Writing

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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Vacation Cruise to Europe

Dream Vacation, New Book, and Good News for Autism Community

It has been over a month since I posted my last blog. I have been very busy with good things. One of them is I took my very first cruise. I never thought I would ever do it (Images of the movie The Poseidon Adventure, which I saw as a child, prevented me from ever considering a cruise), but a family wedding and the chance to see Europe overrode my fears of water. I am so glad because I will always look back on this trip as a truly wonderful experience. The past year and a half have been stressful for me and my family because my father-in-law was very sick. Unfortunately, he passed away in May. But this vacation cruise convinced me that this world is filled with so many wonders and experiences that a person should never give up hope that things can always turn around.

We traveled to Barcelona and Mallorca, Spain; Marseilles, France; and Florence, Rome, and the Amalfi Coast in Italy. It was a trip of a lifetime!

The staff on the cruise were so accommodating and eager to help make the vacation as enjoyable as possible. I felt, “Yes! We deserve to be pampered after all our years of hard work and struggles. Why not enjoy it.”

Another reason to celebrate is my second novel is in the proofreading stage. Like True Mercy, my latest literary effort took about four years to write and edit. Now I have to find a cover designer and decide how to distribute the novel. Unlike the first, my second novel is women’s fiction and the main theme is self-acceptance.

Months ago, I posted a rough draft of my second novel on Wattpad, an online community for writers and readers, and when I returned from my trip, I was pleasantly surprised to find more followers.

Surely, life can turn around!

I am also happy to report that hard-working special-needs advocates are beginning to see progress in their ongoing battle to support the autism community.  Whether you like President Trump or not, you have to give him credit for extending the Autism CARES (Collaboration, Accountability, Research, Education, and Support) Act for five more years. The President reserved $1.8 billion dollars for this extension. In addition, the Autism  CARES Act will require the Department of Health and Human Services to compile a report for Congress about the health and welfare of individuals in the autism community.     

And that’s not all. Insurance companies in all fifty states are now required to cover on some level the treatment of autism that is deemed medically necessary, including ABA (applied behavior analysis).

I will most likely be only able to blog once a month from now on, but I am determined to write news of interest to my readers on a variety of topics, including the latest on autism, human trafficking prevention, inspirational stories, and book reviews.

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Book Review: Dreyer’s English

I was an unusual kid in school – I loved English grammar. I still remember diagramming sentences to demonstrate my understanding of the different parts of speech. Reading Dreyer’s English brought me back to the days of my high school English classes.

Of course, reading an entire book about straight grammar, style, and punctuation would be dry and boring, even for me. But this book is anything but. Benjamin Dreyer, the copy chief at Random House, gives entertaining and often humorous explanations and comments while writing about proper English usage and style. Dryer writes about words and rules in which people often make mistakes. Some examples include similarly-spelled words like aid and aide, which titles need quotation marks and which require italics, and the frequent mistake of using two words when one is sufficient (For example, the term “free gift” is a redundancy). Dreyer uses famous people, books, TV shows, and songs as examples. Together with his wit, Dreyer’s English a pleasure. While I was reading, I started wishing I became a copy editor myself because he made the rules so fascinating – I would love to work with words on an everyday basis. My only complaint is the footnote symbols are so tiny that I often missed them, so by the time I got to the bottom of the page, I didn’t know which section each footnote was referring to. Overall, it is a handy reference book for everyone.

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Can a Pantser Become a Plotter?

It has been almost a month since my father-in-law passed away. He used to call us all the time and was very outspoken in his opinions. I found in the first few weeks that something in our lives was missing, but now it is sinking in that he is gone and we must return to our everyday lives. What has helped is discussing our memories of him.

I admit I have had trouble concentrating on writing lately with all my reflections. But Thursday is the day to put up my post and so I am putting forth a great deal of effort into getting my blog written.

When it comes to writing novels, I am a pantser—that is, I write from the seat of my pants. I don’t plot scenes, develop characters, or map out the hero’s journey before I begin writing. This method worked for my first novel, True Mercy, but I’ve run into some issues in my second novel.

I began as usual, developing characters and writing the plot as I went along. After editing the story numerous times, I sent it off to my editor. Unlike the first novel which grabbed her interest right away, she had a lot of questions and problems with the story. She wrote comments such as one of my main characters was selfish and she was critical of the dynamics of each family in the novel.  I edited some more and not satisfied with her critique, I decided I needed a second opinion. Mind you, editors are expensive, but I was not satisfied. I also had to face up to the truth that the story needed a great deal more work. In my opinion, which I admit is subjective, I thought this novel has potential and I wanted someone who appreciated the story and help me improve it.  After doing research, I found a second editor. She indicated to me the novel has merits but with a caveat—she said I needed to rewrite the whole story. This editor told me if I was not willing to rewrite, she would understand, there would be no hard feelings, and she would give me a partial refund.

But rightly or wrongly, I couldn’t give up. I rewrote the whole novel. Time will only tell whether all my hours of effort and hard work were worth it.

After all this work, I am exhausted and can’t wait to send it off and get rid of it. I have vowed that if I ever write another novel, I will HAVE TO PLOT IT OUT AND DEVELOP THE CHARACTERS BEFORE I BEGIN THE ACTUAL WRITING PROCESS because I honestly don’t think I could go through rewriting the whole story again.

However, upon reflection, when I wrote True Mercy, I did in fact rewrite the whole story—it took me four years before I published it. But back then, writing a novel was, well, a novel thing for me to do. The whole experience was new and fresh. I couldn’t wait to publish it and have people read my work. Going into my second novel, I hoped the whole process would become a lot easier, but it wasn’t. That’s why I want to try the plotter approach next time. Plotting the novel is supposed to be very demanding in the beginning as the author develops the characters and charts out the events that take place in the story before the actual writing process begins. Other writers have told me it is better to do the hard work in the beginning so the editing process is easier and less frustrating. What’s more, they tell me the book is written more quickly. I plan on giving it a try.

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