Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The truth about travel writing

When Writer Abroad used to dream about life as a travel writer, she imagined glamour. And more glamour. Oh, the free meals she would eat. Ah, the overnight stays she would enjoy. And yes, all those airline miles she’d acquire.

The reality is much different. Especially if you’re a travel writer who writes about Switzerland.

The Swiss laws of economics and commerce don’t really apply to the rest of the world. If you need evidence, go to a Swiss flea market and try to buy a garden gnome for less than $50. The seller won’t budge on the price—they seem to not care whether they sell the gnome or not.

Which brings Writer Abroad to life as a travel writer in Switzerland. Most Swiss establishments don’t appear to care that Writer Abroad is writing about them and therefore bringing them business. In their minds, they already have enough business and don’t see the point of more.

The first time Writer Abroad’s request for information was ignored by a Swiss establishment, she was pretty surprised. She is no longer surprised by these non-responses–or even by negative responses. Last week on a research outing she was pretty much told by one annoyed bakery owner that he didn’t have time for her even though he had agreed to meet with her. Swiss hotels consistently ignore Writer Abroad’s requests for images of their hotels even if they are going to be displayed on a website that gets a million eyeballs a day.

So. To those who search for the glamour in travel writing, let Writer Abroad be the first to tell you that there is none, except to say if you truly love travel and you truly love writing, then it is still the best job in the world.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Happy Independence Day

Here's to the independents. The ones who believe in themselves and their artistic endeavors. The ones who turn marketing into a creative project as big as the one they are selling. The brave ones who say no to seven figure deals and yes to autonomy. 

Writer Abroad's
logo of independence
Today is American Independence Day. Let's celebrate the independents. 

Ira Glass is giving us a great reason to celebrate. Thanks to him, indie fever is spreading beyond book publishing and into radio and broadcasting. Ira Glass's "This American Life" left Public Radio International. And turned down a huge deal from NPR. As of July 1, the show is independent.


Writer Abroad couldn't be prouder to be a part of the new class of independents. Are we all crazy? Maybe. Maybe not. But the ones who have the confidence to go ahead and create without the world approving us first are just the ones who might take that world and redefine it.

Happy Independence Day from Writer Abroad.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Eight Years as a Writer Abroad

Today marks Writer Abroad’s eighth anniversary of being an American writer in Switzerland. To celebrate, she’d like to list eight reasons it’s great to live abroad as a writer.

One: Living abroad improves creativity. Research from INSEAD proves this.

Two: You’ll differentiate yourself. Abroad, you’ll find you have unique skills in the marketplace—especially if you’re living in a country where English is not an official language.
Eight years after moving to Switzerland:
Writer Abroad's first book signing

Three: You’ll understand where you came from. If you never leave your country of birth, you’ll never see it clearly because you’ll never have anything to compare it with.

Four: You’ll learn to take initiative. With no English-language writing instruction in Zurich, for example, Writer Abroad had to offer it herself by founding the Zurich Writers Workshop or it wouldn’t exist. Bonus? Now she has event planning skills too.

Five: You’ll learn new skills. Besides event planning, Writer Abroad has learned to diversify her skills because living abroad gave her those opportunities. German to English advertising adaptations, proofreading, editing non-native English, travel writing, blogging…and the list continues.

Six: Isolation. Writer Abroad knows it helps her get more done. Writing can also be an escape from the pressures of living in a place where you’re not fluent in the local language too. It makes you prolific.

Seven: Inspiration. Stories come naturally when crazy things happen to you every day.

Eight: You’ll never have to think “what if?” Most writers have romantic notions of living abroad. While the reality can be much less romantic, living in another country is still a rite of passage for many writers. Why think about it when you can do it?

Why do you like being a writer abroad?

Thursday, June 5, 2014

What your favorite authors have in common

It took until last week to realize it, but here is something all of Writer Abroad’s favorite authors have in common: one-star reviews on amazon.

These are fantastic, funny, and talented writers. And they endure a seemingly endless wave of crappy reader reviews.

How did Writer Abroad come to this conclusion? Well, she got her first one-star review last week. And she’s not going to lie—seeing it for the first time was kind of like being punched in the gut.

But what helped ease the pain as quickly as it arrived was realizing that all of her favorite authors had one-star reviews too. All of them. Put your work out there and there is only one guarantee: it’s going to get everything from a one-star review to a five-star review.

Why? Because we all like to read different things and we all have different backgrounds and senses of humor. There’s a book for everyone but not everyone will like a book. It’s reality. One person loves David Sedaris. Another doesn’t get his humor at all.

And often people who give reviews haven’t even read the book they are reviewing, so they can’t be taken too seriously. One person who recently left a review for Writer Abroad gave her book five stars but said in the review that they hadn’t even read it yet. So there you have it. Good and bad on both ends of the non-reader reviewers of your book.

However, most writers, by the time they have actually published a book, are pros at rejection and humiliation. Writer Abroad has been through enough in the last ten years as a writer to know that if you want to be a writer, you must have two things: courage to put your writing out in the world and a thick skin to survive its existence in the public sphere.

Otherwise, you might as well apply for law school.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Createspace versus IngramSpark

There are many options for distribution when publishing a book these days. Writer Abroad studied as many as she could for her book, Swiss Life: 30 Things I Wish I’d Known.

