Book Review: The Authenticity Project

The Authenticity Project is the perfect book to read when you are forced to stay at home and need some cheering up. Needless to say, the coronavirus has put a serious damper on all of our lives.

Appearances can be deceiving. You never know what other people are going through. In this story, a random set of strangers find out about each other when they leave behind a book titled The Authenticity Project. As each person finds the book, they connect with those who had previously written about their most agonizing personal issues and add a section about their own. A pervading theme is loneliness. When the characters find each other, their relationships involve helping one another by performing incredible acts of kindness. This story could have fallen into syrupy sweet sentimentality but doesn’t for a moment.  

It begins with an elderly artist who previously had a prominent career but has now been living as a recluse for the last fifteen years. When he leaves the book behind in a cafe, the café owner finds it. The single cafe owner is in her mid-30’s and is desperate to get married and have children. She meets the artist, encouraging him to go out. He even agrees to teach art lessons in her establishment. People attend and not only learn to draw, but end up bonding with one another. The cafe owner then misplaces the book, only to be found by an alcoholic and cocaine-addict seeking to clean up and lead a better life. The book continues traveling with other characters finding it and joining the others. The events and humor keep moving the story forward.

Although I guessed the ending, The Authenticity Project gives one a renewed faith in humanity and brings the reader happy feelings at a time when we don’t have many reasons to feel joyful.

A note: When I read the brief biography about the author, Clare Pooley, I learned she is married with three kids. She worked in the advertising world for twenty years. Just when I thought she had it all, she confessed at the end of the book that she is a recovering alcoholic. It goes to show you. Appearances can be deceiving. You never know what other people are going through.

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Book Review: The Great Upheaval: America and the Birth of the Modern World 1788-1800

For history lovers, The Great Upheaval: America and the Birth of the Modern World 1788-1800 is a must read. Author Jay Winik guides readers through the major events of this pivotal global turning point. The American Revolution’s ideals of freedom and liberty were felt over much of the world. Motivated to strike a blow to England, his country’s enemy, King Louis XVI of France helped finance and support the revolution, sending troops like the famous Lafayette, At the same time, the enlightened Catherine the Great of Russia initially pursued these ideals and embraced the enlightened philosophies of Voltaire as well as prominent Russian reformers like Alexander Radishchev and Nikolay Novikov. Ironically, the revolution also inspired French radicals, who overthrew and then beheaded King Louis, resulting in France embroiled in a bloodbath of violence and anarchy.  As for Catherine, when the progressive ideals of freedom and independence threatened her authoritarian monarchy, she promptly crushed it, imprisoning Radishchev and Novikov in a major turnabout. Both Lafayette and Tadeusz Kosciuszko, a statesman and national hero of Poland, fought in the American revolution but failed to achieve similar reforms in their respective countries –Lafayette was forced to flee the violence of France and Kosciuszko’s valiant attempts to free Poland from Russia’s tentacles failed.

Winik’s book is very readable, consisting not simply of dates and names. He relates the story behind the events and examines the lives of the major players. As an example, this book only heightened my respect for America’s first President, George Washington. In a time of reigning kings who ruled for life, Washington made the historic decision to step down after two presidential terms despite Americans’ plea for him to be crowned king. There were great minds at the country’s inception  –Jefferson, Franklin, Hamilton, and Adams immediately come to mind, but it was George Washington who utilized the best of their ideas and rose above their clashes in ideas and personalities, demonstrating  that this country provided a template for democracy all over the world during a critical time of turbulence and change.

My recommendation: Read, learn, and enjoy.

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New Novel

The Book of Revelations is my second book and will be coming out soon. It is a woman’s journey to self-acceptance. More details to follow.

