Wednesday, December 14, 2011

FINALLY available as an iBook on iTunes

It has taken a really long time due to the stupid hoops Apple makes you jump through to (directly) publish on iTunes....
drumroll please...
with much thanks to my brother Nicholas,
Secrets of a Summer Village is now for sale on the shelves of the iBookstore near you!

 Here it is on the iTunes Bookstore (in Germany) as seen on my MacBook:

And here it is as seen on Nicholas' iPad:

This has taken many months, and a lot of trying on my side, and a lot of time on Nicholas' side.  But it's there now, and I hope people buy it from the iBookstore, because it sure wasn't easy to get it on their "shelves"!

Saturday, December 10, 2011


This article gives me hope that self-publishing can really work in the favor of authors with non-mainstream books:

Link courtesy of my brother, Scott. Gracias, hermano!

Thursday, December 8, 2011


I should have seen it coming. 

As I have mentioned before, Secrets of a Summer Village is published by two publishers: Lulu and CreateSpace.  While I am slightly happier with the quality of printing provided by Lulu, the CreateSpace version is much less expensive.  That said, it's cheaper and faster for me to buy Lulu copies here in Europe, because Lulu has a printer in France, and postage is cheaper from France to Germany (where I live) than it is from the US.

When I was signing up for everything in the first place, I understood that the Lulu version could be distributed to all of the international Amazons through its "Global Distribution" package.  It wasn't clear to me that the CreateSpace version would be available outside of the United States, so I thought that I'd use both as publishers.

Apparently, I was wrong about the distribution of CreateSpace books.  They do get to all of the international Amazons, to Barnes and Noble, to the Book Depository, etc..., and they get there MUCH FASTER.  I know that now.  Unfortunately.  Because I got an e-mail from my Aunt yesterday telling me that my book suddenly costs over $20.00 (US) on Amazon, when it used to cost around $10.  After some research, I realized that the Lulu version has now somehow taken over the listing at  The cheaper version is still available, if you click around a bit, but it's not obvious.  Except in my version, below, with the pink piggy bank and pink arrow.

I have contacted, and am trying to remove my book from their Global Distribution package.  Unfortunately, it's not so easy to do unless I completely withdraw the book from Lulu, which I don't want to do.  So I hope that people don't see this ridiculous price and get turned off by it.  It's on for me.  It's on CreateSpace for everyone else.

I wish I had figured this out earlier, but this whole experience is a learning process for me, and I am very thankful to my aunt for alerting me to it.  It really brings to light the fact that Lulu's pricing structure is not competitive.  If you buy from their site AND live in the US, you can take advantage of some super deals directly on their website.  They have these "money saving" deals at least once a month.  BUT they are only valid in US dollars, and only from their website, so Amazon purchases do not benefit, and nor does anyone outside of the United States.  To me, this is a HUGE disadvantage of Lulu.  Even with their "great" sales, the prices aren't much better than CreateSpace.  I think that CreateSpace has a competitive advantage here, unless Lulu changes their pricing structure.  Clearly, as it stands, they have built the discounts into the inflated prices.

Not a happy customer here. 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The ball is rolling

I try to spend about an hour a day working on something to do with being an author.  Sometimes, I don't even manage to get in five minutes before I'm too tired and watching a movie on tv instead.  Sometimes, I manage 3 hours in one day.  But the average is probably about an hour, and it seems to be enough to keep the ball rolling.

This week, things started coming together:

  • I finalized plans to do a reading at a local bookstore, The Munich Readery.  The reading will take place on January 14th.  We'll sell Turkish wine by the glass at the reading, and we'll also provide "pogaca" for snacking.  I'll have signed books available for sale.  I am VERY excited.
  • An acquaintance with whom I occasionally play tennis and who is also totally friendly, liked the sound of my book and asked her book club if they wanted to read it and have me as a guest on the evening when they discuss my book.  And they said YES!! That will happen in February.  I am VERY excited.
  • My book was mentioned in the Alumni newsletter of my high school, and the Alumni Relations Coordinator gave me some contact information for the instructors who should hear about my book.  So far, two instructors have written, expressing their interest and saying they would buy my book.  The librarian jumped at an offer of a copy, so my mother will bring her one.  Moms rock.  The instructors both sounded genuinely interested in Secrets of a Summer Village.  I loved my high school.  Being a teenager was as awkward for me as it is for anyone (or perhaps it was more awkward for me), but my high school was really special and different and truly inspired me to go for my dreams.  I would be thrilled if the students there read my book and let me know what they think of it, what they learned from it, and whether they want a sequel.  I am VERY excited.
  • I'm finally in touch with a local international high school that is interested in having me lecture about the Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and Sign Language(s).  This has nothing to do with Secrets of a Summer Village EXCEPT that I mentioned the book when I was talking to them, and they're now also interested in my talking to their students about my book, the writing process, and maybe about self-publishing. 
  • One of my brothers ordered a bunch of copies of my book to give as Xmas gifts.  I hope that none of the future recipients is reading this... Aren't brothers great?  
In order to keep things going, I've been working on some sample illustrations for my next book, which is a children's picture book about the winter solstice.  The illustrations are made of paper, like the cover of Secrets of a Summer Village, using a method called quilling.  I have submitted the text to a number of agents.  I get the feeling that they liked it but not enough to take me on as a client.  A large portion of agents that represent children's books only represent author-illustrators.  Even though I'd rather have some awesome artist illustrate my books, I'm just going to try and see.  What makes me feel significantly better is the quality of the illustrations in some of our children's books.  Or, shall I say, lack of quality.  It's worth a try.  Without illustrating the book myself, those agents are entirely out of reach to me.

