Deborah Fletcher on Deborah Fletcher
Tell me about your book. What is it about? Can you describe it in just a few sentences? To show that a book has focus it is vital that it can be described briefly and succinctly.
My book is a set of my observations of the mountain valley that is my home in southern Spain and the elements therein that are, basically, hostile to these arrogant foreign upstarts that think they are equipped to deal with its savagery. Also of the neighbours and general townsfolk here who consistently generate misunderstandings, difficulties, hilarity and consternation far too entertaining to consign unrecorded to the past.
Why did you write it?
It was cathartic. I had the option either to a) stand on the edge of the valley naked and scream like a banshee, or b) spew into a keyboard to share the unbelievable with the sceptical. Basically, it was too cold for nudity when the decision was made.
Why do you think your book needed to be written? What will your book do for other people?
It came into being initially after I had sent out the first four chapters or so in piecemeal form as emails to friends and family to let them know that I was still floating and able to draw air. The clamour for more, whilst surprising, made me realise that there are a whole bunch of vicarious masochists out there who positively wallowed in my various and ongoing challenges.
I’d like to think that it would, in some small way, help to prepare others who may care to take the same sort of path as ours. Or persuade them to think again.
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?
Primarily I would expect it to be read by UK expats in Spain, or aspiring expats. And armchair travellers. I have had two years’ worth of steady royalties from sales on amazon which indicates that there is a smattering of people out there who will buy anything in this genre!
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?
At the outset I was asked by the publisher to join various social and business networking sites – I obliged with presence on Facebook, Twitter, Ecademy, LinkedIn. I regret to say that I enjoyed none of these, really, since I am socially impatient (and lazy).
I was interviewed by a local TV station (Moratalla TV) and by a Málaga radio station. I sent books to press offices of English-speaking newspapers in Spain for review; also to various e-news networks here (Eye on Spain, Simply Networking, Expat Spain). All reviews have been gratifyingly good.
As far as I know, I have not sold a book as a result of this.
Something I haven’t done, and should, because I’d probably like to anyway, is blog.
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.
I self-published at the outset under the title Spiders and Wine. This was a costly procedure, and of necessity resulted in a shorter book than I would otherwise have liked since costs increased with the number of pages. It also meant that I was entirely alone with the cover design, title, proof-reading, content and structure. It wasn’t a difficult process but it did leave me feeling very vulnerable!
I did manage to sell directly (and give away) around 150 books, which left me just short of break-even.
Then NativeSpain offered to re-issue the book under a different title and cover, and with a further 10,000-odd words of increased content. This happened surprisingly quickly; this time the title and the cover were chosen for me, and proof-reading was carried out by the publishers. Unfortunately, I also had to lose the pictures that were in Spiders and Wine, which felt to me like an amputation.
I still feel that there is room for improvement…
Self-belief can be a big problem for writers. How did you manage to stay confident in your ability and remember that you were good enough to write your book? How did you cope with the days when you thought you could not do it and that it was rubbish?
That would be down to a hardened group of loyal fans including my husband John and close friends, who would flatten me like a ton of bricks if I dared to doubt. Also (and this will sound horribly self-satisfied) I would read again what I had written and enjoy it.
It’s easy to procrastinate, to blame writers’ block and to put off finishing your project. How did you keep yourself motivated? And how long did it take you to write it? What was your routine?
I have to say that it was never an issue. There is such a wealth of material around me, because the whole thing is so personal, that I was always inspired to “jot”. At the time, I was living in a static caravan with little else to do – it was my own self-made entertainment!
Editing and re-writing (endlessly!) took a little longer, but I honestly think that could have gone on forever without some sort of deadline. It wasn’t a chore. I wrote while most people watch TV (which I never do, incidently).
What was your biggest challenge regarding the writing of your book? How have you overcome that?
Trying to gather the individual experiences into coherent groupings, rather than ramble. Keeping the underlying thread of the house-building problem running without letting it darken the general mood of the book. Finishing off adequately when in fact it doesn’t end. Did I overcome any of these challenges? Quite possibly not!
If you were to give advice to someone else who is thinking about writing a book, what would be your number one tip?
Only consider it if you are prepared to be very, very antisocial during its execution.
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