Feeling a bit bleurgh about blogging….

Does this happen to anyone else?

I have been blogging since January and up until recently I have loved it. I have never been short of ideas, posts have tripped off my fingers and I have always been able to say what I want to say without tying myself up in knots.

But not anymore. Right now I am feeling a bit bleurgh about blogging.

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What do I mean by feeling bleurgh? Well, I have lost inspiration. Not that I don’t have lots of ideas – I do, I have lists of them and keep adding to that list. But for some reason none of them grab me right now. And when I run through that list, I end up feeling even more bleurgh. Thoughts run through my head – why would anyone want to know about this? I think someone else has written about this already. Everyone else writes so much better than I do. No-one is interested.

And all I end up doing is either writing a particularly uninspired post (which either does or doesn’t see the light of day – depending on how bad it is) or writing nothing,

Now there could be a few reasons for this bleurghness. I have been fairly distracted this summer, moving from the UK to South Africa. I was lucky enough to have a whole league of brilliant guest bloggers who ensured my blog wasn’t just tumbleweed and crickets during the days when I was packing, moving, goodbying, flying, unpacking, settling….But brilliant and brilliantly helpful as this was, it did mean that I got out of the habit of frequent blogging.

And as all writers know, writing is like any sport – you need to use your muscles in order to keep up to speed. Let them get flabby and you need to get fit again before the words start to flow. I know I need to get back into the writing habit, which means I need to start having more of a routine.

I think this is probably the biggest problem. When we were at home in the UK, life had a rythm. I knew what happened when at each point of the day, I knew when I had my writing/blogging time and I knew when I didn’t. Here, I am still a bit all over the place (just things like shopping for food takes so much longer as I just don’t know where to find everything – so I can find myself going out to various supermarkets several times a week) and thus my spare “writing” time doesn’t always conincide with the time when I feel most able to write. At least, to write coherently.

I am also finding my concentration is shot, I get distracted by the smallest things (look a new bird! Oh, I need to look up that new German bakery someone recommended), and I am not using my spare time wisely.

But I know I need to get back on top of things. Next month is a new month and I am planning to start being a little more organised with my time. I want to get back into routine, start working on some of the ideas I have, go back to some of my old “occasional” series’ like Memorable Journey’s and Interesting Expats, and perhaps start some new ones. Somehow I need to get my blogging ooomph back, I need to get those words to flow again. I don’t know how to do it, hopefully it will happen naturally the more back into practise I get.

But if anyone has any tips or advice as to how I can stop feeling bleurgh about blogging, please do let me know 🙂

Help! I’m new!

For this month’s Trailing Spouse blog crawl, we were asked to consider what sort of advice we would give to newcomers to our current location. In fact, we were asked to blog about our travel secrets. Well, when you have only been in a country less than a week (as I have at the time of writing) then you don’t really have any travel secrets. In fact, you don’t really know very much at all!

However, the advantage to this is that I am still at that stage of discovering other peope’s travel secrets, and where to find out more about Pretoria, the surrounding state of Gautang and the neighbouring states of North West Province, Limpopo and Freestate, and other parts of South Africa. As well as Mozambique, Namibia, Mauritius, Botswana, Swaziland, Lesotho….yup, there are certainly going to be plenty of places to see around here!

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A view of Harbeespoort dam.

But because there is so much out there to see, it’s actually all a little overwhelming. The guide books have page after page of places I have already bookmarked as places I would like to visit; my laptop is similarliy bursting with bookmarked pages of safari parks and moutains and wine routes and beaches….and yet there is only so much time (annoyingly, other people in my family have boring things like school and work most days, making non-stop travel a bit of a non-starter!).

So where to start? Well, one piece of advice I give in my book the Expat Partner’s Survival Guide, is to find a blog (or blogs) from the country where you are moving to and start reading the archive as soon as you know you are going there. If possible, try and find a blog written by someone who has similar interests to you, or whose family situation is the same (following someone who writes about day trips with the kids isn’t going to be much use for singletons who want to know more about nightife).

