The Growing Mind

Writing My Memoir & Emotional Growth


Leave a comment

Aspiring Indie Author & Publicity Challenges

woman reading book

(1500 words – 10 minutes read)

An indie author has to wear a lot of different hats. One of the most difficult ones for me is playing the role of the publicist. It is a new paradigm, with a steep learning curve, and little room to make mistakes. Why? 1) It’s A LOT of work that consumes time and money. 2) A mistake can harm my infant reputation. Ok, I don’t want to scare anyone. If I am doing it, everyone else can do it. It’s a slow progress that needs a lot of devotion and resilience, especially when hopelessness wants to take a major role. 😊

Let me share Shabnam’s story as a publicist and what she has done so far. In short, publicity is all about connecting to other people.

  • Website: I built my website through wix.com. They make it easy and fun to create your website. I searched and watched a couple of YouTube videos that helped me to learn tricks. It is a simple website and I will update the pages as I learn more and have more events.
  • Social Media: Overall my understanding of social media for an indie aspiring author is to build up a platform over time and be patient with it. It certainly does not create sales even with more than 1000 followers. Of all possibilities for social media, I have Twitter and Facebook, Goodreads, and recently created a business account in Instagram.
    • In Twitter, when you find the right group, mainly other writers through #writingcommunity, it starts rolling. I started with almost 10 followers in summer 2018, I have over 1400 followers now. One of the rules of thumb is following other writers and attend a couple of discussions every now and then. It still does not give me a large number of impressions on my tweets but I count it as a good steady progress. The bright point was that I got two author interviews by attending discussions in twitter. They are available in my website.
    • In Facebook, I focus on writing groups that I have joined. Facebook algorithm is tricky and I heard only 2% of the people in your network get to see your posts. I notice out of 3500 people in my network, I only get to see posts from mostly 100 people in my newsfeed. I did not see the value in publishing an author page in Facebook and made my main account public. Facebook is mostly to keep up with the news from other writer fellows who are in FB only.
    • Goodreads was one of the tools I started playing with a few months before publishing the book. In order to request and get approval for an author page, you need to provide a publishing date. If that date changes later, you can update it. One mistake I made; I loaded the cover page that was not final. It seems I cannot change it after the first download. If I figure it out, I will mention it in later posts. I am still learning how to use Goodreads as a tool for book promotion. I have connected with more than 1500 people and ran a Giveaway (for $119) one month before my book was published. I gave away 50 kindle version and got one review out of that. Overall I have more 20 reviews and ratings. Of about 30 people I asked through Goodreads to review the book (Offered a free copy – separate than giveaway), I was lucky and got about 10 reviews. It made sense to pursue people who have reviewed similar books to mine. I hear this method works in Amazon for requesting reviews too but I have not practiced it.
    • Instagram is so far my favorite tool among all in social media apps. I opened a business account (free). The best part is people can follow hashtags and therefore using the relevant hashtags# bring great visibility to each post. This helps to get more followers and likes. You can use up to 30 #s in each post. There are also many book reviewers that I reached out and a few accepted to review my book. And following #bookstagaram & #bookstagramer give great visibility to what everyone else is up to with more possibility of finding events.
    • I have noticed some bookstores ask for social media accounts to check the level of my posts’ impressions which could be used against me, since I am still learning and haven’t created a huge platform but that’s only for popular bookstores. This part of the game takes a longer time and aspiring authors need to be consistent and patient with it.
    • Listening to Joanna Penn podcast with Frances Caballo, I learned it is better if we plan our posts for each week. Sundays could be for #authorlife posts, Mondays for a cheer-up post, Tuesdays could be a post on my upcoming book, Wednesdays a #bookbuzz for #bookpromotion and so on. I’ll try this scheduling strategy and will share my experience.
  • Press Release: I sent out a press release (paid) one month before publishing the book, but got no contact/return out of it. Publishing a book by an unknown author is not news-worthy. I don’t recommend paid press-release. However, you need to prepare a press release to send it to book reviewers and radio and TV interview requests.
  • Reviews: I decided to get a couple of professional paid reviews to begin with. I chose The Midwest Reviews and City Reviews. Then I reached out to major book reviewers.
    • I received a constructive review from The Midwest Review within two weeks. The review was also published on their website in March 2019 right before my publishing date.
    • City Reviews took more than two months. Their review included negative words. I didn’t take it. I accepted to exchange it with a month of advertising in their website but nothing came out of that. I don’t mind constructive feedback and review with *** but negative words and tone of voice in any review is unacceptable.
    • I have mailed copies of my book to major reviewers but have not heard anything yet. Major reviewers I have sent my book include Book Reporter, NPR, American Book Reviews, The New York Review of Books, The New York Times, The Nation.
  • Lecture Opportunities: I have been contacting colleges to introduce my book and ask professors for a book review. I also offer a lecture in case they find the book a related subject for their department. I pursue Psychology, Sociology, and Women and Gender study departments, related to the theme of my memoir. So far two schools have accepted me to give lectures in Fall and three professors have accepted to review my book.
  • Pitching to Journalists: I tried the free version of Help a Reporter It is a lot of work to check all the subjects they send out three times per day and then pitch on the ones related to my book. I gave up on that, trying to find a better way.
  • Reading Events: I have had luck contacting the reading events in the Washington D.C. area and that gave me visibility and encouragement. I am also capturing opportunities on open mic events.
  • Bookstores: Contacting bookstores is complicated and a different experience. I will try to write a blog only for this one. I have one bookstore reading event (I didn’t have to pay) scheduled in June and had a book signing event in another bookstore that gave me some visibility.
  • Author Interviews: I have started making a list of radios, podcasts, and TVs to request interviews. I have gotten three radio interviews so far through writing community. I am going to start with local radios.
  • Submissions: One literary magazine has accepted one of my essays so far but I keep submitting personal essays to different literary magazines. Submittable is a great tool to find out about submission opportunities. To me this is a necessary part of author’s life to remain connected with the literary world.
  • Book Festivals and conferences: Attending different book events such as book festivals, author appearances, and book readings help growing my network. I had a booth in Gaithersburg Book Festival in May-2019 which was a great success as far as expanding my community and selling books. I am now looking forward to attending Baltimore Book Festival in November. I am searching for other related festival and conferences to attend. Here is a list of Book Festivals in the U.S.
  • Last but not least, reach out to friends and family members for their connection and build your network through that. Attend different events. It is a lot of work with slow response but please do not give up. Do as much as you can frequently. Build your author career through the cause and purpose your book offers. We are all in this together, step by step moving forward!

