, your picture is now on my mantel! Thank you.

    Don N4KC

  • W2LJ:


    Read some more last night and my prediction came true. You have done an awesome job. I don’t mean to use the word so much that it loses its impact; but it’s true. This is a great book for the fledgling Ham and the experienced Ham as well. I’m going to post something this weekend on my blog about your book. I’m about 1/2 way through and even after 34 years in the hobby, I am loving this book.

    Larry W2LJ

  • Don N4KC:

    Larry, can you see me blushing all the way down here in my basement shack in ‘Bama? I think you have seen through my subterfuge: using humor, info, emotion and any other trick I can, I’m trying to tip some of those on the brink right on over into the chasm of Hamdom! And to urge those already in the hobby who might be lukewarm into trying some other aspects that might increase their enjoyment of it all.

    Who knows? I might even give QRP a serious try! 🙂

    Don N4KC

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