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Interview with Professional Editor Kristen Tate

For this month’s post, I am pleased to interview professional editor Kristen Tate. I hired Kristen for developmental editing, copy editing, and very soon, the interior formatting of my second novel. I am a pantser – that is, I plan very little as I write. This writing style most often requires many edits after the first draft is finished.  In my case, I had great difficulty with both the characters and plot and was at a loss on how to refine and improve it. I needed help and was worried I would have to abandon the project if I couldn’t make it work. Fortunately, with Kristen’s guidance, direction, and tremendous patience, I was able to polish the writing into a finished manuscript that I am satisfied with. I asked Kristen to share her experiences and insights in the writing world in an interview and she agreed.

1. Q. Please tell me about your background and how you came to enter the field of freelance copyediting?

Reading has always been the thing I loved most, so I looked for a job that would pay me to read. At first, I thought I would be an academic and I got a PhD in English, which was a (mostly) wonderful experience. My job this week is to read Bleak House and Paradise Lost and write about them and show up in class and say smart things about them? Yes, please! But then I had to face the challenging realities of the academic job market. I had a toddler and a baby at that point, and it wasn’t going to be easy for me to relocate somewhere for a job. After a while, I started doing pro bono editing work and exploring jobs in publishing, as well as getting freelance work as a copywriter. I had a client who was self-publishing a book, and that was the first time I realized that I would be able to build a viable freelance career focused on book editing. I took some additional courses to hone my copyediting and developmental editing skills and started to build my business, little by little.

2. Q. I saw your name on Joanna Penn’s list of copyeditors. I hired you because I thought you did an excellent job on my manuscript’s sample edit and your price was reasonable. How do you stand out in the large field of copyediting freelancers?

I try to be authentic and relatable in all of my communications, whether that’s a blog post or an off-the-cuff tweet. We get so many generic marketing messages these days that simply sounding like a real human can help you stand out. I also draw from my training and experience as a teacher. My job is to help authors improve the book we are currently working on together, but my mission is to teach them skills they can use in every piece of writing they will do in the future. My clients learn to trust me, and at least half of my projects during any given year are from repeat clients or from client referrals.

3. Q. What do you enjoy most about your work? What do you dislike about it?

I love working with words and stories every day. My job is to make sure authors tell the best story they can and that readers have the best experience possible. What could be better than that? I love that I can set my own schedule and work processes. The downside will be familiar to anyone who freelances: I’m also in charge of invoicing, accounting, taxes, website maintenance, and all kinds of other boring things that just have to get done.

4. Q. I believe I speak for many writers when I say that I wish I could write full-time or have a job using my writing skills instead of writing whenever I have free time. What would you advise writers like myself?

This is something I have come to believe as I have gotten older: All of us have a vision of a perfect future life – if only I could do X, then I would be happy. The truth is, if you were doing X you would still have a lot of the same challenges, they would just take different forms. That said, it’s easier now than ever before to build a career around writing skills. But you’ve got to be self-disciplined and realistic and learn how to be a freelancer who can make an income. Those are different skills than writing skills, and not everyone wants to learn them.

5. Q. How did you receive training for copyediting?

I started by taking the professional editing certificate sequence at the University of California at Berkeley and then supplemented that with developmental editing courses offered by the Editorial Freelancers Association. I also learn a lot from my thousands of virtual editing colleagues, whom I’ve met in online forums, through professional associations like the Editorial Freelancers Association, and at editing conferences like ACES. And I read and read and read. Writing craft books, grammar books, novels, business books – all of it teaches you to be a better editor.

6. Q. Please tell me about the level of difficulty entering this field? Do many copyeditors work for publishing houses or other related companies full-time?

It’s not necessarily hard to enter the field as a freelancer, but it can take quite a while to find your footing. Many copyeditors do work full time in house, though a great deal of that work is outsourced to freelancers now. If you live in a place where there are publishing companies, getting some in-house experience can be really valuable, and you may find that you love the work and want to stay. I did an internship at Chronicle Books and enjoyed every minute of it. It’s exciting to walk into a bookstore and see a book you helped with on the shelf. I do occasional work for publishers, but most of my work is with independent authors, and I think that’s where the growth will be for freelance editors. 

