Happy 4th July everyone! Wishing I was in the States, as per usual…
Today I’m delighted to say we have a USA-themed guest post in keeping with the occasion from Michael Harling, author of Postcards from Across the Pond, who tells us about his trip from the States to Ireland, which led to his moving to the UK, which led to him getting published, which led to him self-publishing. Take it away, Michael.
“Ten years ago, I made my first trip abroad. I booked a two week trip to Ireland, to hike along the western coast, but I also regarded it as a spiritual odyssey.
Although I had no discernable Irish blood in me (my parental grandfather was born in Lancashire and my mother’s family was from Germany) I considered myself an honorary Celt because I was an Irish step dancer, an Irish folk singer and I really liked Guinness. Ireland, I felt, would ‘speak’ to me, perhaps even call me home to where my heart belonged. So I, and my inner Celt, flew across the ocean and found a lovely land filled with stunning scenery, effusive, friendly people and really good Guinness, but which did not, to our rising disappointment, speak so much as a syllable to our spirit.
What I found, instead, was an English woman. Six months later I was married and living in Sussex. My inner Anglo-Saxon had never been so content.
I loved England, but found myself woefully unprepared for life abroad; mailing letters presented a challenge, buying shoelaces was next to impossible and I even had trouble opening doors. Then I got a job and my office sent me on the road to far off places—on my own—when they really shouldn’t have. Faced with all these obstacles, I did what anyone in my position would do: I started a blog. Postcards From Across the Pond was where I could recount my adventures, as well as remind my friends back in the States where I had run off to (half of them thought I’d moved to Ireland). Almost immediately, fans of my blog started telling me I should write a book. A few years later, I did. Two years after that, I actually found a publisher, and Postcards From Across the Pond—dispatches from an accidental expat was born.
You’ve heard of it, of course; Oprah named it the book of the decade and Ewan McGregor is playing me in the movie version. Okay, that’s a small exaggeration. My book did not set the world on fire, but I remain fiercely proud of it: the reviews were great, it has stood the test of time well and continues to sell to a small, but grateful, group of readers.
Fast forward a few years. My publisher contacts me to ask if I would like to re-release the book. I had, in fact, been planning to propose another one so we kicked some ideas around. I envisioned a book of humorous essays, like the first one, but interspersed with the narrative of my Ireland trip. As the idea developed, it became clear I had enough material for two books. This resulted in the manuscript for More Postcards From Across the Pond, and me starting on the final book in The Postcards Trilogy: Postcards From Ireland. My publisher wanted both and this is where things started going sideways.
I decided I didn’t want my publisher to handle the manuscripts. It wasn’t that I had any problem with them, in fact, I felt deeply indebted to them for publishing Postcards…, but the financial constraints they were under mean that the price of the book (especially the ebook) was too high, and I attributed this to the less than stunning sales. Meanwhile, I had been reading and researching the self-publishing phenomenon and the astonishing rise of ebooks, and subsequently decided to publish More Postcards From Across the Pond myself.
So I edited, re-edited and re-edited the manuscript, and was lucky enough to have some very competent people proof read it for me. The result was better, in my view, than the professional proof reading done on the first manuscript. The cover I made myself, something I would not have done had I not had the original to use as a template. This allowed me to create a professional-looking cover, but if I ever have occasion to publish something outside of The Postcards Trilogy, I will use a professional; working with graphics is way too tricky for me to want to try constructing something from scratch.
The formatting and final touches were comparatively easy, and so, with a lot of help, some lucky breaks and the free services of Kindle, Smashwords and CreateSpace, More Postcards From Across the Pond came into being: a professional result requiring virtually no financial outlay.
The ebook was released at the end of May and it has already earned some great reviews. The paperback is being released on the 4th of July (I thought that appropriate for a book by an American) and I am looking forward to seeing if I can outsell the first book.
The main activity now, of course, is marketing, but in a strange way, I don’t feel I am finished with the production phase yet: Postcards From Ireland—the making of an expat is coming along nicely, and I feel that the story of my misadventures in Ireland, and how I met and fell in love with the woman who became my wife, will be the icing on the Postcards cake.
And the three books together will make an outstanding Christmas present.”
Thanks, Michael – love that Christmas present reminder at the end!