For me, the first such blog I found was Joburg Expat, which I particularly liked because blogger Sine’s children were a similar age to mine when they were here so she has some great tips for family trips. But more than this, I also love that she doesn’t sugarcoat family life – I was sold when I read one of her posts about a visit to Capetown which included various tantrums, disputes, whines and fall-outs – in other words, a totally normal family trip where you know that you are never going to be able to please everyone, all the time:

True to character, Sunshine and Jabulani take off their shoes and go play in the (freezing cold) waters of the Atlantic, while Impatience and Zax give us an earful as to their suffering on this horrible and boring beach. We are almost convinced that we are practically torturing them. For Impatience, all memory of the gift shop and the earrings seems to be wiped out. I have her repeat “I shall be grateful for the earrings I got at the gift shop” for the next 5 minutes to buy myself some peace and an opportunity to consult with Noisette about lunch plans, since the other truth in our family is that the best answer to whining is food. We settle for a nice late lunch at Zenzero on the Promenade in Camp’s Bay, where the kids are somewhat mollified with Virgin Daiquiris and Spaghetti Bolognaise.

I’ve dipped in and out of Joburg Expat many times and I am sure I will continue to do so, but I am also slowly starting to discover other blogs with further information. For example, there is Expatorama, a blog by a British expat who lives in Johannesburg and has also started a Facebook group for local “trailing spouses” (which I have also just joined: another great way to tap into local knowledge); The Average South African (which has lots of yummy posts about places to eat) and 2Summers, another Joburg dweller who blogs about life in that crazy city.

I am sure I will discover more blogs like these (including, hopefully, some Pretoria-based ones) as our time here goes on, but I just wanted to give an example of some of the sorts of blogs that are out there – and literally bursting with fabulous information.

So, other than blogs, where else am I getting my information from?

One of the things we were most excited about when we heard we were coming to South Africa was the wildlife and so, as soon as my parents decided they would come out and see us for the Christmas period this year we booked a few days at that most famous of South African parks – Kruger. Where, hopefully, we will have plenty of chances to see more of these:

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But to start with, booking the park was as confusing as a chicken in a pillow factory. In other words, the more I read, the more baffled I became – until, hurrah! I found the Sanparks wesbite. And here I was able to work everything out that I needed to know – including exactly which date I needed to book our accommodation in order to make sure of getting in during what is probably the busiest time of the year (hint: it’s a year in advance!) and which camps best suited our needs. We were also able to view maps, accommodation details, hints and tips for game drives and even live webcams of animal activity. Oh, and the ever-useful forums where you know you will always be able to get an answer to pretty well any question you ever have.

In a similar vein, I have always found Trip Advisor to be a good site for general travel advice – a sort of overview of a country, region or city and then more specific reviews of restaurants, hotels and activities. Whilst you need to take some of the reviews with a pinch of salt, I have usually found that if you read enough of them you get a good idea of whether somewhere is worth visiting or not. And for South Africa-specific advise, a couple of people have already recommended WhereToStay.co.za – I can’t say if it’s any good or not as I haven’t actually used it yet, but it’s certainly a site that looks like it will be full of good accommodation options.

Finally, for more day-to-day activities (as opposed to the wonderful trips away and holidays we are planning), I have also started having a look at a website aimed at parents – Jozikids. Most of the information seems to be based on Johannesburg, but as we’re only 45 minutes drive away at least we know there’s plenty to do just up the road.

So that’s my lot for now. As I said at the start, it’s early days for me still and I am pretty sure I will soon discover more and more websites chocca with information. This country is one of the top tourist destinations in the world, with accompanying food, wine, scenery, beaches, sport, wildlife…..I know there’s no shortage of things to do. Now if only I could pursuade the rest of my family not to bother with that boring work/school stuff…..

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Check out other #TrailingSpouseStories in this month’s blog crawl:

Yuliya of Tiny Expats lists down the top info sites, blogs and directories for expats living (or planning to move) in Czech Republic.

Tala of Tala Ocampo shows us around her ‘hood of Balestier Road in the island city state of Singapore

Didi of D for Delicious reveals her bookish nerdiness with her go-to resources about Dubai and the US.