I'm also filling out a form so that I can submit my ESL-version manuscript to Macmillan Education.  I am not very hopeful that someone as big as Macmillan would take on the project, but I have nothing to lose in trying....

Which is the message to take from this blog.  Try.  You just don't know until you try. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Chapter 3 Discussion Questions

Chapter 3
1)   Americans generally don’t kiss each other on the cheeks as an informal greeting – in fact, Americans only shake hands in relatively formal/business situations.  The only physical contact that usually occurs in an informal greeting is hugging, which is only between relatively close friends and family, and not between two males unless they are very good friends.  This is called "personal space" - in every culture, the personal space we have that others usually don't enter, is different.  How do your friends greet each other in your culture?  How much "personal space" is usual in your culture?
2)   Shoes are not worn inside Turkish homes, but slippers are always worn.  Rachel prefers to go barefoot, but Aylin’s mother insists that she wear slippers.  Are street shoes worn inside the home in your home country?  Why or why not?
3)   Are there any formalities concerning food in your native language or native culture?  If so, what are they?

Friday, November 25, 2011

Chapter 2 Questions

Chapter 2
1)   Aylin’s family spends the summer in a “summer house”, otherwise known as a vacation house.  While common in Turkey, this is not common in the United States.  Is it common in your country for middle-class families to have vacation homes?
2)   Did/do you study English in your country?  If so, do you think that you learned/learn useful things or more literary language?
3)   In her first e-mail, Aylin tells Rachel that she is “waiting for her with four eyes”.  This idiom is one that Aylin has translated word for word into Englishc, but makes no sense in English.  Can you think of any idioms in your language that would not translate well into English?
4)   Rachel tells Aylin that she’s “a junior”.  In the U.S. education system, there are special names for the first, second, third, and fourth years of high school and college/university: freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior, respectively.  Do you have a similar naming system for grade levels in your country?
5)   Rachel doesn’t know what kind of clothes to bring to Turkey.  This is in part because she knows that most people in Turkey are Muslim, and assumes that they dress very conservatively.  What is the “dress code” for teenage girls in your home country – either an official dress code of what is allowed, or a “social” one, dictated by society.


Revised Question 2! :))

My sweet brother Scott in formed me that some people do get to take geography courses in school.  While I did have to learn the locations of most of the world's countries in various classes (history, foreign language, etc...), I never had a separate geography course in the United States (though I did when I did a year of high school in France).  Here's the revised question two!

2)  Rachel’s mother didn’t know where in the world Turkey was when the letter Rachel received mentioned it.  Did you know where Turkey was before you started reading this book?  While most Americans have to learn the geography of the United States in school, world Geography is not consistently taught.  Is it an important school subject in your country?

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Secrets of a Summer Village as an ESL/EFL teaching tool

Something I have in mind for Secrets of a Summer Village is an ESL/EFL (English as a Second Language/English as a Foreign Language) teaching version.  Not necessarily for teaching grammar, but more for teaching culture and as a conversation starter.  American culture is discussed in the book in contrast to Turkish culture, and each chapter naturally raises multiple cultural questions.  A friend recently suggested that the book might also be useful for Turkish students who are learning English, and the book could in that case be formatted with English on one page and Turkish on the facing page - an idea that I love, but that I could not do unless the book were, in fact, taken up by a Turkish publisher and professionally translated.

Months ago, I started writing discussion questions for each chapter.  I haven't finished them all, but I am going to start posting them on this blog.  Feel free to respond with your thoughts in the comments section!

Here are the Chapter 1 questions:

Chapter 1

1)   Many American high school students get after school and/or summer jobs.  They use the money to pay for a car, as pocket money, and/or they save the money so that they can attend college.  Do high school students in your home country usually get jobs in the summer or after school?  If so, what do they use the money for? 
2)   Rachel’s mother didn’t know where in the world Turkey was when the letter Rachel received mentioned it.  Did you know where Turkey was before you started reading this book?  Geography is not a regular school subject in the United States.  Is it in your country?
3)   “Pig Latin” is a code language that is created by taking the first letter of every word, putting it at the end of the word, and then adding the sound “ay” at the end of the word.  For example, “Pig Latin” in Pig Latin would be “Igpay Atinlay”.  Do you have such a code language in your language?

Friday, November 18, 2011

In the hands of an editor?

As mentioned in my previous posting, my sister-in-law has some connections with Arkadas Kitabevi in Turkey, and a manager there mentioned that she thought the book would be interesting to this publisher.  On Monday, my sister-in-law, Neslihan, excitedly told me that an editor at the publisher wanted to see my full manuscript.  I quickly sent it, and it's now in the hands of an editor there.  Arkadas (pronounced /AR- KAH- DAH-SH/) means friend in Turkish.  What a nice name for a publishing house!  I think it would be an appropriately-named publisher to print a book that is, in part, about friendship.

Dear Neslihan is waiting on pins and needles for a response from the editor.  While I am excited and would love for a Turkish publisher to buy the translation rights for Turkey (as well as maybe the rights to the English version in Turkey), these things take a long time.  I'm sure my manuscript isn't the only one on that editor's desk.  For now, at least, I'm accepting the lack of response as long as it lasts because it's better than a form letter telling me how great my writing is but that they don't think the want to take it on.  Bring on the silence, arkadaslar!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Overwhelming day/week

Wednesday was crazy. 

