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: Marking 75 Years of the Liberation of Paris, a Review of Mistress of the Ritz

August 25 of this year marked 75 years of the liberation of Paris from the Nazis. In honor of this historic event, I am posting a review of the novel Mistress of the Ritz by Melanie Benjamin. The story is based on the real lives of Blanche and Claude Auzello, an American woman and her French husband. Together they managed the Ritz, Paris’ world-famous hotel. They hosted many notable people of the time, including Earnest Hemingway, Coco Channel, and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. They were living the good life until the Nazis took over the city. Then the Auzello’s were forced to follow their orders and make them comfortable while fearing for their lives if they did not comply. However, in secret, they helped the Resistance at every opportunity. Below is my review:

Mistress of the Ritz was an engrossing book based on the lives of the Frenchman Claude Auzello and his American wife, Blanche. Claude ran the famous Paris hotel, the Ritz, during World War II. The Ritz was the last name in luxury, and famous people frequently stayed there. Author Melanie Benjamin captures the opulence of the hotel amidst the horrors of the war. Claude and Blanche had a difficult marriage-Claude was unfaithful and they kept secrets from each other as they struggled to survive the war years and waited for the Allies to liberate the country from Nazi occupation.

The writing is extraordinary and the reader cannot help but get lost in this story of the Nazis taking over the hotel, the Resistance’s covert operations to undermine them, and Blanche and Claude’s efforts to deal with each other as well as the German invasion. Benjamin portrays the darkness and hardship of the occupation vividly. The reader cannot help but be terrified for the Jewish families who disappear in the middle of the night. With the exception of the collaborators, the French hate the Nazis but must be subservient to them if they want to stay alive. 
Toward the end of the story, the author reveals the biggest secret of all, but I figured it out because Benjamin alluded to it often enough. The ending was shocking and leaves readers with many questions.  Recommended.

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Human Trafficking on the Rise: Current Statistics

About seven years ago, I saw the movie Taken. I remember being shocked and traumatized that such evil as kidnapping innocent young girls into human trafficking even existed. It stayed with me and when I decided to write my first novel for publication, I did research on human trafficking. I learned that it is the third largest criminal activity in the world, behind drug trafficking and counterfeiting, Taken took place in France and a European mafia was involved, so I decided to keep the European mafia in my novel but have the victim be from Moldova.  At the time, it was the European country with the most victims of human trafficking.*

When True Mercy was published in December 2016, most people were still learning about sex trafficking. Since then, this crime has made headlines all over the world. Keith Raniere, founder of the self-help organization NXIVM, was convicted of sex trafficking, ISIS terrorists are forcing under aged girls into marriages in the Middle East, and schemes have come to light of older men manipulating teenage girls into sex trafficking.

By now, in August 2019, the number of cases has exploded. The latest to make headlines is the recently-deceased financier Jeffrey Epstein, who has been charged with sex trafficking and sexually assaulting under aged girls.

Recently, I read a report published last month in USA Today. The following are some shocking statistics:

  1. The UN’s International Labor Organization reported that over 70% of sex trafficking occurs in Asia and the Pacific, 14% in Europe and Central Asia, and 4% in the Americas.
  2. It is estimated there are 4.8 million victims of sex trafficking in the world, 1 million of them children.
  3. In the United States, 1 out of 7 runaways are believed to be victims of child sex trafficking.
  4. Girls in foster homes are particularly vulnerable to traffickers, who manipulate them by making promises to love and take care of them.
  5. Worldwide forced sexual labor is a $99 billion dollar business. 
  6. There are approximately 9,000 massage parlors that engage in sex trafficking in the US.

Why is there so much human trafficking in the world? One factor involves armed conflicts. In many of these countries, displaced civilians suffer loss of their livelihood. They are forced to desperately search for other means of survival and often fall prey to manipulative traffickers who promise them work overseas but end up enslaving them or forcing the women into marriage.  This occurs more frequently in the Middle East, Sub-Saharan Africa, North Africa, and Southeast Asia.

Another factor is high unemployment. For example, when the Soviet Union was dismantled in 1991, Moldova became an independent nation but then suffered economic collapse. This left many people poor and the young people seeking to leave the country. Unfortunately, many fell prey to human traffickers.

Since there is more awareness of human trafficking, organizations have formed to combat it. Examples include Polaris, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, and The Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (TIP Office). But more work needs to be done and everyone can help.

If you need help or see something suspicious, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888, text “BeFree (233733), or chat humantraffickinghotline.org.

* A report by the US State Department cites Belarus, Iran, Russia, and Turkmenistan are the worst countries now.

Idelle Kursman is the author of True Mercy, a thriller designed to bring more awareness to the human trafficking crisis. True Mercy may be purchased on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, and Kobo.

References

  1. Kelly, Cara (29 July 2019) “13 sex trafficking statistics that explain the enormity of the global sex trade.” USA Today. Retrieved 21 August 2019.
  2. “Human trafficking cases hit a 13-year record high, new UN report shows.” UN News. Retrieved 21 August 2019.
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Nadia Murad: A Former ISIS Sex Slave Speaks Out

Last week I watched the moving PBS documentary On Her Shoulders. It is essential that anyone concerned about human rights watches it in order to be aware of the brutality committed by ISIS terrorists. Their massacres and dismantling of Yadizi communities in the Middle East must be stopped.

On Her Shoulders relates the story of Nadia Murad, a young Yazidi woman who was living peacefully with her family in the Iraqi town of Kojo. The Yazidis are a people that live in northern Iraq, northern Syria, southeastern Turkey, the Caucasus area and sections of Iran. They incorporate many different religions in their beliefs, including Islam, Judaism, and Christianity.  Observing their own distinctive religion has created tension with their Muslim neighbors.

Nadia’s life and the lives of her fellow villagers were shattered on the fateful day of August 3, 2014. Islamic State terrorists attacked her village and massacred 700 people who were simply going about their daily lives. At 19 years old, Nadia, many members of her family, and thousands of other women were taken as sex slaves, continually beaten and raped.

Nadia escaped but has since devoted her life to traveling around the world and speaking about that day, pleading with world leaders to stop the ISIS genocide of the Yazidi people and free the 3,200 women still in captivity, including her own sisters. The documentary showed her telling her story again and again in Germany, Canada, and Greece. Nadia testified before the United Nations Security Council in 2015 and the following year became the first survivor of human trafficking to become the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime Goodwill Ambassador for the Dignity of Survivors of Human Trafficking. In 2018 she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Despite Nadia Murad’s efforts to inform the world of ISIS’s killings and holding women as sex slaves, it is still taking place. Thousands of Yazidis live in refugee camps in various countries as ISIS terrorists continue committing atrocities in countries like Iraq and Syria.

On Her Shoulders can be viewed online at http://www.onhershouldersfilm.com/. Anyone concerned about genocide and sex trafficking needs to watch this documentary.

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