Six months of blogging…..what do I know now?

From my first like on January 2nd, to my 1,291st (at time of writing), what a six months it’s been!

I started this blog initially as a place for people to come to who wanted to find out more about my book. I knew all along it would be more than that – I wanted to expand on what I was able to put into the book, to draw on the experiences of others, to update information and to use more of my own experiences when we moved to South Africa.

But I don’t think I had any idea how blogging would draw me in, take over my life….since then I have written 118 posts, spent hours crafting, drafting and deleting, hit that publish button while chewing my nails with nerves countless times, watched either views and likes spiralling out of control or tumbleweed blowing through my blog….as all of you know, it’s hard to anticipate what will work and what won’t, which post will be picked up and shared, which ignored. I’ve taken part in blog crawls, link-ups, and blogging parties, written guest posts, had posters guest with me, started a number of series’ of my own and never, ever run out of things I want to write about.

Six months ago, I started out by joining Blogging 101 – the WordPress course for newbies. I found this an excellent way to learn the ropes, to expand on my sketchy knowledge of blogging (and the particular idiosyncracies of WordPress). Through Blogging 101 I met some of my best and most loyal blogging buddies, many of whom have contributed to my blog or who I have collaborated with on theirs. I followed Blogging101 with Photo101 – which I thoroughly enjoyed, and met another bunch of great bloggers.

One of my favourite pictures from photo101

One of my favourite pictures from photo101

And so to some stats. I LOVE that you can see how many people have been on your blog and where they are from with WordPress. I HATE that you don’t get to see ALL the searchterms though. This is, you have to admit. one of the best bits about blogging – seeing what bizarre phrases people use to find things.

Because I have written a post about mangoes (When there’s 20 Types of Mangoes but no Bananas: How I chose a name for my book), I do get quite a few people who use the word mango in their search (they must be very disappointed to find that my blog has absolutely nothing to do with the fruit). I also get a lot of people searching for information about Mayotte and landing on my site – possibly because I have done three posts related to Mayotte, and one in particular (People Who Live in Small Places – Mayotte) which offers some very helpful information. I guess there just isn’t that many other blogs out there about Mayotte!

There are some other great search terms but I want to do a separate post on those at some point because I think they deserve a whole post to themselves. But many of the searches really do give an insight into what it is that expats. and in particular expat partners. really are looking for – the words “depression”, “relationships” and “kids”, all in conjunction with the word expat, trailing spouse or similar, are very common.

Moving on to which of my posts has been read the most, it might surprise you that the most popular article by a long way (other than my homepage) has been People Who Live in Small Places: Gibraltar – with 2,588 views – more than double the next most popular one (which also did extremely well – People Who Live in Small Places: Unst). The Gibraltar post was also shared 456 times on Facebook – which just goes to show how important social media still is to blogging visibility.

My most popular non-small places post that isn’t one of my permanent pages is the one I dashed off one morning about depression (Depression and Expat Life – Something We Don’t Talk about Enough). It was on the morning of the Time to Talk campaign’s Take 5 day, which encouraged people not to see mental health as something to hide, but something to open up to others about. I hadn’t been going to write a post that day but it just struck me how important a topic this was for expats, so I decided to put something on the blog. I’m glad I did – the post got lots of shares on Facebook and Twitter and many comments  – comments that proved to me this was a topic that needed to be talked about more in the expat world. Overall, that post has had nearly 600 views – but what has struck me isn’t that it’s had lots of views but that the views keep coming. Almost every day someone reads that post. I know it’s a subject I need to follow up and explore further.

Tags and categories also gives some insight into what people are interested in – all those in my top ten relate to expat, expat life, expat partner/trailing spouse, moving abroad, travel and children.

As for countries,  I have been viewed by people from an amazing 145 different nations. Unsuprisingly, the country with the most views has been my own (the United Kingdom), followed by the United States. In third place – due 100 per cent to the post about living in a small place – has been a country with one of the smallest populations in the world:Gibraltar; then Australia, France, South Africa, UAE, the Netherlands, Canada and Germany. Again, no huge suprises there – these are the countries where the expats live.