First, I sold 9 books, with three more promised.  That may sound like ridiculously few, but as I've mentioned many times, my book does not have a fancy cardboard display at Barnes & Noble.  Every sale is to people I know.  On Tuesday night, I sent a message to the members of my international women's club (membership approximately 200), and 6 copies were requested.  I brought three extras, just in case someone saw my message, wanted a book, but didn't write back.  I sold the three extras, and could have sold at least 3 more if I'd had them.  This is so exciting to me - I don't even really know some of the members who bought books from me.  I hope that they enjoy it, and I cannot wait to hear their comments!

After picking up the kids from school, I took them to the local library.  While there, it occurred to me that I should ask them if they'd carry a copy of my book at the library if I donated.  What's the worst that could happen?  They could say no.  So, I asked.  And they said yes.  Simple as that.  It took me one minute to ask.  I was shocked that they said yes so easily.  Wow.  So, now my book holds a place at the Gemeindebucherei Feldkirchen

When we got home, there was a message from my sister-in-law, Neslihan, that I only partially understood, but I knew that it had something to do with my book.  Long story short, she and my brother-in-law, Samim, appear to have talked about my book with someone who has connections to the publishing industry in Turkey, and that someone knows someone who may be interested in publishing it in Turkey!!!  Who knows if anything will come of this - in the publishing industry, you must really put up your defenses because of the huge amount of rejection that you inevitably receive.  So I do not have my hopes up, but if something does come of it, we'll definitely have to open up some champagne.

Other things happening this week:

I may get an opportunity to do a reading of my book at The Munich Readery, the largest English-language second-hand bookstore in Germany. 

The Turkish American Association of Washington has received a copy of my book and may recommend it to its Turkish language and culture students.

A local cafe has offered to carry copies of my book :)

The first author I wrote to (see previous post) wrote me back.  Seriously, write to authors whose books you have enjoyed.  

I feel like there was something else, too, but in short, things are moving.  It's exciting.  I think I'm going to make some business cards! :)

If you read my book, please let me know what you think, and write a review on Amazon!! :)))

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Connecting with readers

Someone I have never met and with whom I have no (known) common friends and with whom I have no relationship whatsoever, has read my book.  Even better, she happens to run a large English-language bookstore in Istanbul (Greenhouse Kitapevi), and writes book reviews for an English-language daily newspaper in Turkey.  She reviewed my book a few weeks ago, and even though I have to say that I truly like my book and think that it's an enjoyable, informative read, I was floored when I read her review.  It doesn't lack critique of the book - no book is perfect, and I have to say that I even agree with her criticisms, but the review on a whole is itself is poetic and flattering.  I wonder if the reviewer is an author herself?  Or maybe she can write so well because she reads so much?  I am thrilled that she enjoyed the book, and I hope others will, too. 

Some friends and family are buying it for other friends for Christmas... I do hope that when people read it, they will post their comments on Amazon, so that people who are curious about it can see that others have enjoyed it (hopefully).  And for me - writing can be a very isolating experience.  Since I'm self-published, I do get more contact with people than I probably would have if a publisher were taking care of all the marketing, but still, you write by yourself, edit by yourself, and show it to a few close friends as you're writing.  Once you publish, hopefully your work will be read, but still - how often have you written to an author to tell them how much you liked their book?  I once posted a comment on Amazon to say how much I loved Arther Golden's Memoirs of a Geisha, and he actually wrote me back, thanking me for my comments.  Now I understand that even though he was already famous by the time I read his book, it made him happy that I had read and enjoyed his book.  That is what most authors want.  So I am going to write to a few authors today.  Maybe you should, too. 

If you'd like some inspiration, here's the link to Marion Jones' review of my book:

Monday, October 24, 2011

People I've never met before

I feel like I have some new penpals lately.  I "met" Ann Martin, a paper-art expert and blogger extraordinaire of All Things Paper, when I commented on one of her posts about quilling.  I asked her how best to photograph my quilled book cover, so that the white background wouldn't come out gray.  She kindly responded, and we started a correspondence.  A few months later, she offered to feature my book cover on her blog.  This is all very exciting for me, because not only do I have a new friend in Deleware, but I have a connection with someone who does a type of artwork that I am just getting into and reading her blog inspires me to keep it up.  We've all read countless articles (or at least headlines) about how the internet is degrading our personal relationships, but in my case, it's helping me form them.  I'm at home a lot because I am a "stay at home mom" and have small children (and a husband) to care for.  But the internet allows me to be a part of a community in spite of that.  Thank you, Ann!  (And thank-you, internet).

Here's the posting:

Comment on it or on this posting - I'll see both :)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

What I'm looking forward to...

Now that my book is available on,,,, etc...,, Kindle, etc..., I have started publicizing it to people other than friends and family.  Two days ago, I began sending press releases by e-mail to Turkish cultural organizations in the US, Canada, and Britain, soon to be followed by any Turkish cultural association I can find, anywhere.  I've also sent the release to two newspapers and  In addition to about fifteen bounced messages, I received a very kind e-mail from the president (?) of a Turkish organization in Chicago, who said that the book sounded interesting and that she'd forward the press release to her organization.  She also said she'd read my book, and that I should contact her if I went to Chicago.  Now, I don't know if she meant any of that, but it made me feel really good!

Today, I tried to find the updated e-mail addresses of the organizations whose e-mails bounced back, and re-sent them.  I found the original addresses on the website of the US Embassy in Turkey - if they are reading this, they should note that their information is not current!

Now, I need to be patient.  I know that newspapers are not dying to interview me.  But I might cold-call The Olympian, just because the main character in my novel is from Olympia, and because I used to live there.  I think they must be able to publish a little article about my book, don't you?