I hope this information helps. I’ll share more as I learn more. Until later…

Let’s share our stories,

Shabnam

Advertisements


Leave a comment

Meet Guest Author, Shabnam Curtis…

Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog

Developing Emotional Connection by Writing My Memoir

Every time my American friends heard a piece of my memory, they showed more empathy towards me as an Iranian-American far from my birthplace, building a new life here in the land of opportunity. We amazingly found many common themes in our lives and they appreciated for what they had not gone through; living under dictatorship, war, and rigid cultural norms.

Three years ago, when I began writing my memoir, all I recognized in me was an urge to share my story.

To learn how to write my memoir, I read other memoirs. Diving into others’ memories deepened my understanding of diversity; Of people’s differences and similarities. It enabled me to walk in others’ shoes rather than judging them. It softened me up. These stories created compassion in my heart not just toward those authors but toward people in general. I was fascinated…

View original post 836 more words


Leave a comment

“My Persian Paradox” is Published

img_4869When I look back, four years ago, I had a comfortable life. Today, I feel fulfilled. My book “My Persian Paradox” is released. It is now time to work on sharing this story with others. Maintaining a fulfilling life needs continues move full of actions. I am learning how to reach out to my readers. I will not stop doing it as each reader is a new gift in my life to teach me more, to bring more depth to my life (regardless of their positive or negative opinion about this book). A dear friend said, “Shabnam, this is the beginning of a new path for you.” It indeed is!