Down the bottom though, things get a little more interesting and I am fascinated to see that I have had visitors from Afghanistan, Palestine, Iraq, the Falklands and Burma, as well as many other fascinating places. I would love to hear more from these people and what life is like where they live. Even if they are spammers!

Is this one of my readers from Afghanistan?

Is this one of my readers from Afghanistan?

My top referrer has, again unsuprisingly, been Facebook (by a long, long way), followed by search engines and Twitter. But then I get into referrers from other blogs – with The New Diplomat’s Wife, Seychelles Mama and Lou Messugo all doing well at sending people my way. Other sites people have visited from on a regular basis includes Mumsnet and Expat Focus (which I write a monthly column for).

Finally – my top commenters. This is an interesting one as this is where I see who my most loyal and faithful supporters are – and to these people I really want to say a big fat thank-you. So in order (after myself, who is my own top commentator!) my Honour Roll is as follows:

In fourth place, with a splendid 18 comments, is….Quilt Musings!

In third place, with an amazing 23 comments is….Curtis, at Diary of a Blogvelist  (who wrote the wonderful post about living in Mayotte)

Tying in third place, with another amazing 23 comments, is the lovely Vanessa at Petal and Mortar

In second place, with an impressive 25 comments is….Loisajay from ..on pets and prisoners!

Tying in second place, with another impressive 25 comments is….Liz at Secrets of a Trailing Spouse

And finally, in first place, with a fantastic 47 comments is….Yuliya at Tiny Expats!

So there you go! That’s been my six months. Now tell me – how has it been for you?

Afghanistan picture courtesy of Hadii Zaher

Do you write about expat life? Travel? Writing and publishing? I need YOU!

In just over one month’s time the summer holidays will be here.

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The summer holidays! How did that happen? It was just Christmas….And what that means to me isn’t just freerange kids being constantly under my feet, it also means we’ll be moving.

Gulp.

Between the third week in July and the third week in August, life is going to be a little hectic round here. And after that I don’t know quite what our internet service will be like (or how much electricity we will get. Load-shedding in South Africa being a bit of an issue at the moment. Luckily we have a generator).

So I am asking for a little help. Does anyone fancy writing a guest post for me? I am looking for anything relevant to my blog – to do with expat life, travel, travelling with children, or about writing and publishing. You could fit a post into one of my regular series (People Who Live in Small Places, Memorable Journey’s, Review Wednesday or Interesting Expat) ot just write about anything that takes your fancy.

Let me know if you can help – either leave a message in the comments or send me an email: clara@expatpartnersurvival.com.

THANK YOU!

It’s all about perspective….and more news.

Having been away for a couple of weeks, and then spent the last week trying desperately to catch up on everything (as well as continue preparations for our move – we let the house yesterday, yay! One more thing off the list…), quite a lot has been going on while I wasn’t looking.

Firstly, my June post on Expat Focus went up – It’s all about Perspective, in which I write about how we view things differently in other places when we don’t live there, but how important it is to keep a balanced mindset:

There are victims of violent crime in South Africa, lots of them. Life is very, very tough for a lot of people living in its townships and downtown areas. But we will never have to live in these areas and we will always have proper protection, wherever we live. And if anything is going to put things into perspective, that is it.

You can read the full post here.

I was also featured in an author interview on the BlogExpat.com website, in which I talk about how and why I wrote the book, what my favourite part of the book is, what I think of the expat book market and more! You can read that interview here

I was also extremely flattered to be featured on the blog of one of the lovely contributors to my book, Farrah from The Three Under. Farah, who is originally from the States but now lives in the Netherlands, has three boys (twins plus a singleton) and blogs about family life and travels as an expat. On her blog she features the Expat Partner’s Survival Guide on her April and May Reading Recap for Expats, and kindly calls it a “wealth of information”. You can read her post here.