What I am really looking forward to, with regards to this book, is for feedback from people I do NOT know, who have actually bought the book and read it.  Maybe it's what all authors want?  But of course, the first step will be for them to buy the book.... until then, all I can do is keep trying to send out the press release, and cross my fingers....

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Form Rejection

They didn't even read my manuscript.  They had taken two months to decide they wanted to see it.  I sent it to them along with a letter explaining that I had just finished the self-publishing process but that I am very interested in selling translation rights.  They very quickly sent me a form rejection.  All writers who send out queries get form rejections, but you'd think they would have been able to write me a sentence thanking me for my submission and wishing me luck in my self-publishing journey.  But no.  I am quite sure that they didn't read my manuscript and that the admission of self-publishing turned them off.  It doesn't give me the warm and fuzzies about traditional agents and publishers.  The good news?  I wasn't at all upset when I read it.  Just annoyed that they weren't more personal.

Here is the form rejection.  Enjoy!
Dear Ms. Akyil,

On behalf of the agents here at Lowenstein Associates, thank you for
giving us the opportunity to consider your work.  Unfortunately, we do
not feel strongly enough about your project to pursue it further.

As I am sure you can imagine, we receive a tremendous number of
submissions, and we are forced to limit our focus to a select group of
projects.  Agenting is very subjective, and even though we could not
take on your project at this time, another agent might feel

As a result of a high volume of submissions, we cannot offer a
detailed reason for rejection.

Please accept my best wishes for success in your writing career.



Friday, September 9, 2011

Book Club

I am a member of a book club.  In fact, I'm a founding member.  A friend and I somehow came up with the idea to start a book club and invite a couple of friends who live nearby to join us.  I don't know how the general public feels about book clubs, but my favorite part about the book club is that it gives me an excuse to get together with a few friends once a month.  Sometimes, we even talk about the book we've chosen to discuss.  It often creates stress for me because I can be a procrastinator, and if I don't like the book too much, I find many things I'd rather do than read it.  Recently, it's been particularly hard for me to read because I've been working so hard on the printing and promotion of my own book.  But book clubs are good for reasons other than meeting your friends.

The way we run ours is that we suggest and select the books together.  This means that we all end up reading books that we might otherwise not have chosen to read.  It also means that we may not like the books.  Like English class, we force ourselves to read anyway.  Normally, I would not do this.  I have started many books I didn't like, but I don't finish them.  I have no qualms about deciding halfway through a book that I don't like it, and putting it away, forever.  Finishing the books, or at least trying to, is an excellent exercise for me as a writer.  It forces me to identify what I do and don't like about a book because I will actually have to articulate my feelings at book club. 

In my press release, I offer to join book clubs via Skype or telephone as they discuss my book.  I sure hope I get taken up on my offer, but I also hope that they're both honest and kind. 

Thursday, September 8, 2011

What word describes how I feel?

There must be a word that describes how I feel, but I can't seem to find it.  Maybe the word doesn't exist in English.  Here's the situation: I convinced myself that I didn't need something (because it seemed that it didn't need me), and now it has appeared and told me that it might, indeed, be interested in me.  What is this thing?  "It" is an agent.  I have been sending queries off and on for about two years now, and while there have been a few that expressed interest, most have not.  My most recent round of querying was the most disappointing, with rejection after form rejection.  It was disheartening enough to encourage me to explore the self-publishing route.  As I started the process, the rejections continued to trickle in, and they didn't hurt as badly as the ones that had come before I considered self-publishing as an option.  I had the publishing process of my book in my control.  I got to design my cover, choose the font, and select the spine color.  I started this blog, and wrote about how much I liked self-publishing more than I would have liked going the route of traditional agent-represented publishing.

Well, last night at around 11pm, I checked my e-mail one last time before heading off to bed.  There was an e-mail with Re: Query in the subject line.  Another rejection, I assumed.  I opened the e-mail and was really shocked to read that it was not a rejection.  An actual agent, one I had hand-picked as a good match for this book, was interested in seeing the full manuscript.  Meredith Barnes of Lowenstein Associates wanted to see more.  Now, I know that this is not an offer of representation, but it could lead to that.

What is it called when you convince yourself that you don't want something because you can't get it, and then it becomes possible and you aren't sure if you really don't want it or if you were just consoling yourself because you couldn't get it?  If there is not a word for that, there should be.

And that is how I feel right now.  I feel ambivalent.  I admit that I have thoroughly enjoyed parts of the self-publishing experience.  I am putting a lot of effort into promoting my book, and I think that I will ultimately reach the correct audience for it.  But when it comes to getting it into actual bookstores, I am more helpless, especially given that my book is in English and I don't live in an English-speaking country.  I don't have a big publisher on my side, helping out with its connections and glossy promotional materials.  I don't have many connections in the foreign-rights department, even though I think my book would do really well in translation, particularly in Turkey and in parts of Europe with lots of Turkish immigrants (Germany, Austria, etc...).

I'm going to write back to Ms. Barnes and send my manuscript, per her request.  But I will also tell her that I'm on the eve of the official release of my book - I have a large list of addresses to which I'll send my press release as soon as the e-book appears on Apple iBooks.  (Dear Apple, if you're listening, you shouldn't bother allowing self-publishing if you make it so darn difficult for us to upload our content.  We own two apple computers but they are too old, in your opinion, to let me upload my content.  So my dear brother is tearing his hair out trying to do it for me on his newer Apple.  I'm not sure that is going to create user loyalty.)  Ms. Barnes may immediately lose interest in my manuscript, once I've told her that I have self-published it.  If she does, I guess I'll have to continue trying to convince myself that self-publishing is what I really want...