Let’s celebrate life!

Shabnam


21 Comments

Let’s get to Business: A Checklist for How to Become an Indie Author

independent pic

Picture by Andrew Neel @andrewneel

(1121 words – 8 minute read) Independence has been the magic word through out my life. Since I was a little girl, I wanted to be independent. I’ve tried hard and succeeded in so many aspects of my life; immigration, finance, job back in Iran. But, I have been a paycheck lady ever since I came to the U.S. Every now and then I thought about becoming a freelancer again but didn’t seriously pursue it. I was not and am not ready for the financial risk. But a few years ago, I noticed an inside revolution and strong desire, demanding to create something new other than a freelance project analyst. The uprising in my heart took me home; I began writing my memoir.

Writing my memoir taught me develop more critical thinking skills, approaching the society from not one but many different viewpoints. In short, I became capable of understanding how to put things in perspective. I learned, saying it is very different than practicing it.

When I had a complete manuscript ready,  I automatically followed the norm of the community, traditional publisher hunting. For a couple of months, I stressed myself by preparing a query letter, writing a proposal, searching and making a long list of agents and small presses. I noticed one thing was happening every time I took a break from the highly competitive environment of traditional publishing. I sheltered to websites about self-publishing. It was exciting to understand that process, kinda liberating. You are going to say, “Wait, self-publishing puts you in a more competitive environment”. My answer is “NO”. Writing a book is creating a piece of art. Assessing a piece of art is subjective. All of a sudden, I didn’t want to wait for one agent or a small press to evaluate my book based on how much money it makes. All I wanted was to share my story with readers. What if I find readers myself?

I got into the mode of risk analysis. I am confident about my book and I worked hard on it. The professional editing done on this book has been a masterful job. However, this is my first book and I am no James Baldwin. There is a slim chance of finding an agent who works with big publishers. For that pixel of a chance, the time I needed to spend could be up to two years. Indie publishers and small presses don’t have a budget for marketing and publicity so I have to do it myself, and they were going to take a long time to publish my book. I had a feeling that with everything going on in America, now is the right time to publish my book and share memories of an Iranian girl. The result of my risk analysis: I became an indie author who will self-publish her own book.

I decided when I want to publish it, what the cover design and interior design would be, and I wanted to try to find my own audience who would like to know about stories of women raised in other parts of the world. Was it stressful or scary? YES! But there are different types of fear and stress and the type I chose are constructive and motivating.

It was time to learn about publishing, marketing, and PR, subjects that I had never touched before. Six months passed and I now feel good about the steps I am taking. I even feel joy and confidence walking this path. Not pursuing becoming a best seller goal, I know I will find opportunities to share my story with the right people and will connect with them heart to heart.

Here (below), I am sharing the complete list of my steps for book publishing, marketing, and promoting. This list is built over the past six months and will improve over time. I will be happy to answer questions about any step. I have many helpful websites for each step that I can share. Please reach out. It makes me happy to connect and help!