Finally I was made even happier when I read what one of my Road Testers, Oregon Girl Around the World Erin, had written about my book on her blog:

And if you have found your way here to this post because you are the one embarking on this road of expatriation as the “trailing spouse” or “expat partner” –  I can’t recommend highly enough reading The Expat Partner’s Survival Guide by Clara Wiggins.

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I wish I had found this book sooner, I’ll tell you that. The Expat Partner’s Survival Guide, by Clara Wiggins. January was dark and lonely here and this book would have made it a little less so knowing that countless families had picked up done and experienced exactly what I was feeling. What we all were feeling.

Thank you Erin, that really made my day 🙂 You can read the full post’s at Oregon Girl Around the World’s blog here.

I think that’s it for now, although I have probably forgotten something or someone! Thanks for reading this far (if you have!) and have a deliciously delightful weekend folks. See you on the other side!

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Attention all Expats-To-Be: Road Testers Wanted for the Survival Guide!

Are you soon to move abroad? Are you a partner, or are you taking a partner with you? If so, I want you! I am looking for one of more volunteers to ROAD TEST the Expat Partner’s Survival Guide.

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What I am looking for, ideally, is someone who fits all or some of the following criteria:

– either very soon to become an expat, or in the early stages of being an expat

– is not the one whose job has taken them abroad (eg they are accompanying someone else)

– is doing this for the first time

– is taking children

– is willing to follow the book and write updates about their journey, relating to the advice in the book, either on their own blog which I can then link to, or as a guest poster on my blog. This would include pictures although I am happy for it to be done anonymously if you would prefer. I wouldn’t specify how  often you need to report but would like each section of the book covered in one way or another.

Otherwise I am pretty open to who or what you are – whether you are a woman or a man, planning to work or not, whatever age you are. If you don’t have kids but would still like to take part then let me know too as all I ask is that you read the relevant chapters and relate it to what you see happening with other families.

In return, I will send you a free online copy of the Expat Partner’s Survival Guide and also be there throughout your journey with personal advice and recommendations.

If this is you, if you know anyone who might want to do this (and please share share share!) then let me know – either in the comments below or by emailing me clara@expatpartnersurvival.com

Photo courtesy of Rachel at https://www.flickr.com/photos/rachelpasch/

Thank you Mumsnet!

I was delighted yesterday to see that my interview earlier in the week on BBC Radio Gloucestershire had made it on to the front page of the Mumsnet Blogger’s weekly round-up newsletter. This is a huge honour for me. I am one of the first of the “Mumsnet generation” – I joined way back in 2007, when pregnant with my second daughter. It was back in the day when Mumsnet was still relatively “cosy”, ie the same characters would pop up  regularly, and well-known slebs spent time there incognito (Caitlin Moran, Janice Turner, rumours of Victoria Beckham). I found the site remarkably refreshing after the cloying sentiment of most parenting advice – for the first time, I didn’t feel alone as I lurched through early parenthood, careening from one mistake to another. And then later when I moved abroad I discovered the Living Overseas section and made a whole new raft of friends (many of whom I remain in touch with to this day and are contributors in the Survival Guide).

So thank-you Mumset for promoting me, and if anyone has found me through the newsletter, hello and thank you to you as well! This is what Mumsnet wrote:

Clara Wiggins on BBC GloucestershireClara Wiggins is something of an expert expat, having been posted all over the world since childhood. This week, she popped into her local BBC studio to chat about her new book, the Expat Partner Survival Guide, which covers exactly what it’s like to move to pastures new. It’s aimed particularly at anyone who’s accompanying their partner overseas – and then watching them walk out of the door to work, leaving them to cope alone – and it’s packed full of practical advice.

Birthing a Book: The A-Z guide

I wanted to write something about how I got to this point with the Expat Partner’s Survival Guide but I feared a 10,000 word essay coming on so decided to break it down a bit into more easily digestible chunks. Hence the A-Z. As for the birthing bit, well,  there have definitely been times when it has felt a bit like birth. The research (birth preparation), the writing (labour), the editing and proof-reading (transition), the launch (birth)….then there was that rosy glow of the first few days of the post-natal period, where I sat and stared lovingly at my baby book. And now I am in that slightly bewildering stage where I am not sure what happens next, although I have to be honest I am getting more sleep than I did after the birth of both my babies!