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Press Release: Secrets of a Summer Village

I have a press release.  Even saying that to myself in my head makes me giggle.  As in who am I fooling?  I am sitting at the computer at my kitchen counter, typing up a press release about my own book.  I am doing it, in part, as a procrastination measure.  Because it is so much more fun than ironing.  And yet, it's an important part of being an author/publisher.  Since I'm self-publishing, I must also be self-promoting.  But I really wonder how much publishing companies do the promoting for new authors, anyway.  I mean, if you're famous, sure.  But for me?  I doubt they'd be searching the Internet for the e-mail addresses of Turkish-American, Turkish-Canadian, and Turkish-Australian organizations.  But I see the Turkish expat community in English-speaking countries as potential readers.  (side note: Yes, I do realize they speak English in the UK and South Africa, and that there are significant Turkish expat communities in both places.  But I'm waiting until my book shows up on before I go that route).  I'm also going to contact my hometown newspapers, my high school, the colleges where I was employed... who needs a traditional publisher?  Ok, if one comes knocking at my door, I'll definitely listen to what they have to say.  Until then, here's my press release.

Secrets of a Summer Village by Saskia E. Akyil now available at,, and Apple iBooks

This young adult-general fiction crossover coming-of-age story follows Rachel Guo as she travels far away from her home and family in Olympia, Washington to spend her summer with a host family in Turkey.

Feldkirchen, Germany- September 6, 2011 - Can coffee grounds tell your future?   Will fate bring you to your soul mate thousands of miles from home?   How will you know if it's him?   Would the evil eye dare stop two souls on their paths to each other? 

A last-minute opportunity to spend a month with a Turkish family on the Aegean coast drastically changes the course of seventeen-year-old Rachel Guo’s summer.  This intercultural coming-of-age novel is full of exotic tastes, summer heat, promises kept and broken, and love.   In a summer village on the western coast of Turkey, you’ll meet Rachel, who doesn’t know what she wants; Aylin, who doesn’t know if she wants the one who wants her; and Leyla, who knows who she wants, but doesn’t know if she’ll get him.  Love and romance are secret pleasures in the summer village, which only make them more exciting.  Travel with Rachel on her journey far from the comforts of home, to a place that will captivate her and leave her changed forever.  Secrets of a Summer Village is a novel in which modern, middle-class Turkish culture is seen through the eyes of an American teenager.  In the 293-page novel, Rachel learns that many aspects of Turkish culture are different than her own, but that family, friendship, and love are universal. 

When she doesn’t get a place in a Mexican study abroad program, Rachel anticipates another summer behind the counter of a coffee shop in Olympia, Washington.  But she is then offered an unexpected opportunity to spend a month with a family in Turkey.  Though she knows little about Turkey and only vaguely even knows where it is, she decides to accept the offer.  Rachel’s host sister, Aylin, quickly becomes a close friend and helps her navigate through Turkish culture; Rachel teaches Aylin a bit about American culture, and the girls help each other make sense of boys, who are puzzling in any culture.  Aylin’s cousin falls for Rachel as much as she falls for him, though Rachel isn’t initially sure that a relationship with him would be wise.  In a month far from home, Rachel learns about family, friendship, love, and a new kind of coffee.  Mostly, she learns that some things are universal.  When Rachel returns home, she does so having left a little of her heart in Turkey, and bringing back a lot of Turkey in her soul. 

Secrets of a Summer Village can be purchased online at for $14.00, and will soon be available on (Barnes and Noble),, and  Electronic versions can be purchased for $7.99 from and from Apple iBooks. 

The author is available for interviews by phone, e-mail, and Skype.  She can also join book clubs discussing her book (subject to her availability) via telephone or Skype.

About Saskia E. Akyil - Born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia, Saskia E. Akyil, like many writers over the age of 25, began her art by keeping a journal and writing letters to her friends, pen-pals, cousins, and grandparents.  After receiving a B.A. in International Studies from Emory University and an M.A. in Teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) from the University of Minnesota, her writing took on a more formal tone as she wrote articles for academic publications.  She gained incredibly diverse experiences while simultaneously working three jobs in Olympia, Washington; as a community college ESL professor for immigrants, as a state program administrator for displaced homemakers, and as a Spanish-language medical interpreter.  She has also taught numerous cooking classes in the United States and in Germany.  As a hobby, she collects languages, and has studied French, Spanish, Italian, Japanese, Turkish, and German.  She left her jobs behind in 2005 when she moved to Munich, Germany with her husband and proceeded to have two sons, who inspire and exhaust her, and never cease making her laugh. 

For more information about Secrets of a Summer Village, please visit or contact Saskia E. Akyil at
Book cover image and author photo attached.

Check your links and blue cake

The day I announced to my friends and family that my paper book was available for purchase, I had a few things on my mind.  First, I had to make a cake for my son's at-school birthday celebration.  I don't know how it works in the US or elsewhere in the world because I didn't have kids when I lived there, but here in Germany, it is totally ok to bring homemade cakes to school.  So I had cake on my mind when I wrote the announcement e-mail and insterted the CreateSpace and Lulu links.  I chose around 150 friends and family to send the e-mail to, and clicked send.  Yahoo immediately identified me as a spammer and wouldn't let me send the message.  After chatting (online) with a Yahoo rep, I learned that you can only send 50 e-mails per hour to Yahoo addresses and 50 to non-Yahoo addresses, and that having links in the e-mail can also id you as a spammer.  So I removed the links by typing them in manually and deleting the links I had copy-pasted into the e-mail.  I didn't do what my computer expert husband would have done - I didn't check the urls before sending the message.

