I spent some fascinating (and challenging) years teaching in Turkey, and I’d love to share them with you, your friends, and your family. Contact me if you’d like copies, and I’ll send them off pronto. Write before December 15th, though, as I’ll be off on yet another adventure.
I’m still marketing my new memoir (YOU MUST ONLY TO LOVE THEM, LESSONS LEARNED IN TURKEY), doing my best but falling short of the results I’d hoped for. I’ve set my sights rather low—my humble goal is to sell at least a thousand books. My two previous books have each sold nearly 4,000 copies, so I should be able to manage this. The difference is that I’m marketing this book all on my own, not an easy task. I’m researching, learning, and taking new marketing steps every day. I’m encouraged because the reviews are far better than those on my previous books. With 43 reviews on Amazon, my memoir has five stars. Maybe it’s not so bad after all.
YOU MUST ONLY TO LOVE THEM has been out exactly a month now, and between myself and Amazon, sales are at about 160. Hmmmm… 840 to go.
A writing friend suggested I contact Jessie Voigts, who runs a mind-boggling number of websites, but the one I’m most interested in is Wandering Educators, since my memoir is about living and teaching overseas.
I contacted Jessie and reluctantly made a “date” to chat on Skype. I’m not much of a phone person, and Skype is something I’ve only used for overseas calls. What a surprise then, to revel in every minute of that call. Jessie was enthusiastic, fun, and brilliant. In 45 minutes she shared more information about marketing than I’d learned in a month of research. Amazing. She’s my New Best Friend. She introduced me to the importance of metadata (the words attached to articles and pictures that guide searchers to an online item or web site), and she infused me with a major shot of enthusiasm.
While we were chatting she went to my blog and my website and tried to “pin” photos from them to a Pinterest board. The captions I’d so diligently written into my copy didn’t travel with the photos. Instead the pinned photo announced that I was using an Olympus Camera. BUMMER!
She told me to attach information about the photo, about me, about my blog and about my website. When you upload a photo to a web site, you have to hit the “edit” or “settings” button for the photo, then enter information (your metadata) as Alternate Text. Since I downloaded over 300 photos to my web site as a companion to the book, it’s been a major task. The results should be positive, though, and my New Best Friend Jessie has promised to pin things as I go. Thank you, Jessie!
The included metadata allows people to access my web site and blog from that photo, and they might even buy my memoir. Who knows? Without that metadata, there’s really no chance.
Jessie explained that she gets 70% of her website traffic through Pinterest. Now THAT’S important information. I used Pinterest for decorating ideas while we were remodeling our little cabin, but I had no idea its scope was so broad. I guess I need to spend more time there. Pinterest has boards for just about everything, so I hooked into the boards for Turkey, Education, and Travel. It’s fun, and I follow pins to lots of other interesting information.
I never would have guessed that Pinterest might be my route to more sales—at least a few more, anyway. 838 to go?
My new book, You must only to love them, is out, the reviews are great (HOORAY!), and I’m scrambling to market this baby—an overwhelming task.
I’ve done a blog tour (a new concept for me—I wrote blogs for other sites), I’ve tweeted and facebooked and built a new web site (annmariemershon.com). I’ve sent e-mails to everyone I know. I’ve given away free books through Goodreads and paid people to tweet and post for me. I’ve done author interviews and promoted myself ad nauseum. And this is only the beginning. Sigh..
I’ve decided to post a segment of the book online, so here’s a tidbit from my first week in Turkey, a late-night visit to a carpet shop in Selçuk:
from CHAPTER 5, POINTED SHOES
Every time we left the Nilya, Jana and I were hounded by a greasy-haired rug merchant with black shoes tapered to a pencil point. Jana ignored him, but I made excuses each time we saw him. I’d been taught not to ignore anyone but my bullying brother.
On our last night we took the mini-bus back down to Selçuk, and as we climbed the dark hill home, light gleamed from Mehmet’s carpet shop.
“We really should go in,” I sighed. “I did promise.”
“But I’m so tired, and he hasn’t seen us.”
“It’ll only take a minute, Jana. One cup of tea and we’ll leave.”
Mehmet brought tea in tiny tulip-shaped glasses as we perused his shop. The worn wooden floor was surrounded by stacks of folded and rolled carpets, much like other shops we’d passed.
“What can I show you?” Mehmet asked.
“I’m sorry, but I really can’t buy a rug. We’d love to see what you have, though.”