So anyway back to the task in hand: The A-Z of how I produced the Expat Partner’s Survival Guide.

A is for Amazon. Love it or hate it, it’s what it is. The only best way to sell your books unless you happen to get a deal with one of the big publishers who will place you into stores like Waterstones and WH Smith. Which to be honest is not that likely these days. I am currently struggling to pursuade Amazon to take the Survival Guide OUT of the photography section and put it IN to the living abroad section – honestly, you would think they didn’t want to take quite a large proportion of my profits by selling my books…..I think it will be a love/hate relationship between me and Amazon.

B is for Bubblecow, which is the company I used to edit my book. I really enjoyed working with them and Gary, my editor, gave me some fantastic feedback. He really helped turn it into a proper guide, it’s amazing what a new pair of eyes will see.

C is for Catherine Ryan Howard. Catherine wrote a book called Self Printed, which I recommend highly for anyone thinking of going down the self-publishing route. It not only helped me with things like formatting and marketing, she also held my hand, figuratively speaking, as I set up this blog. She also has an excellent blog, covering all things publishing. What I really love about Catherine is her casual, friendly style – it really resonated with me as I found it so much easier navigating the choppy waters of self-publishing with her words in my ear. C is also for Createspace, which is where you basically create the paperback version of your book (they are a subsidary of Amazon). I found the process pretty simple and userfriendly, so thumbs-up there 🙂

D is for Design for Writers. These were the people who designed my book cover and I can’t recommend them highly enough! I want to write a separate blog post at some point about the process I went through with them (and I will be doing an interview for their site) so I won’t go on too much. But it was like magic, how they knew what I wanted even before I did. I absolutely love my final cover design.

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E is for Editing. “Editing might be a bloody trade, but knives aren’t the exclusive property of butchers. Surgeons use them too.” –  Blake Morrison. “The first draft of anything is shit.” – Ernest Hemingway. “For I am a bear of very little brain and long words bother me.” – Winnie the Pooh

F is for Facebook. Just like Amazon, Facebook is one of those organisations that you have to work with in this game, even if you don’t like it. Personally I do like Facebook – but from a “business” point of view it’s become very tricky. It used to be you put your information on FB, people liked your page and then they saw your posts. Now, the algorithms have changed and they will only see your posts if they have recently liked your page (or something). So you need to pay to boost your post. Which is okay as far as it goes, but don’t try and pay for an ad as you’ll end up with people on click farms liking you (even if you are not the one paying the clickers – they also click on random sites to try and disguise the places they are being paid to like) – and if you want to know what a click farm is I suggest you read this.

G is for grit. And determination. Had you asked me two or three years ago whether I would ever get this damn book finished, I wouldn’t have been too sure. But I reached a certain stage where I had told enough people about it that I was too embarrassed not to carry on. There were times, lots and lots of times, where I felt like giving up as I just didn’t feel like I was getting anywhere. But inevitably there would be a break-through of one sort of another and I would carry on. Encouragement also helped. If you have any writer friends do tell them to keep going and that they are doing a great job. Just like what I used to tell dads to do when their partners were in labour when I taught antenatal classes!

H is for helpers. This is another word for my contributors, but I already had two things under C so putting them here instead. Over the course of writing the book, I had input from nearly 80 people (men and women, all expat partners or former expat partners) with their tips, advice, views, stories and anecdotes. I couldn’t have written the book without them. Sometimes it was hard going trying to get information from them, but other times they were so generous with their advice. As time went on it became easier, as I got involved in more and more expat groups and forums. The last chapter I wrote was one on relationships and I was able to simply put up a request on this blog and was flooded with replies! So if you were one of those who helped – THANK YOU.