A few hours later, when the US woke up, I started getting e-mails from friends and family, telling me that the CreateSpace url wasn't working.  I had somehow inserted an unnecessary "0" somewhere, and so the link was broken.  At least I could tell who was actually trying to look at the site, right?

That was pretty frustrating. And I was not about to e-mail 150 friends and family to let them know that I had sent a broken link.  I'm only telling them if they e-mail me back.  The correct link is  Of this, I am sure.

The cake was more of a success.  It was blue.  As in blue cake, not blue frosting.  If you dye a yellow cake blue and bake it, the baked part on the outside becomes brown.  It is extremely ugly.  But then you can frost it and cover it with a layer of marzipan.  And make green marzipan mice to decorate it.  And then you get thanked 10 times by your son for his mouse cake.  And then you don't feel so bad about the bad link, because the blue cake was definitely the bigger (and more important) success of the day.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

"accept proof"

Since both the Lulu and CreateSpace versions of my book needed changes, I made those changes and then ordered new proofs.  More waiting.  As soon as I had sent new files to CreateSpace, I called their customer service to make sure they could see the fonts the way I thought they should be.  It was a huge relief to talk to a human being - who gets to talk to human beings any more?  Might be reason enough to publish a book with CreateSpace because I called, a human answered, and she was knowledgeable and answered my questions in full, without rushing me through the process.  I paid the extra money so that the proof would get to me as quickly as possible.  They told me they would arrive on Wednesday, and boy were they accurate.  They arrived on Wednesday.  When I was not home.  And the thoughtful (NOT!) UPS driver left them with our across-the-street neighbor.  Hello!  I didn't sign anything saying for him to leave it with the neighbor!  I arrived home at around 3pm, and the neighbor wasn't there.  At all.  I listened and jumped every time I heard a car drive by or park nearby, but the neighbor never arrived.  Why did he accept the package if he knew he wasn't going to be home!?  I rarely get in terrible, very bad, no good moods, but I was in such a mood because I wanted my proof, it was across the street, and I had no idea when mr. Neighbor would be home.

The next morning, said Neighbor's car was in his driveway.  I went over to ask for my precious UPS package at about 8:30 the next morning - his car was in the driveway, so he must have been home - but there was no answer.  My husband tried again at 8:45, no answer.  I tried again at 9, no answer.  And then, finally, perhaps at 9:15, he answered the door.  I didn't tell him how furious he had made me.  I just asked for my package as calmly as I could, thanked him for returning it to me, and ran home.  I tore open the packaging.  AND the proof passed my test.  It is still not perfect. I don't know how many tries it would take for me to get it perfect, but it was definitely acceptable.  So I went to the CreateSpace website and clicked on "Accept Proof".  The distribution was set to begin - they said it would take 6 to 8 weeks for it to appear on and other mainstream sites.

Two days later, the new Lulu proof arrived.  The print quality was better than the first proof, and I accepted the Lulu proof, too.  In spite of CreateSpace's fabulous customer service, I do still think that the Lulu quality is better.  Too bad it is so expensive.  It's fair for Europe, and is printed here so I have to have that option, but the US Dollar is just too weak for its prices to be acceptable for US customers.

Next time I get a chance to blog, I will tell you about my announcement to my friends and family...

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The proofs are here! The proofs are here :(

Lulu Proof
I received the proof really quickly - it was shipped from France, so I wonder if it was published there? I do know that they have European printing sources in addition to the ones in Pennsylvania. In any case, it felt great to hold a paper version of my book, with the cover I created. It's a real book, something I've been waiting for all my life. I may have been more excited if someone else had done all the work and made it perfect, but then I would have had to wait two years or so for it, or so I understand. There was some ink bleen on the interior, but the print quality was otherwise clear and professional. The problem with Lulu is that it's very expensive, otherwise I'd have gone with them exclusively because of the ease of use of their website and interface.

CreateSpace Proof
The CreateSpace (company owned by Amazon) proof finally arrived yesterday. It took about 2 weeks to get here. I somehow expected it to be perfect. Why would it be perfect on the first try? It was definitely wishful thinking. If it had been perfect, I could have approved the proof and then distribute it on Amazon. I could start my marketing campaign. I could make my book known to the world! But it was not to be, not this week. The formatting of the CreateSpace version was wrong, and after thinking about it for a while, I realized that that problem is likely that I didn't embed the fonts into the PDF. You see, Lulu had allowed me to submit a .doc, but CreateSpace requires a .pdf with embedded fonts. I submitted a .pdf, but I didn't embed the fonts (because I don't have Adobe Acrobat X). Bad idea. Now I understand why they tell you to do it. If you don't, it can default to another font, which is a slightly different size and has different spacing. This can throw off your formatting big-time. Of course, indents and so forth will be the same, but different fonts produce different wordcounts on a page. What this means is that my carefully-formatted document (I had gone through all 300-some-odd pages to make sure I didn't have pages with just one line on them, etc...) looked like a wreck. Completely unacceptable.

Copyright Page
Another thing that became clear when I reviewed the copies is that books look really silly without copyright pages. My book is automatically copyrighted without my having to sign any papers or register it anywhere, but books need copyright pages or they feel wrong. So I added one into the new versions.

