Who ever said it was tough for a scientific text to become a bestseller? With a shy smile and a gentle expression, Daniele Gasparri from Italy's Perugia region is ready to prove this assertion wrong. A passionate astronomer, he confirmed the existence of an exoplanet by observing its transit when he was just 24. Now aged 31, he has published more than 25 books independently using Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). His educational astronomy texts have climbed the bestseller listings on Amazon.it’s Kindle Store, and self-publishing allows him to make a living from writing and keep his books up-to-date with the latest scientific discoveries.
I have four books and a novel in the works. My dream has come true and continues to grow.
Head in the clouds
“My passion for astronomy came about by accident. On the day of my tenth birthday I was with my family at a market. One of the stalls was selling binoculars and I persuaded my father to buy me a pair as a present,” he recalls. Daniele could never have known that this gift would change his life. “At first, I used them to look at landscapes. Then one summer evening, I tried looking at the moon through them. I stayed there for hours, enchanted by the craters I could see.”
Daniele began pursuing his interest at an early age. When he finished high school, he enrolled on an astronomy course at university, which also included classes in physics and maths. He also kept up his passion for astronomy in his own time and began taking increasingly accurate astronomical photographs. In 2007, a specialist Italian magazine contacted him to ask if he wanted to write some educational articles.
“Initially, I was terrified by the proposal. Ever since secondary school, I’d been convinced that I was a useless writer. But I decided to take the offer as a personal challenge and I accepted,” Daniele says. These articles were well-received and the magazine helped him get into contact with some professional astronomers.
The same summer, Daniel and a group of enthusiasts used their equipment to observe the transit of a planet outside our Solar System and prove its existence. It was the first time this had been done by non-professionals and Daniele, at just 24, was the youngest member of the group. This made headlines in the international scientific community.
Daniele gave interviews and attended conferences while continuing to write articles and take photographs. He then compiled some of his images and data and – almost for fun – decided to put them into a photography book showcasing the results of his research. This was published in 2011 by a German science publisher.
“It was beginner’s luck but also, in a sense, the start of my downfall,” Daniele remembers. From that moment on, he increasingly neglected his university studies and dedicated his time to writing, finishing three books in just one year. But this time the planets weren’t aligned in his favour. “I turned to several publishing houses but never got a response. It was discouraging.”
Daniele also tried self-publishing on an American platform, but it had little exposure in Italy. “In September 2012 I considered giving up writing completely, and I went back to university. But I quickly realised that writing had by then become a part of who I am. Later that autumn I was browsing the Internet looking for solutions. I came across the possibility of publishing through Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) and decided to try it out.”
Daniele was encouraged by the initial results and started writing again, publishing one book on average every three months. He has now published 25 scientific texts on KDP, as well as a novel that reached number one on the bestseller list in the science-fiction category and reached the Top 20 on Kindle’s ranking across all categories.
“With KDP, I’m in control of everything. The fruits of my labour are not subjected to scrutiny by an editor. Instead, my work is judged directly by readers – it’s a meritocracy. I can also update my work with new discoveries, which happen every month.” Daniele has also produced hard copies of his books using the CreateSpace service.
He has a blog devoted to science education and a Facebook page that he updates regularly, allowing him to establish a dialogue with readers. “They tell me what works and what doesn’t. When you’re writing educational scientific texts and making them available to others for the purposes of learning, it’s imperative that what you write is clear.” His diary is full. “After the summer holidays, I’m going back to university and throwing myself headlong into writing again. I have four books and a novel in the works. My dream has come true and continues to grow.”
“There’s no secret: I’ve learnt that commitment pays off in the end. You have to keep looking for solutions and never give up.” Daniele’s books are firmly placed in Kindle’s bestseller ratings and he now lives off his writing alone. “In these financially troubled times I feel like an exception, but also an example that can give others hope.”
In Daniele’s opinion, all you have to do to rediscover your place in the universe after a long day at work is head off into the countryside and look up to the sky.