I is for Idea. I had the original idea for the book when I was living in St Lucia and I realised how much harder it is to move and live overseas without the sort of help we were used to getting from our employers (the Foreign Office, the  British High Commission etc). Nowadays, more and more people are being posted or going to live overseas and the support for so many of them just isn’t there. Whilst I don’t think for a minute that this book will solve all the problems, I hope it is at least a small step in the right direction.

J is for juggling. Anyone who is a writer, unless they are already well established, will know this one. Writing is unlikely to pay the bills. It also doesn’t do the shopping, pick the children up from school or fold the washing. Yes it’s a fantastic, flexible, work-from-home job. But unless you are in a very lucky position, it’s not one that you are likely to be able to do all day, every day. I have juggled writing this book alongside training to be an antenatal teacher, teaching, working in two other part-time jobs, looking after two children and running a household. Let’s just say things got a lot easier once the girls were both at school full time.

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K is for Kindle. Because my audience was always going to be a global one, I knew I wanted a Kindle version of the book. It wasn’t difficult, I just paid the nice man at Lighthouse24 (see below) to format it for me and off I went. So far, sales of the Kindle version are out-ranking those of the paperback by about 2:1. It will be interesting to see if this continues.

L is for is for Lighthouse24. Formatting was the absolute BANE of my life. This was probably the part of the whole process I hated the most . It just used the wrong side of my brain. Luckily I found the very nice Doug at Lighthouse24  to help me. Seriously, for the amount it costs me (ie not too much compared to the whole process!) it was money very well spent. It meant I was able to concentrate on the bits I can do (the writing, the marketing) while they sorted out preparing my manuscript for both paperback and ebook editions.

M is for marketing. This is so important. It’s worth thinking about your maketing even before you start to write. Don’t think it’s something you can put off until you’ve finished the book. Although you do need to get the balance right – I am really glad I didn’t start this blog until towards the end of the book production process as I find it very time-consuming and distracting (mostly because I love it!). But you need somewhere to get your voice heard, you need to network and make links and find people who will review you and share you and talk about you. Marketing strategies will be different dependent on your genre – I have really plugged the social media route as I think that is the best way to reach my audience. But I also have articles going out in various magazines in the coming months, am currently waiting on a call from our local newspaper and am intent on writing guest posts and blogs as much as possible. I attended at Marketing Masterclass in London for how to market your self-published book, which I found useful. I would recommend something similar, or at least reading up on marketing as much as possible, if this isn’t something you know much about. You can’t just write a book, upload it to Amazon and then expect people to buy it if they don’t know it’s there….

N is for No-Going-Back. This is a very personal one for me, but once I had told people I was writing the book, pride stopped me from giving up. I hate failing at anything and once I started, I knew I had to finish.

O is for opinions. These matter. Everyone keeps asking me if I am over the moon about finally publishing the book -the truthful answer is,  not yet. No, I will only be happy once I know people like it. Or at least SOME people like it. There is nothing worse than silence…

P is for proof-reader. Another very important part of the publishing process. It’s tempting to skip the proof-reader, but so many independently-published books these days are rushed out, it doesn’t give self-publishing a good name. Make it as professional as you can. I used Charlotte Gledson, who was efficient, friendly and encouraging.

Q is for….what is Q for? It could be for quiet as that’s always handy when you need to write. Find somewhere that is your writing place, a desk, room, corner – somewhere that is just for you and your writing. Or it could be for questions, which I certainly asked a lot of.

R is for Retreats for You. One of the places I did a huge amount of my writing was at a writer’s retreat in Devon. Run by the lovely Deborah Dooley, Retreats for You was absolutely perfect for my needs. I am not going to say much about it here because I intend to do a full review at a future date; but needless to say, going somewhere like RfY where you can just write and write and write is invaluable. R is also for reviews. As I type this there are still none on either the Amazon.co.uk or the Amazon.com sites. It’s horrid having to ask people to leave a review but apparently this is one of the hardest things to get people to do – but it’s really important to get your book noticed and give it authenticity. Hopefully I will get one or two eventually…