·        Finishing editing the 2500th version
·        Professional Editing
·        Permission for poems in the book
·        Research and finalize the title and subtitle
·        Write book description for Back Cover
·        Send the book to beta readers
·        Incorporate beta reader’s feed back
·        Send final manuscript to copyedit
·        Research for a creative cover design
·        Hire the cover design artist
·        Write author bio, dedication, acknowledgments
·        Review the copyedit and resolve all issues
·        Proofread the entire book one more time
·        Finalize the front cover design
·        Create a draft of the advanced reviewer request letter
·        Create a list for the advanced reviewer request
·        Sending advanced review request letters
·        Send the book to advanced readers
·        Send the book for PW Book review
·        Send the book for paid reviews (City Book Review – San Francisco)
·        Send the book for paid reviews (The indie reviews)
·        Send the book for paid reviews (The US Review)
·        Send the book for paid reviews (The Midwest Book Reviewer)
·        Send the book for paid reviews (The New York Review Books)
·        Send the book for paid reviews (Reader’s favorite)
·        Create Goodreads author webpage
·        Purchase Website domain
·        Website design
·        Making a list of authors for Endorsement request
·        Making a draft letter for author review request
·        Sending request to authors for blurbs
·        Create own publishing Company
·        Purchase ISBNs
·        Library of Congress registration (PCN)
·        Copy right for each format
·        Write the press release
·        Send final copy to interior design (For print and Digital)
·        Review designed pages; adjust/revise (For print)
·        Complete back cover design + spine (For print)
·        Create Ingram Spark Account (Amazon, Smashword, D2D, and many others…)
·        Research/determine price point for all formats (Ingram Spark helps with Pricing)
·        Research/determine sales categories
·        Research/determine keywords/tags
·        Download and learn Caliber SW for EPUB (For digital)
·        Create EPUB/MOBI files (For digital)
·        Proofread final files in all formats
·        Upload the files to Ingram Spark
·        Send a copy for test prints
·        Send a copy of the book to the Library of Congress
·        Release the book on-sale for pre-order in Ingram Spark
·        Print run for X paperback and X hardback
·        Create Kickstarted Project (Crowdfunding)
·        Audiobook Production
·        Distribution for PR (O magazine & NPR) – (Needs a list for other places) (PR)
·        Talking to a lawyer for any possible legal issues
·        PW Bookfairs (London, Sharjah, NY) (Marketing)
·        Make a list of Indie Book Stores in each city
·        Contact Bookstores as soon as first reviews come in (PR)
·        Create quotes from the book (Marketing)
·        Marketing design for goodies (Marketing)
·        Plan Launch party (PR)
·        PW Promotion with PW publication (Marketing)
·        Research for Bookbaby Support (Marketing)
·        Research for NetGalley Support (Marketing)
·        Create a short Video – Trailer (PR)
·        Contact related department at Universities (PR)
·        Sent an application for Book Festivals (PR)
·        Reach out to Radios and Podcasts to Request Interviews (PR)

 

Let’s celebrate life!

Editing credit: Mike Curtis


Leave a comment

The Weather and the Wall

Well said! Please echo.

Longreads

Will Meyer | Longreads | January 2019 | 15 minutes (4,073 words)

“At the museum steps
Didn’t we establish
That all this blood is not a dream
This is progress
And we are not that high
We could almost be redeemed”

 — unreleased song by The Lentils

*

For years, changes in butterfly populations and migrations have been considered an “early warning indicator” of global warming. In 2006, a British butterfly specialist told The New Yorker’s Elizabeth Kolbert that of 10 species living in Southern England at the time, “Every single one has moved northward since 1982.”

Now, several years and many missed early warning indicators later, the National Butterfly Center in Mission, Texas, that has received a letter from Customs and Border Protection announcing the government’s intent to build a border wall through critical habitat for 240 species of butterflies and 300 types of birds. The letter…

View original post 3,976 more words


2 Comments

My Persian Paradox

My Persian Paradox

Coming Soon!

February 20th – Pre-order

March 20th – Publication Date

On a cold night in 1978, seven-year-old Shabnam Shahmohammad clung to her mother in a Tehran apartment while the sounds of gunshots rang out in the street: The Iranian Revolution was at hand. She and her family survived that night, but as the Islamic fundamentalists took the power over, she grew up watching her father take his beloved books away to burn, his friends be arrested and disappear, and women like her mother grow ever more marginalized. Confused by her father’s communist ideology, her mother’s conservative religious beliefs, and the regime’s oppressive rules, she developed a deep longing to live a different life.

Finding herself being married at nineteen, she naively dreamed to team up and discover an adventurous life. When she gave birth to a daughter whose future, she realized, mattered more to her than her own, she had to find a way to unlock her little girl’s possibilities. She longed to emigrate, but with Western countries’ embassies mostly absent from Tehran, options for escaping Iran were limited.