7. Q. How do you find the self-publishing field today? Is it flourishing? Are too many writers publishing their work unedited and thereby harming the reputation of those who choose to self-publish?

I think the self-publishing field is starting to mature. There is so much good information out there these days and a lot of tools and services that can help writers put out a professional product that is indistinguishable from a traditionally published book. There are also a lot of authors who have had traditionally published books and are moving some or all of their work to self-publishing, which helps raise the bar and standards for everyone. 

8. Q. Do you do other work besides copyediting?

I also do developmental editing (also called content editing), which involves helping authors fine-tune the big-picture aspects of their books like plot and character arcs and narration. But editing is my full-time job. I’m working on a novel manuscript as well, but it may never see the light of day. I see myself as an editor/reader first and a writer second.

9. Q. What books do you recommend for writers? For those interested in copyediting?

I spent 2019 reading a different writing craft book every week, so I have a lot of recommendations! Writers can check out my blog archive at https://www.thebluegarret.com/novel-study, and I’m also gathering the reviews into a little book called All the Words: A Year of Reading about Writing, which should be out in February 2020. For anyone interested in copyediting, I’d recommend The Copyeditor’s Handbook and Workbook by Amy Einsohn and Marilyn Schwartz (look for the most recent edition, published in 2019), The Subversive Copyeditor by Carol Fisher Saller, and The Smooth-Sailing Freelancer by Jake Poinier.

10. Q. Are there writing organizations that you have had dealings with that you can recommend to writers who would like to improve their writing and/or marketing skills?

I’m a huge fan of podcasts. Writers are knowledgeable and generous with their knowledge, and you can learn so much from their experiences. My favorites are Write-Minded, with Brooke Warner and Grant Faulkner; the Story Grid Editors Roundtable; the Editing Podcast; and, of course, Joanna Penn’s The Creative Penn. Jane Friedman also has remarkable amount of well-organized, in-depth information for writers on her website.

For writers looking to build a virtual or in-person community, I think participating in one of the NaNoWriMo events and joining a writing circle there can be a great way to start. There are also so many fantastic regional writing conferences, where writers can learn about both the craft and business sides of being an author and can build connections with other writers. I’ll be attending the San Francisco Writers Conference in February on behalf of the Editorial Freelancers Association.

11. Q. Is there anything else you would like to share?

Whether you want to publish a novel or become a book editor, stick with it. Persistence in the face of difficulty, doubt, lack of time, imposter syndrome, and all the other ordinary demons is the thing that will get you where you want to be. You’ll learn along the way, and you won’t regret the time you spent pursuing your passion, whatever the outcome is. I love what Anne Lamott says in Bird by Bird: “Writing has so much to give, so much to teach, so many surprises. That thing you had to force yourself to do—the actual act of writing—turns out to be the best part. It’s like discovering that while you thought you needed the tea ceremony for the caffeine, what you really needed was the tea ceremony. The act of writing turns out to be its own reward.”

Thank you, Kristen for your assistance and willingness to share your wealth of knowledge.

My second novel, The Book of Revelations, a women’s fiction and will hopefully be coming out soon.

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My Interview with Eva Lesko Natiello, Best-Selling Author and Book Marketing Consultant

I attended two BookBaby conferences in Philadelphia and heard author and marketing consultant Eva Lesko Natiello speak at both of them. I was so impressed, not only with the success of her best-selling self-published novel, The Memory Box, but also her generosity in giving other writers very practical and useful tips on book promotion. So I decided she would be a great person to interview for my website.

Q. Please tell me about your background and how you began your writing career.

A. My writing career actually started when I left my first career to start a family. I have always had a daily need to do something creative, and it has taken the shape of many things over the years from painting, singing, sewing, cooking, crafts, etc. I actually had never intended to write a book, but I had just moved to New Jersey from New York City where I was living and working. Moving to the suburbs with young children plopped me into a new social circle of suburban moms. There is a definite way things are done in the suburbs that’s different from the way they ‘re done in the city. When I started writing my novel, I knew instantly that I wanted to set this psychological suspense in a bucolic suburb where the community of stay-at-home moms, a sub-culture all its own, would help highlight the juxtaposition of conformity and deception.