S is for submissions. In the early part of this book’s life (early first-stage of labour), I did try submitting it to a few publishers. Needless to say I didn’t get anywhere. I did get some lovely responses, which I did find encouraging. But this book was never going to be commercial enough for traditional publishers. And to be honest once I had been on my marketing course, I realised I would still probably be doing most of the work and getting less of the profit if I was traditionally-published. I knew that self-publishing was the right route for me. S is also for Survey Monkey, which is a great tool for getting answers to your questions. I found people like to respond far more to surveys than they do to straight-forward questions. I don’t know why! Finally, S is for Sales Ranking. A fascinating tool within the Amazon author pages, you can find out exactly how your book is doing compared to all the other books on Amazon. At one point last night I was selling at number 2,103 in the UK (out of more than 6,000,000 books)! You can also find out how you are doing within your section. Given that I am still in totally the wrong section on Amazon.co.uk it’s pretty interesting that I am number 3 in the Digital Photography – Intermediate and Advanced section (although only number 5 in the beginners section).

T is for The End. It was hard, really hard, finally deciding I was done. I could have kept writing, adding and fiddling for ever. To be honest, there was so much more I could have put in. But I had to stop somewhere. At some point I may do a second edition if I think there is enough new material to justify it. Every day I read more expat blogs, articles and posts and think – yes, I should have included that. It’s very frustrating.

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U is for underestimation – of both time and costs. In particular, I have found the preparation of the manuscript from finishing the first draft to have taken a lot more time than I expected. Maybe because it was the first time I have done this – but don’t set your heart on publishing on a certain day or even in a certain month. Best to keep it vague – right up until the last moment! Costs, too, will almost undoubtedly be higher than you first anticipated. Set a price and double it, then be grateful if you come in under your estimation….

V is for validation. It was very important for me to have some positive feedback before I published. Luckily I got this from my editor, who told me he loved it. But now I am waiting for validation from people who either don’t know me or haven’t been paid by me. It’s far more important to me that people like what I write than that I get paid for what I write….

W is for WordPress! This blog has been fantastic. I really love the people I have met through blogging here, you feel like my buddies. I was “out there” a bit this week in the unknown territory of social media and I really wanted to be back here on my blog. It feels very supportive.

X is for eXcitement! There has been some – although there is also a bit of an anticlimaX after publication. It’s definitely a marathon and not a sprint!

Y is for YES I am done can I have a holiday now…..

Z is for ZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz……

Wow sorry that was a lot longer than I thought it would be. Anyone who has read to the end deserves a medal! But if you are a writer and in particular if you have independently published, I would love to know if you have anything to add to my mega-list.

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Launching a book – crazy day!

Well, I am still recovering from all the excitement of launching the Survival Guide yesterday. I had so many shares and hits and views, tweets and likes, it was a little overwhelming. As all of you who have ever self-published will know, shares, likes, views, hits and general love doesn’t always equate to direct sales – but I have sold quite a few now and the numbers are continuing to rise so that’s the main thing. I just have to keep on plugging, keep on plugging…

At one point I was number 3,151 out of 6,000,000 books on Amazon.co.uk yesterday (in fact I think I even got to 2,000 and something but neglected to get a picture of it) – which goes to show just what the competition is! IMG_20150413_200621285It’s a little easy to get carried away with the numbers. In this age of instant results, I am starting to get a little too addicted to updating and refreshing. How many have visited my blog? How many have liked on Facebook? How many have bought now? What’s my latest author rankings?….

I am sure I will get bored of it eventually (after all, I do have other work to do, plus the marketing doesn’t really stop – I need to get back to writing more articles and posts). But in the middle of it something did happen that made me stop and think. I recieved an email from someone who just said: “From a struggling expat, thank you!”. And I realised this is what it’s all about. It’s not about shares or likes or sales or numbers. It’s about helping people. This book isn’t ever going to make me a millionaire (or even a thousand-aire) but that isn’t why I wrote it. I wrote it to help others going through what I went through, to support them and to hopefully make them feel just a little bit better.

If I can help just one expat partner/trailing spouse/accompanyng partner – call it what you will; if I can make just one person feel better then I have met my goal.

Having said that, I would still like you to buy the book 😉

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