Thinking impatiently, I thought I'd forfeit the copyright page on the Lulu version in order to have a copy on the market. After all, the formatting and printing of the Lulu version were excellent. I went onto the website to buy the global distribution package (which makes it available on,,, etc...), and it wasn't an option. What could be wrong? Fine print, that's what. Somehow, I had neglected to ask for an ISBN number from Lulu, which is (of course) necessary to sell the book anywhere other than on the Lulu website. And once you get an ISBN number, they tell you the other requirements for market distribution - there must be certain margins, the text on the cover has to be x centimeters from the edge, and you need a copyright page.

I have my work cut out for me. It's been an excellent learning experience, but I think I'm ready to move on to the marketing step!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Waiting for the proofs

As you will notice as you read through previous posts, there is a lot of waiting involved in publishing. Waiting isn't easy for anyone - and I hear that when you're published by a publishing house rather than self-publishing, there's MUCH more waiting involved. Another reason I'm glad I'm self-publishing.

My book is now available for Kindle, and has only been purchased by friends and family thus far. Of course, nobody else knows it exists because I have done zero promotion whatsoever, unless you count Facebook and e-mail (read: friends and family). And many of them don't own a Kindle. I don't own a Kindle. So I understand the low sales.

As we speak, I am waiting for proof copies of the paper version from and, my two POD publishers. I hope they come FAST because I am so curious how they turned out. And I hope that they're perfect and require no changes because the faster they are ready, the faster I can start promoting my book. I will not do any promotion until a paper version is available. The media says that paper books are on their way out, but judging by how few of my friends and family own Kindles (which are the #1 e-readers, I understand), paper books will not die soon.

Long live paper!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Now Available for Kindle

A big thing happened last night - the digital version of my book finally showed up on Amazon! It felt great. I was checking the Kindle Direct Publishing site about every half-hour, and it continually showed it as "publishing" (it takes about 24 hours from the time you click "publish" to the time they publish it). And then I got an e-mail from a friend who had bought it for her brand-new Kindle! She bought it before I even knew it was up. Thank you, Bechert family! So even though I have been writing my whole life, I am now going to call myself a writer. The next step is to get it on Apple iBooks and (the latter is a bit more complicated). Once it's up everwhere AND the paper version is available, I'll start the real publicity campaign with newspapers, etc...

There may be an element of mild disgrace in the eyes of the major publishing houses and agents, but I am already glad that I self-published this book because, as a writer, I really just want people to read my book. It will not make me rich or famous. But it's always fun to learn new things, and to feel like I'm not just writing for myself. If you buy a copy, let me know, and let me know what you think!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Not so fast

Bismillah. I have sent the necessary files to Amazon for publication on Kindle! Next up, and Apple iBooks. Paper versions will follow.

In the back of my mind, I've been thinking that this is way too easy. That anyone can and will start putting up random books that they write, and that Amazon will be inundated with bizarre, unedited, spontaneous "books".

I really don't think that's going to happen. Even with all of the technological advances that have been made, it's not as simple as uploading a Word file and there you go, you have an e-book. And maybe that's intentional - because Amazon doesn't want an avalanche of random e-books.

Getting a book up there takes quite a lot of work. Allow me to elaborate:

  1. Write a book in your "spare" time.
  2. Reread, edit, edit, edit, edit, edit, edit until you can't take it anymore.
  3. Torture your friends and loved ones with your manuscript, at which point you think you hope they're honest.
  4. Take the honest feedback and edit some more, until you're fed up.
  5. Take a break. A year is good.
  6. Revisit your manuscript and edit some more until you want to give up.
  7. You think you're done? Read it through one more time. Believe me, you'll find changes that need to be made.
  8. Decide that it will never be perfect, and decide it's ready to publish.
  9. Save file as .HTML
  10. Convert file to Mobi using Mobipocket Creator
  11. View with Kindle Previewer.
  12. You thought you were done? No. Now you can see the strange formatting caused by a power struggle with MS Word, which takes the liberty of inserting weird formatting at random and where you don't want it. Make a note of all the odd stuff.
  13. Go back into Word document or into .HTML document and take the crazy MS stuff out.
  14. Repeat steps 10, 11, and 12. You won't find all the errors the first time.
  15. Repeat step 13.
  16. Repeat steps 10 and 11 as many times as necessary to get rid of as much weird stuff as you can before you are fed up with it.
  17. View your document with the Kindle Previewer and look carefully at every single page (all 300-something of them) to catch any last-minute errors. If you still find some, which you will, repeat steps 13 and 10. Decide that you have found enough errors and you want to publish this document before your head explodes.
  18. Fill out all the required information and upload .prc file and cover art to Amazon. (This is after spending days creating and perfecting the cover art, with the help of your sweet husband).
  19. Hold your breath and click "Save and Publish".

I am not by any means good at computer stuff, but self-publishing requires you to stretch the computer-scientist part of your brain. It is an interesting exercise. You will gain some appreciation for people who work with computers behind-the-scenes.

Now, I will have to do slightly different processes to post on BN, Apple, and on-demand publishing sites. I guess I'd better get some rest...

Thursday, July 28, 2011


I'm almost there. I'm at the end of a very, very long marathon, but I am not at the finish line yet. I see it, but I can't cross the line until I jump through a few more hoops. Levent is reading my MS (manuscript) once more, and I can't publish until he finishes because he is the chief editor. Or maybe that's me. Whatever, he is the other chief editor. He catches the things I have not and cannot catch. Writers cannot be the sole editors of their work because we KNOW what we mean. Whether or not we get our message across is the important thing, though, so we need others to read our writing, to tell us what's good and also where we've failed. A good editor tells you the truth. You don't have to listen to the truth, but at least they point it out to you...

