JP: Tell me about your book. What is it about? Can you describe it in just a few sentences?AOC @Home in Dubai… Getting Connected Online and on the Ground is what every newcomer to Dubai should have – their very own personal, friendly guide. It’s like I’m holding your hand through the first tough weeks of getting connected to a new city. I share my experiences on everything from getting a work permit to finding a Wi-Fi hotspot… and even how to connect with a fun sport or social group. Connecting in Dubai can be a nerve-wracking experience but I keep it light with some helpful, and sometimes comical, insights into how to get it done. Knowing the drill is half the battle and I also include advice from other expats who are happy to share a few ‘how tos’ with readers as well as a slew of online references and resources.
JP: Why did you write it?
AOC I’m a teacher, mentor and helper at heart and I constantly find myself having coffee with new friends or colleagues, helping them over the rough patches whether personally, in their writing careers or getting settled into expat life. I was sending out regular updates on my escapades in Dubai and after several people suggested I write a book about my experiences, to help others going through the same stuff, I thought it was a great idea. Working with Summertime Publishing to start the @Home in… series fit very nicely in the big picture for me.
JP: What qualifies you to write this book?
AOC I’ve been an expat for almost 18 years and spent four years in Dubai. I’ve lived in four different countries and travelled to 25 (most recently Australia so now I’ve officially hit every continent) so I know what it’s like to have to adapt to a new place. After many years in PR and as a writer, I’m an avid researcher and I’ve become adept at finding the best resources both online and on the ground (and I also surveyed other expats who shared their favorites too).
JP: Why do you think your book needed to be written? What will it do for other people? How will it help? Did you have any competition?
AOC Dubai has a hugely transient population with thousands of expats still pouring in every month. It’s hard to find good solid information on how to accomplish practically anything in Dubai and there’s a lot of misinformation and incomplete information out there which leaves most people floundering. I personally experienced it and have heard it over and over again from others. I was involved in many organizations, both professional and social, and every time I met a newcomer I heard the same lament. The biggest thing that makes @Home in Dubai different from other books on Dubai (the ‘competition’) is that it’s chock-a-block full of tried and true, online references and resources and it’s written in a chatty way. The approach I have taken has a warm, personal touch (at least I hope that’s what comes across). I help readers feel like they’re not alone. I share my own personal experiences, along with those of many others who have been through the wringer too and then I end every chapter with simple, step-by-step guidelines and a couple of helpful case studies for good measure.
JP: Who do you think will read your book? What made you think that there was a market for it? If your book has been out for a while, what proof do you have that you were right?
AOC @Home in Dubai will be read primarily by smart people J who have recently moved or are planning a move to Dubai (whether first time or veteran expats). It will also have loads of great information for visitors to Dubai (more long-term versus short term) and I’ve also had people who have been living in Dubai for a while, who reviewed the book before it was published, tell me that it’s even helpful for entrepreneurs and individuals looking for advice on how to get connected (especially the chapters on setting up a business and getting connected professionally). I knew there was a market for it because I was surrounded by people who were always asking for help (as I did when I first arrived). That and the fact that 80 percent of the population in Dubai is made up of expats. Everyone constantly complained that it was so hard to unearth information on the processes and procedures and as a result it usually took many trips to the respective government entity or service provider to get anything done. @Home in Dubai helps streamline the process.
JP: It does not matter how good a book is, or how good your writing is if no one knows about it. What steps have you taken or do you plan to take to promote your book? Are you a speaker or trainer? Do you have a blog? A website? A newsletter? Do you use Facebook, Twitter or other social media tools? What about press releases and sending out review copies and free articles? Have you had any other ideas? Which methods do you think work best and can you give me any examples?
AOC I have been working diligently to establish my online platform, which I started developing four years ago when I became a freelancer and more recently began enhancing with my ‘new author’ status. I have a business website (globalwritingsolutionsonline.com) that dovetails with the book website (athomeindubai-gettingconnected.com) and have a Facebook page for the book (facebook.com/athomeindubai) as well as one for me as a writer (facebook.com/annethewriter). I’m working on establishing cross-promotions for all of these elements and use Twitter (@annethewriter) and my blog (anne-writingjustbecause.blogspot.com) to drive traffic and am researching the possibility of running ads on Facebook as well. I am working on articles to submit to travel and expat websites and have a list of related blogs I targeted to send review copies to and/or pitch to do a guest blog. I plan to do a few targeted events in Dubai where I can hopefully speak and do book signings and a press release will go out to a very targeted media list.
JP: How did you publish your book? Did you find an agent, a publisher or did you publish it yourself? Please describe your process and tell us how you found the experience. Is there anything you would definitely do again or never do again?
AOC Well, you know this story well. I had started a writers group in Dubai called Flamingo Authors, a group of friends who were all in various stages of writing a book (some already published, some self-publishing and some just exploring the idea). We decided to meet monthly as a group and urge each other on. A couple of the group members had met you before (and I had also read a couple of your books) and suggested that we invite you via Skype to one of our meetings to share how the book writing/publishing process works. We had a great session, which led to your visits to Dubai to deliver some workshops (which I hosted and promoted for you, and filled the room). You and I started brainstorming a few ideas. I was working on a book on Dubai but you pitched the @Home in… series that your company, Summertime Publishing, had gotten the rights to and asked if I would write the Dubai edition. I loved the idea and jumped at the chance (even though I had to shelve the book I was working on at the time, but I will get back to it). Since @Home in Dubai my first book it has been quite a learning process but it’s been incredible. It has shown me that I definitely have what it takes to write a book(s) and with my PR and marketing background I love that the industry has moved towards authors sharing responsibility for their own marketing and PR. Yes, I would do it all over again… if you’ll have me! I’m also attempting to self-publish a ‘how to’ e-book, but that’s another interview, right?
JP: What was your biggest challenge regarding the writing of your book? How have you overcome that?
AOC I guess the biggest challenge for me was having to put my copy writing business pretty much on hold for the three months it took to write the book. I continued with my existing clients and just had to be very disciplined to get everything done. I was used to spending a big chunk of my day writing but I had to add at least four hours to that in order to accomplish my goals and meet the deadline. Fortunately, it was heading into summer and things quiet down in Dubai during that time. I also spent a month at a cottage in Northern Ontario following that, which was a perfect place to do the first round of edits.
JP: Now you have written this book, what has writing it done for you, your family, your self-esteem or your business?
AOC It’s been all very positive. I’ve dreamed of being an author, so for me, it’s a dream come true. It’s inspired me to dust off other book outlines I’ve had lurking in my computer for a long while. I even signed up for NaNoWriMo in an effort to get my first novel done. Of course, my family is very proud of me and even though none of them will be moving to Dubai any time soon, they’re still waiting for their signed copies! My mom is actually the MT to whom the book is dedicated. As for my business, writing a book is like doing daily calisthenics for a writer so it’s kept my mind nimble and focused, which can only help. And, being a published author adds to my credibility.
JP: If you were to give advice to someone else who is thinking about writing a book, what would be your number one tip?
AOC Get a really solid outline done first, then a list of chapter topics followed by a full-on brain dump to get all the ideas that have been floating around your head down on paper (or on your computer). Then, you’ll be able to sit back and have a look at whether or not you’re really ready. Oh, and look at your schedule to see if there’s any time in the run of a day or even once a week that you can ferociously protect as writing time. Otherwise, it’s not going to happen.
All the latest news, views, and writing tips from Jo Parfitt and the team at Summertime Publishing