Explaining as he went, Mehmet showed us kilims (woven), carpets (knotted), and sumacs (woven and embroidered), piling one on another as he pulled them from his collection. I was drawn to the silk carpets, brilliant-hued masterpieces with a rich sheen. Mehmet picked up a tree-of-life carpet in soft shades of green with maroon and red, then flipped it around. The pale colors transformed to deep, rich hues when the nap faced us. The intricate designs of the silk stole my breath.
“How do you like this one?” Mehmet asked, pulling out a narrow silk carpet with three pink and white medallions on a field of light blue, framed with intricate floral patterns and long twisted fringe. When he saw my smile he offered me his “teacher price” of 400—was it dollars or lira? (A dollar was about 1.3 lira at the time.)
“I’m sorry, Mehmet. I really need to wait until I learn more about carpets.”
“Ah, but you will never find better price than this, and I can see you love this carpet. It is beautiful, no?” I had no idea whether his price was fair.
“Yes, it’s lovely, but I haven’t been paid yet. I have no money.”
“Do you have a credit card?”
“I never charge anything unless I can cover it.”
“It’s gorgeous,” Jana interjected. Thanks a lot.
Mehmet eyed me carefully. “I will make special offer only for you. You must take this rug home then look at other rugs in Istanbul. I know you will not find so fine carpet for such good price. Later you send me money or return carpet. You are teacher, so I trust you. In Turkey we love teachers too much.”
I was uncomfortable. It felt shady to take this rug with no down payment, yet Mehmet seemed sincere. Why was he doing this?
Jana convinced me that I couldn’t lose, and I finally succumbed. Mehmet wrote my name in a spiral tablet with a note that I taught at the Koç School in Istanbul, and I took his business card. I expected he’d charge something on my credit card, but he didn’t even ask for it. He rolled the carpet in brown paper and put it in a black nylon duffle.
“I have important warning to you,” he said as he handed me the package. “You as American woman must be very careful for Turkish men who try to take advantage of you.”
To learn what happens with the carpet, buy my book! CLICK HERE
Talk about a learning curve! After years of writing, revising, querying agents, revising, querying more agents, revising some more and querying even more agents, I’d had enough. Call me the little red hen. If no one would help me, I’d publish this book myself. I had poured my heart into a memoir about my years in Turkey, and it was time to put it to bed.
Famous last words.
I’d purchased Scrivener on the advice of a friend and used it for my final versions of the book. It’s a great program for writing; I wish I’d used it from the get-go. If I had, I’d have formatted my book as a novel. But I didn’t. Water under the bridge.
I knew there were tasks ahead if I wanted to publish on my own. I’d have to choose an avenue for publication, design a cover, format the book, and then market it on my own. A tall order to be sure, but I’d had no idea.
CHOOSING AN AVENUE FOR PUBLICATION
First, I’d have to chose a self-publishing company or a vanity publisher. There are plenty out there, and each offers different services. I researched online and talked to friends who’d self-published. After much deliberation I decided to go through Amazon because it has no costs up front and offers an impressive online presence. It’s not so great for marketing to bookstores, but more on that later. Amazon it would be. If the book did well I’d publish a photo version through IngramSpark, which offers cheaper color printing plus a wide distribution channel.
DESIGNING A COVER
Now for the cover. I’d decided to call my memoir “You must only to love them” after a bit of advice from a young Turk about managing Turkish students. I found it endearing as well as true. I have about 20,000 photos from my years in Turkey (not kidding), and I pulled a few favorites that I thought might look classy. I had mosque domes with a night sky, the Sultanahmet skyline at sunset, a poppy with a lake and mosque in the background, and the list goes on. I incorporated the title on a few, and they looked nice—but not great.
It didn’t take me long to realize that a book about people should feature people on the cover. Duh! I pulled some photos of students and children I encountered in Turkey and finally chose a photo of me posing with costumed dancers at Mount Nemrut. It was my husband’s favorite photo of me. My artist friend Sue suggested that a handwritten title would offer a warm touch, so I wrote the title about a hundred times before I got one I liked. I sent my cover layout to my son Dustin, who used his graphic design skills to spruce it up. I’m lucky to have him.
The front cover was enough to post the e-book on Amazon, but the paperback version needed copy for the back, and—oh, yeah—the spine! So much to think about.
FORMATTING THE BOOK
Years ago I attended a writing workshop that offered a session on formatting your book as an e-reader. I wasn’t open to e-publishing at that time, but from what I heard it was more than daunting. Fortunately, things have changed.