Meanwhile, I've been thinking about my next book. I have some ideas laid out, but I am very drawn to the idea of writing a comic novel. That said, I am not a great artist. I know some great artists, but they're all to busy. So I think and think and think about how I could maybe do it. Kaan, my oldest son, sits looking at comic strips for hours. He can't read yet, but the pictures tell him the story. Or maybe they don't, but he sure has fun trying to figure out what it's about...

I think I am starting to see the finish line...

Sunday, July 24, 2011


I'm now on Twitter. I haven't written anything yet, as I have no idea how it all works. But if you want to follow me, my Twitter name is SaskiaEAkyil. It's not going to be used as a personal twitter account, but as a professional account :)

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Back Cover

Here's the back-cover text, so far. It's really hard to summarize a book in a paragraph or two - you want to entice readers, but not give too much away. It is MUCH harder to briefly summarize a book than it is to write a book (but it doesn't take quite as much time).


Can coffee grounds tell your future?
Will fate bring you to your soul mate thousands of miles from home?
How will you know if it's him?
Would the evil eye dare stop two souls on their paths to each other?

A last-minute opportunity to spend a month with a Turkish family on the Aegean coast drastically changes the course of seventeen-year-old Rachel Guo’s summer. This intercultural coming-of-age novel is full of exotic tastes, summer heat, promises kept and broken, and love. In a summer village on the western coast of Turkey, you’ll meet Rachel, who doesn’t know what she wants; Aylin, who doesn’t know if she wants the one who wants her; and Leyla, who knows who she wants, but doesn’t know if she’ll get him. Love and romance are secret pleasures in the summer village, which only make them more exciting.

Travel with Rachel on her journey far from the comforts of home, to a place that will captivate her and leave her changed forever.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Promoting Secrets of a Summer Village

I will not have the luxury of having any help from a publishing house to help me promote my novel. I will have to rely on my friends, family, and social/professional network. So far, here's who I will contact. Do you have any additional suggestions?

  1. Facebook Friends
  2. Friends and family via e-mail announcements
  3. TACAWA and other Turkish-American associations... and maybe also the Turkish associations in Canada, Australia, Great Britain, Ireland, South Africa...
  4. My high school and universities
  5. My brothers' high school
  6. CIEE, EF and similar study-abroad programs and organizations
  7. The Olympian and Seattle Times newspapers (the main character in the book is from Olympia), The Gazette Telegraph of Colorado Springs (because my mother lives there), The Denver Post (because my father lives there)
  8. My EFL contacts at Turkish Universities - perhaps the book could be good reading material for students studying English?

To-Do List

I suppose if your book is picked up by a publisher, they still expect you to do lots of editing, but they take care of the rest - the cover, the formatting, the electronic formatting, the publicity, the book review requests. But that's all up to me, and I'm learning. I've got an almost-perfect (as perfect as it's gonna get) version of my book. Levent just needs to read over it one more time to catch the things that I didn't catch, before I upload it electronically to,, and iBooks. I have to change the formatting before converting it to a format that they accept, too - the formatting doesn't work the same way on Word as it does on EPUB.

Here's what else I am working on:
  • my cover art
  • a letter to send to newspapers, etc... for publicity purposes
  • a list of places who will receive my publicity letter
  • creating a blog for myself where friends, family, and unknown readers can contact me
  • a one-paragraph summary of my book - like the kind of thing you'd find on the back cover of a book

Monday, July 18, 2011

Welcome to me

Welcome to my author blog! I already have a personal blog, but Writing in my Head is a blog I am keeping strictly with regards to my writing and publishing.

In 2008-2009, I wrote a novel. When I was finished, I started querying it - for those of you who are not in the writing industry, it means sending letters to agents, in the hopes that they will want to represent you. If they take you on as a client, they try to get you a contract with publishers. If they can do that, your book gets published by a publisher and may end up in bookstores. The publishers may help you publicize your book, though some of that will still be in your own hands. It depends how much of a big seller they think your book is going to be.

Quite a few agents were interested enough in the premise of my novel (which was originally called Silent Night, Unholy Night, then Some Things are Universal, now Secrets of a Summer Village), and asked to see the entire manuscript. None of them offered representation. So I decided to take a break from my novel, think about it, and edit it. 2010 wasn't such a great year for me, and I couldn't even think about looking at my novel, but once 2011 rolled around, I was ready to revisit it.

So, I read it again. And I really liked it. "Wow, I wrote some pretty good stuff!" I thought. So I edited it from start to finish and started querying again. In the nearly two years since I had queried the first time, the industry had already changed a lot. For one thing, lots of agents now ask for up to 3 chapters of your book along with the query letter, so you don't have the immediate satisfaction of the quick requests for writing samples. After receiving a few rejections, I decided to re-investigate self-publishing.

I hadn't been too interested in self-publishing electronically in the past because I'm old enough to still want paper books. Electronic books are not enough for me. Maybe I'll own a Kindle or a Nook or something one day, but I don't yet. I think they're great, but I don't particularly want one. And for me, if my book is only electronic, it's not published. I need a paper copy. That said, there's more earning potential (for authors) from the electronic version.... Still, even print-on-demand self-published books have come a long way in two years, both in quality and in price.

So I'm going to go for it. Self-publishing requires the author to wear a lot of hats - writer, editor, cover designer, publicist, etc..., but I think it's worth a try. Here I go...

I'll post about self-publishing as I get further along in the process, and will share my book cover and so forth with you. I'll also let you know when my book is available, and from where!