Blog - The Two-Wheeled Writer
The Two-Wheeled Writer covers writing and motorcycling but not in any specific order. I write about other things too, but all are connected in some way.
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How to find time to write in our busy lives
I've just spent the weekend at the Emerging Writers Festival. An inspiring weekend. As well as making new writing friends and gaining lots of writing advice, the NUMBER ONE thing gained was just how to find those extra hours to write.
I remember those long days of uninterrupted time, before my first book was published, days while my three boys were at school. I'd drop them off at 8:30am be home by 9am and write until 2:55pm. Yes, six hours of bliss to get lost in my words plus a little bit of paid part-time writing gigs. What a luxury that was. I miss those days.
Since February, just before Ubuntu: One Woman's Motorcycle Odyssey Across Africa was released, those hours are now gone. Taken up by countless emails, purchase of signed copies, requests to do author talks and writing festivals, promotion to media and online (I love all this attention and I've been very fortunate to have reviews/features in most of Australia's motorcycle magazines).
Then, of course, there's my three boys so by 8:00pm when they're in bed and I've had a full day at the computer, I'm exhausted. The computer is switched off and then it's MY TIME. And this is reading. I have two glorious hours to escape but at the same time analysing just how that talented writer has strung those words together and taken me into their world (after writing my first book, reading will never be quite the same again).
So over the past few months. Well since January really, when I started organising my book launch, which was an outstanding success (video will be posted soon), I've suffered anxiety about FINDING TIME. After all, I am writing the sequel to Ubuntu, but have only managed 25,000 words and haven't touched it since January.
I wake up every morning about 4am and lay tossing and turning, worrying about finding this all important TIME. Yes, I'd thought of getting out of bed and heading to the computer but I'm a single mum of three boys, I need my sleep to get through the day and early evening. Surely, I'd be shattered by 2pm and need a 'nanna nap'. Then this weekend 18-19 June 2016 at the Emerging Writers Festival, I realised I was not alone. Quite a few of the authors speaking on the panels all spoke about how they wake up at 3am and 4am and get in a few hours of writing before their world wakes up.
During this, quiet undisturbed peace, something magical happens, they said. The mind is sharp, words flow and all that anxiety is gone. Inspired by these authors, this morning I woke up at 3am, tossed and turned until my alarm went off at 4am. Stoked up the log fire in my lounge, did 15 mins of floor exercises with my 7kg weights, 10 mins of mindfulness/breathing meditation using the Sattva app, then with a cup of peppermint tea, began work my mind buzzing with ideas. The writer has returned, long live the writer. www.heather-elllis.com
HOW TO GET AN ENDORSEMENT
As an unknown author, endorsements are vitally important to place your book in the hands of readers, because readers take notice of what other authors, particularly well known ones, say about your book.
But how does one ask for an endorsement, especially when you are a complete stranger, a complete unknown? In this blog, I will share with you how I went about asking for praise for my first book Ubuntu: one woman’s motorcycle odyssey across Africa to be published by Black Inc. Books in April 2016.
ASK, ASK, ASK...
From my travels by motorcycle in Africa, and later through Central Asia, I soon realised there was much truth in the Bible verse ‘ask and you shall receive’. On that journey all I wished for came to pass. I only believed in this because all I desired, always magically materialised. While what I desired was not much in the scheme of today’s world of wants, what I asked for was always granted: a safe place to sleep each night, no mechanical breakdowns and for no harm to come to me as I travelled alone. If it happens this way every day, then you believe it will happen this way tomorrow and the day after that too. More than 20 years after that journey, I still hold the same belief that there is no need to worry: that all I ask for will be provided as long as I take that first step and then the next and the next. Basically, we have to do our part to make things happen, otherwise, how can the universe step in and give us a helping hand?
When Ubuntu was accepted by Black Inc. Books in August this year, I began my ‘ask’ giving authors plenty of time to read my manuscript. Bestselling authors are busy people and they can receive hundreds of requests for endorsements each year. When I contacted Bill Bryson through his agent, he replied within days wishing me well with the publication of Ubuntu, but advised it could take years before he was able to read my manuscript as he received up to 500 requests per year!
MAKE A LIST OF AUTHORS WITH SIMILAR BOOKS TO YOURS
First, I made a list of authors with whom I shared some similarity, some connection to Africa, travel, adventure and going it alone even when there are no safe places. The list can be as short or as long as you feel is needed. Advice I read online, is to approach ten authors, hoping that at least two or three will respond. Once I’d come up with my list, I put all the details into a spreadsheet, making note of the books I had not yet read. Fortunately, as I’m passionate about travel writing, I’d already read most of the books by the bestselling authors on my list. For those authors, I hadn’t read, I ordered their books either online or through my local library.
THE BIG ASK
Next, I drafted a personal email to each author with my big ask. Three of the authors on my list, I had met or knew personally, but for most, my only relationship was through my love of their writing. For those, I did not know, I sourced their contact details from their websites or contacted them via their agents.
I briefly outlined why I was approaching them, who I was and mentioned my publisher Black Inc. Books. I also gave a brief background about my book . I closed with my appreciation for their time and that my book was going to print on 19 February 2016. Instead of waiting for them to reply, straight up I attached a pdf of my manuscript, which was professionally edited by Nadine Davidoff, former senior editor at Random House. I highly recommend you make this investment in ‘your baby’.
UBUNTU... ‘I AM BECAUSE WE ARE’
As I pressed send (after a meticulous proof read), I sat back and thought of the human interconnectedness that is Ubuntu. How I’d asked for a helping hand from one human to another.
Since August, I've received one endorsement from Ted Simon, bestselling author of Jupiter's Travels and five replies from authors advising they would read my manuscript. Three declined due to their full schedules, but wished me well with my book and my future writing. Six have not yet replied. I felt honoured that those who did reply took the time as they all receive many, often hundreds, of emails each day all lovingly crafted by the sender. All filled with the hopes and dreams of emerging authors and through their reply, these bestselling authors acknowledged that we, as writers, are one community. This is the spirit of Ubuntu. Thank you.