I felt pretty smart when I learned that Scrivener will magically format your book for e-readers (as well as other formats). Well, not totally. I soon realized that I had a lot to learn. I worked to educate myself about compiling the book from my manuscript, and it took weeks. I watched and re-watched the Scrivener tutorial videos, but my most valuable resource turned out to be writers’ blogs. Thank God for Google and the wonderful people out there helping us neanderthals understand the techno-world! I think I may have compiled the e-book fifty times and repeated the process again with the paperback, which had to be done differently. I felt envious of people who understand techno-speak, let me tell you.
So here I am with a beautiful cover (if I do say so myself) and a pretty good memoir all ready for the world. Now all I have to do is get the word out. Oh dear.
As I peruse my shelf of writing resources, Rogets Super Thesaurus,, The Elements of Style, and The Pooh Book of Quotations, I marvel at how the computer has changed the way I write. I seldom reach for those books nowadays, preferring to consult my computer’s thesaurus, which only requires typing the word I want to improve. I can pull up quotations in an instant on Google, and my computer warns me when my grammar isn’t up to snuff. Is this a good thing?
I may be showing my age, but I remember writing on a lined tablet with resources lined up on the desk. Today my desk sports a printer/scanner/fax machine, a notepad, a camera, a computer, and a coffee cup. Is it simpler? Is it better?
I know it’s faster. I just timed myself, and I can only write about 40 words a minute, while I type more than twice that, almost as fast as I can think. I remember being frustrated that while I wrote longhand I would often lose a thought as I wrote the previous one. That doesn’t happen at the computer.
Natalie Goldberg, revered writing guru, lauds the value of writing by hand because of the organic connections it fosters. I’ve tried to go back to it, but my arthritic paws resist these efforts. I skip letters, and my handwriting is nearly illegible when I rush. The computer is clean, quick, and correct–but is it as deep?
Many mourn the demise of the handwritten personal letter, and I must admit I’m tickled each time I receive a letter with a handwritten address, astonished if there’s a handwritten missive inside. I have one friend who still writes me longhand. Sweet.
I remember the excitement I felt at each tissue-thin blue letter from my London pen-pal, and the thrill of opening a long letter from a relative or friend was always a joy.
It just doesn’t happen any more. We’ve all changed. A quick e-mail or text is the norm these days. I’m not quite up with the text thing, but I expect I’ll get there.
I guess I’m a victim of this new age, this new technique, this new speed. If my computer helps me get through my writing tasks a bit more quickly, I’m glad. I have a lot of things I love to do away from my desk. There are sunrises to marvel at, woods to snowshoe, and lakes to paddle.
To each his own, huh?
After six years blogging about Turkey, it’s time to move on. Well, sort of. I’ve devoted (well, that’s an exaggeration) even more years to crafting a memoir about my experiences there, which I’m ready to revise yet again. Hopefully for the last time.
I constantly reminded my writing students (dedicated and laconic alike) to avoid the grocery list format. So, what’s my memoir? A 115,000-word grocery list.
Oh, I’ve spruced it up with anecdotes, attempting to include descriptions that evoke the spirit of Istanbul. Things like “I peered down at the Bosphorus glittering beneath us to spot a medieval fortress blinking up from its stony ramparts, no doubt bemused by the modern suspension bridge above spanning two continents—and many more centuries.” Sadly, it hasn’t been glittery enough to spark the enthusiasm of an agent. I WANT an agent!
I’ve published two books, so don’t I deserve an agent?
Book number one was a children’s historical novel, Britta’s Journey~An Emigration Saga, loosely based on the emigration experiences of an elderly neighbor (and friend) who died before the book was published. That one sold about 4000 copies, which isn’t great, but it’s not too bad, either.
Book number two was Istanbul’s Bazaar Quarter, Backstreet Walking Tours. I co-wrote this with my Turkish friend Edda Weissenbacher after being fascinated by her backstreet walking tours through Istanbul. I was the photographer, map-maker, and writer/editor, working from short guides Edda had written for each walk. That book is in its third printing and has sold nearly 6000 copies. Slight improvement over Britta.
But I digress. My Turkey memoir is the topic of the day. I attended a writer’s conference recently and in a workshop led by Catherine Watson, a travel and memoir writer, I was encouraged to begin anew, preserving the gems from my current version and weaving them into a narrative that focuses on my personal journey. This feels like a tall order, but I’m going to get it done.
My problem is time. My husband Jerry and I have just devoted the last two summers to working on our new home, so there’s been little time for writing. We’re in the new house now, I’ve got my office back together, and I promised myself to devote at least a few hours each day to this new project. I’m encouraged, and deadlines work for me. I’ve just printed up the entire revised, revised, and revised memoir, which I’ll attack with a highlighter over the coming week. Then I’ll start the new narrative. I sure hope this works. At least I have a direction.