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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MAY 2016



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 published by Black Inc. Books in April 2016.

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 2015, 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!

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.

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 agent.

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’.

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.


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Ubuntu is an inspiring memoir about an extraordinary journey taken by an exceptional woman. Heather Ellis writes about her most daring adventures and deepest struggles with humour, heart, guts and grace. I was enthralled by every page.’ —Cheryl Strayed, author of Wild


Most of us wouldn’t take a motorcycle solo through Africa. Or remember much about what we were saying, smelling, believing or hoping twenty years ago. Heather Ellis did that, and has written a remarkable book about it too. She tells her story vividly and honestly, taking us through fields, national parks, into towns and down red-mud tracks, meeting other travellers and working with locals, eating rice and fish, honing her self-belief and increasing our respect for her with every day on the road. This is a really fascinating and compelling tale, told well. For anyone who has ever doubted themselves, Ubuntu has a message: there is a way through, down a road you haven’t travelled yet.’ —Kate Holden, author of In Her Skin


No two big journeys are alike, and Heather Ellis’ could not have been more different to mine, but certain fundamental similarities seem to unite us all, from the prosaic –‘My bike was dangerously overloaded’ – to the sublime awakenings that such journeys engender. Hers was a great adventure into the soul of Africa, a thrilling story of endurance and self-discovery, told with care, intelligence and deep humanity. It is beautifully written and a pleasure to read. So read it.’ —Ted Simon, author of Jupiter’s Travels



Ever wondered what your life would look like if you chose to trust rather than fear? Heather Ellis does just this as she rides a motorbike across Africa. She discovers a land torn apart by war and poverty but also a land rich in beauty and kindness. Reading this book is challenging and inspiring. Heather’s journey will stay with you long after you finish her story.’ —Maggie Mackellar, author of When It Rains & How to Get There



The next stage of our evolution is how are we to live together. Through Heather’s motorcycle journey across Africa, and the African people who embrace her, we learn what is possible – this is ubuntu.’ —Father Bob Maguire AM, RFD


Ubuntu is the story of a motorcycling adventure that goes way beyond the physical journey. It takes you to other places too. This story has wide appeal and I reckon it will inspire both men and women, especially women motorcyclists.’ —Damien Codognotto OAM


In the 1990s Heather had an impulsive idea to ride a motorcycle through Africa and, through perseverance, made this come true. Her story is not just a very detailed, descriptive account of the countries she rode through but also of the problems she faced and overcame. It reveals her ability to communicate with people of all nationalities and walks of life, learn from them and find that if you have faith in the Universe, it will provide. Very well written and immensely readable.’ —Linda Bootherstone-Bick, author of Into Africa with a Smile