Q. How long were you writing before you began your novel? Did you take classes to polish your writing skills?

A. I basically started writing when I was writing my novel—though I didn’t know I was writing a novel at the time! I actually did take a writing class at the New School when I was about halfway through my novel and needed direction. It was an invaluable experience.

Q. How did you come up with the idea for your novel, The Memory Box?

A. One day I read a story in The New York Times about people Googling themselves. It mentioned that a 17-year-old boy, who was living in Los Angeles, Googled himself and discovered he was on a missing persons list in Canada. He had no idea until he Googled himself, that he was a victim of parent abduction. The fact that someone could find out something so personal about himself from a Google search was a fascinating concept to me.

Q. You have spoken to audiences about your journey to becoming a self-published author. Please explain it here briefly because I know other writers will be inspired by your story.

A. To be honest, self-publishing was a back-up plan. I had hoped to be traditionally published. But after three years of querying agents and receiving 81 rejections, I had to make a decision: give up and tuck the manuscript away, or learn everything I could about self-publishing and publish on my own. I had no idea it was going to find so many readers and hit the New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists. So many wonderful things have happened along the way. None of which would have happened if that manuscript were still on my computer.   

    Q. How were you able to promote your self-published book so that it became a New York Times bestseller?

A. That took a lot of hard work! And a good deal of time. Building sales momentum takes time when you’re an indie and you’re wearing all the hats. I started marketing in my community where people want me to succeed and I received a ton of support. One of the things I did early on, in the first year especially, was to get book clubs excited about The Memory Box. It’s a great book club read and people love to talk about it—mostly because it has a shocking ending. I attended as many book club discussions as I could. To date, I’ve attended over 200!

Q. Do you think the publishing world is slowly beginning to accept self-published authors or is there still a great deal of bias?

A. Oh definitely! Every day you hear about another traditionally published author coming over to the indie side. That’s when you know there’s real value and power to self-publishing.

Q. You have your own business helping writers promote their work. What types of services do you offer?

A. I help authors prepare to self-publish and share everything I do with my own books. I also coach authors on book marketing—giving them the tips and tools they need to increase visibility for their books in order to find readers and sell books.

Q. What type of authors should consider investing in a publicist? Is a marketing strategy always needed?

A. There’s definitely a lot of value in publicity, whether that’s with traditional media, book bloggers, influencers, etc. Before hiring a publicist, an author should consider how commercial their book is, or if it has a unique hook, or perhaps, if writing non-fiction, if the topic is newsworthy.

I also want to add that whether an author hires a marketing consultant or not, every author needs a marketing strategy. It’s impossible for a book to find its readers, gain traction in regards to sales, and have any hope for visibility without marketing. There are just too many books published in any given year. And if you’re an indie author, it’s even harder for your book to get noticed. But once authors learn a few targeted marketing tools and strategies appropriate for their book, genre and for them as an author, it feels incredibly empowering to know that they are moving the sales needle.

Q.  What common mistakes do you see beginning authors making that you would like to warn them about?

A. I recently published an article on Medium titled: (Mostly undiscussed) Advice for Beginning Authors. You can read it at https://writingcooperative.com/mostly-undiscussed-advice-for-beginning-authors-73f31e9e869d. 

Q. Are there particular books you recommend to help writers develop their craft?

A. I really like Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott and On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King.

 Q. Please share some trends you are noticing in the book industry.

A. I see trade authors self-publishing and I see self-published authors publishing some trade books. So, what’s emerging is the hybrid author: someone who publishes in more than one way.

Recently, I had a phone consultation with Eva about a book cover design for my new novel. She provided me a wealth of tips and information.  If you are a writer, I highly recommend her services and advice. To sign up for her newsletter, go to https://evanatiello.com/.

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