My Persian Paradox: Memories of an Iranian Girl is a tale of resilience facing oppression and dictatorship along with fighting with narrow traditional and restrictive cultural rules. This memoir is a journey of self-discovery, mother-daughter relationship obstacles, forbidden love, and the universal desire for freedom.


Leave a comment

2018 Report Card

pexels-photo-1766683.jpeg

Photo by Artem Saranin on Pexels.com

(716 words – 5 minutes read)

Reviewing my first blog post in June 2016, I felt very proud that my plans were realistic enough and were completed on-time. I had scheduled to finish final editing and begin the publishing process in 2018 which is exactly what I have done in 2018. I have a complete manuscript in my hand ready to be sent for the first print test.

2018 was a very vigorous and dynamic year for my book. During the first 6 months of the year my editor Mathina Calliope and I worked on the developmental and line edit chapter by chapter. Her inquiries on developmental edits were so thought provoking that it created a complete re-write on some chapters. The least of the changes were adding more memories and removing the non-related ones. Mathina and I went to retreats and writing conferences together. I attended her workshops and other writing workshops to write personal essays and practice more writing.

I read so many great books (fiction and nonfiction) with a writer’s eye. I fell in love with James Baldwin’s words and enjoyed Isabel Allende’s engaging stories. Memoirs such as Disoriental by Negar Djavadi, Elsewhere by Richard Russo, Life from Scratch by Sasha Martin, A Fractured Life by Shabnam Samuel, and so many other beautiful stories will never leave my memory. What I read taught me more humanity and made me more compassionate, added to my wisdom, and connected me to life and others at a deeper level. I learned more about diversity and how enriching it is in human life (if we understand it correctly).

Conferences I attended were good for different reasons. Hippocampus was great for networking, the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair was eye opening to what’s going on in other parts of the world, and AWP 2018 Florida offered helpful writing workshops as well as publishing skills. I came to the conclusion that writing conferences are great for networking but writing workshops are the main place to learn more about writing.

Also, a few great blogs and podcasts are out there that offer valuable information about both writing and book publishing/promoting.

The Creative Penn blog and podcast is managed by Joanna Penn, a cheerful positive lady who authentically provides a wealth of information to Indie authors. The spectrum of the information starts from basic writing skills to interior and cover design of a book, marketing, and book promoting. Jane Friedman’s blog provides the best of the industry of publishing as well as great articles about the craft of writing. I purchased a very easy to use Microsoft Word interior formatting file from Joel Friedland’s website Book Design Templates. You can learn the detail by watching the one hour video that Joel has on his website.

And, the GREAT news is that I decided to become an Indie Author and will publish my memoir “My Persian Paradox: Memories of an Iranian Girl” myself. The launch date is set for March 20th (the Persian New Year). The pre-order will start on February 20th. I will post another article to tell the story of me becoming an Indie author soon.

And here is the list of my writing goals in 2019 (A list of goals: so very cliché. I know! But it’s simple and it works for me. 😊)

Goals:

  • Self-publishing my books – February 20th pre-sale & March 20th sale
  • Starting my second book in January – This is very important since I want to be a “writer” first
  • Attending writing workshops throughout the year
  • Creating a crowdfunding project through a Kickstarter campaign in February
  • Creating my book website mypersianparadox.com (Under construction) in January
  • Writing and submitting more personal essays throughout the year
  • Attending reading events throughout the year (Scheduled for two readings at two events in Washington DC in January)
  • Offering a memoir writing workshop – January workshop at the Sterling, VA library was successful
  • Working on my book publicity
    • Submitting applications for Literary festivals across North America and other parts of the English speaking world
    • Submitting applications for providing a talk at colleges and cultural institutes
    • Submitting applications for providing a talk at high schools, libraries, book stores, and other public places such as breweries and wineries.
    • Being more strategically active in social media, following the rule of building a community: give 80% and advertise 20%.

Let’s celebrate life. To a great 2019!

Editing credit: Mike Curtis