Her goals:

Because her book speaks to an international audience, she wanted as many distribution options as possible, including bookstores, since Swiss bookstores were a promising place for sales (and are proving her theory correct, since the book sold 48 copies in less than a week at a bookshop in Zurich).

So here is what she did (the super short version):

First off, she consulted knowledgeable friends who had already published several books. Next, she bought her own ISBNs.  This is important if you want distribution in bookstores.  Your ISBN is your book’s identifying number. Bookstores will look it up. And it makes sense to own it, even if the price isn’t free. She bought her ISBNs from Bowker.

Then, she hired professionals to design the covers and interiors and format the book correctly for each platform.


She uploaded her title to createspace.

She uploaded her title with IngramSpark.

She uploaded her title to kdp amazon (Kindle)

And she uploaded her title to Smashwords.

Here are the pros and cons of each channel, at least from her experience having published a book approximately 14 days ago and having sold over 100 in two weeks.

Createspace (for paperback books)

User friendly and easy-to-use website
No upload, change, or title fees
Fast, round-the-clock customer service response
Very fast shipping (even overseas)
Makes title available directly on with the best royalties for amazon.

Printing is not as polished and professional as IngramSpark
If you only use createspace (and not IngramSpark too) your book will most likely never be ordered by bookstores since bookstores consider amazon their enemy
You are limited to certain trim sizes if you want expanded distribution (not to worry about if you use IngramSpark for your expanded distribution instead)
If you choose a customizable trim size, the print quality is hit or miss


Many trim sizes and printing options
Global distribution puts you on the same playing field as large publishers
Your title can be ordered by bookstores worldwide
Beautiful, professional printing

Site is not as user friendly as createspace
There are title fees, catalog listing fees, and change fees ( in other words, typos get expensive!)
Customer service is only available from 8-5 p.m. Central U.S. Time (not so good if you are based internationally).
Book is processed much slower than createspace
Book is delivered much slower (even when not shipped overseas, books arrived much slower than books from createspace)

Kdp amazon (Kindle)

Easy user interface
Quick and free upload and book is available within 12 hours
70% royalties depending on price

None so far, unless you call being able to see your sales in real time addicting!


Easy-to-use interface
Quick upload and approval times
Distribution to all major e-book retailers
Swiss Life is in bookstores
(well, at least one bookstore, anyway.)

Royalties not as high as amazon
Most e-book sales are on amazon anyway
Requires different formatting than amazon

Finally, after enduring the crazy process that is called publishing, Writer Abroad sat down, relaxed, and had some cheese and chocolate. Her book is about Switzerland, after all. And look, there it is in the Swiss bookstore. Not bad product placement for a book with no marketing budget, oder?

Anyone else have similar experiences with these distribution channels? Or what is your book publishing experience?

Friday, May 16, 2014

Zurich Book Reading

What should you know about Swiss life?
Oh, how about that sometimes something in Switzerland is actually free!
Shocking, yes, but come to the free reading event and you'll be able to sit back, relax, and enjoy some cheese and chocolate (or more likely some pretzels and wine) for less than you'd spend for a packet of ketchup at the Swiss McDonald's.

Writer Abroad will read from her new book, Swiss Life: 30 Things I Wish I'd Known
May 23, 2014 at 7 p.m.
Orell Füssli The Bookshop
Bahnhofstrasse 70
8001 Zurich
Hope to see you there!

Friday, May 9, 2014

Swiss Life: 30 Things I Wish I'd Known

Whatever one should know about Swiss life and living abroad, Writer Abroad learned the hard way. But now she makes living abroad a little easier (or at least a little funnier) in a just published essay collection titled SWISS LIFE: 30 THINGS I WISH I'D KNOWN.

What should one know about Swiss life? Well, how about the fact that you can be hired in one language and fired in another? Or the realization that your Swiss neighbor is not coming over to chat—she is coming over to clean your gutter? Or the reality that cheese is a homeopathic treatment—for lactating boobs?                     

Learned anything about life in Switzerland yet? Well, sit back, relax, and enjoy some cheese and chocolate. Because that’s just the beginning.​                                                                                                                          

SWISS LIFE: 30 THINGS I WISH I’D KNOWN is a collection of both published (The Christian Science MonitorNational Geographic GlimpseChicken Soup for the Soul Books, and Brain, Child) and new essays in which Writer Abroad discovers that whatever she thought she knew about the land of a certain storybook mountain girl, she had a lot to learn about the real Switzerland, you know, the one on the world map.                                                                                                                                                                                                          
Writer Abroad will read from her book at Orell Füssli, The Bookshop (Bahnhofstrasse 70, 8001 Zurich) on May 23, 2014 at 7 p.m. She encourages anyone to stop by and say hello in whatever their official language of choice may be. Free bookmarks will reward your visit.
Come to the reading and get a free bookmark.

But if you can’t make it, the print version of the book is now available on The Kindle version is available too. Alternatively, you can join Writer Abroad’s mailing list to find out when the book is available at other retailers. Nook, Kobo, and other versions are also coming soon. 

What's more, to celebrate the publication of Swiss Life: 30 Things I Wish I'd Known, Writer Abroad is offering 30% off the print book on to her mailing list members (see, great deals in Switzerland do exist!). To get the discount, all you have to do is join the book's mailing list by Monday, May 12. The code will be e-mailed to all mailing list members on Tuesday, May 13 and will remain valid for one week. Writer Abroad says danke vielmal in advance for your support.

Find out more at


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