Introducing the amazing Clara Wiggins.
Clara has agreed to be my first guest blogger and I am sure you will love her book. Born the daughter of British Diplomats, Clara has travelled the world all her life and now she is married with two beautiful little ones and a husband who also has overseas postings her story continues and her book aims to help others who find themselves in foreign climes and maybe unsure of their next steps.
Rather than do the often favoured question and answer I am just going to let Clara tell her story, which I am sure you will enjoy.
Writing the Expat Partner’s Survival Guide: a labour of love laced with sweat and tears
A few years ago, living on a stunning tropical island surrounded by gentle sea, dazzling sands and verdant vegetation, I had an idea for a book. Beautiful though the surroundings were, it wasn’t these things that inspired me. Rather, it was some of the people I met on that beautiful island, people who should have been happy living in such a paradise, but people who weren’t happy. Why weren’t they happy? Of course the reasons will be many and varied – but one of the reasons was because they hadn’t been at all prepared for what their lives would be like.
And so the Expat Partner’s Survival Guide was born.
I can’t claim to be the world’s expert on this subject – after all, I have so far only been on two overseas postings as a partner, and one of those was cut very short (we were forced to leave Islamabad after just three months following the Marriott bombing of 2008). But my expat experience didn’t start with my time as a “trailing spouse” – it goes back years. And, if you believe that we have a “travelling gene”, you could say it goes back a lot longer than that: I am the daughter of British diplomats and my grandfather and great-grandfather were both officers in the Colonial service and served in Asia and Africa. So whilst the emphasis is on moving overseas as the accompanying spouse, I was able to bring years of expertise as an expat to the writing.
However, I can’t take all the credit for the contents of the book as I was helped by more than 75 other expat partners, from all corners of the globe. It took me a while to find them but once I did, I gathered huge amounts of advice, information, tips and anecdotes from a group of spouses who between them must have had hundreds of years of experience of accompanying their partners abroad.
So between myself and my contributors (which includes my own mother), I had plenty of material for the book. I knew what I wanted to say, I understood what was needed from my own experiences. Now I just needed to write it.
This was, in many ways, the easy part. I am a trained journalist and have never had a problem with writing things down. Working on daily newspapers, you sometimes had minutes to write a full-page story – so I can hammer out 250 words as quickly as it takes most people to make a cup of tea. But the writing bit was just a small part of the production process: as well as the networking and the research, I also needed to organise it into some sort of coherent order. This took a bit longer and involved a lot of highlighter pens, as well as a few spells at a writer’s retreat where I could lock myself away from the world and concentrate purely on the book. But I got there in the end and the first draft was finished.
As all writers know, this is still a long way from being the end. I read and re-read, fiddled and re-wrote. I added a last-minute chapter on relationships. And then, finally, I decided it was time to send it to my editor.
Earlier in the process of writing the book, I had sent a few submissions off to publishers. I did receive replies and those that said anything about the book at all were all very positive. But the view was that it was too niche. There wasn’t a market for it. Or if there was, it wasn’t a market traditional publishers understood well enough to know how to reach. I decided to go it alone and started reading up on what I would need to do. Two things stood out as absolutely essential if I wanted my book to be taken seriously: get it edited professionally, and get the book cover designed professionally. A marketing-your-self-published-book course also told me that I needed to think about the marketing, very seriously, long before the book was finished.
With all this in mind, I found an editor and sent it off and at the same time started a blog. With a platform, I was now in a better position to start guest-blogging, commenting, contributing to other posts and pages, just to get my name out there. It’s an ongoing campaign and I know there is a long way to go but I have been delighted with the response I have had to my blog posts. I have also thoroughly enjoyed the interaction I get with other bloggers – I just wish I had more time to spend on it!
So the book came back from the editor and for the first time, thanks to his amazingly positive comments, I was confident about putting it “out there”. I made some changes based on his assessment of the book, put it through a professional proof-reader and then did a bit more reading, re-reading, repeat…
Eventually though you do need to stop. It’s not easy as I think I could have kept on adding to the book for years. Since starting the blog, in particular, I have had more and more ideas and suggestions about the expat partner life. But had I not stopped when I did I would have run into time trouble as my focus on the next few months has to be on our impending move to South Africa.
So I sat down to add the finishing touches. This included formatting; however, I quickly realised this was another area I really was going to need some help with and once again called in the professionals. By now I had quite a team – which makes me realise that although it is called “self” publishing, you do need to rely on other people if you want to deliver a quality product.
The book went to and fro with the formatter a few times as I received the proof, sent in some more changes, waited for it to come back again….and then, finally, I decided it was done. I set a date, loaded it up onto Amazon and Smashwords with a publication day for the e-book editions and then waited as it went online as it became available as a paperback.
And so the big day arrived: launch day. I had been sending out teasers to my followers over the few weeks before publication: unveiling the cover design, a picture of the proof copy, updates as to when it would be ready etc. Then on the day itself I simply uploaded a post onto my blog to announce that the book was out, copied it onto Facebook and Twitter and pressed go.
I was overwhelmed with shares and tweets, likes and comments. It was very exciting. The sales started to come through (it takes a while for them to register on Amazon sometimes so it’s hard to know exactly when people have bought one) and I saw that my announcement post, plus the Buy the Book page on my blog, had been shared more than 300 times on Facebook.
Of course this didn’t translate directly into sales – one of the things that I have learned over the last month since I released the book is how hard it is to convert interest in the book into hard sales. It is frustrating when I see that someone has been on the Buy the Book page but not actually bought it. I know there is a lot of interest but it’s a tough market out there.
However, my sales are rising and I now have 11 lovely reviews on Amazon (two on Amazon.com and nine on Amazon.co.uk – every one of my reviews is five star). I see this very much as a word-of-mouth book so I sincerely hope that as people read it, they tell others about it. I really believe that the book can help people, and feedback so far from those who have read it suggests that it will.
It’s early days yet and the book is still establishing itself but I continue to believe in it as a product. Marketing it could be a full-time job but I simply don’t have the time for that, which is one of the more frustrating things about publishing. However, hopefully there will come a time when it is known enough to promote itself. In the meantime, I continue to enjoy writing guest posts like this one, as well as adding more of my thoughts ,views and experiences about expat life to my blog. And every day I continue to log onto my dashboard to see whether anyone has bought my book. I celebrate every sale – but I also hope that every sale means one more expat partner who will have an easier time of it when they do move abroad.
Born overseas to British diplomats, Clara Wiggins has travelled on and off all her life. This has included living in the Philippines, Nigeria and Venezuela as a child, and living and working in New Zealand and Jamaica as an adult. More recently, she and her two daughters have accompanied her husband on postings to Pakistan, St Lucia and will be moving to South Africa this summer. Clara is the author of the Expat Partner’s Survival Guide, a light-hearted but supportive guide which draws on the expert advice of more than 70 expat partners who have been there, done that and survived to tell their tales. You can find out more about Clara and her book on her blog site: http://expatpartnersurvival.com/. The book is available to buy in paperback or Kindle from Amazon.
Thank You Clara for being my guest blogger onI hope you sell many copies of your book and I will look forward to reading it as an expat myself xx