Thursday, February 23, 2012

Stunned - my pitch is apparently not terrible!

Remember this little contest I mentioned a month ago?  Well, the results are in today and... my name is on the list!  The good list.  The list of 1000 authors whose pitch was good enough to get them into phase two.  Frankly, I was shocked.  I have confidence that I have written a great book, but my confidence that the world of agents and publishers would also find it great was eroded in the query process.  A tiny bit of confidence has now been restored.  In case you're curious, here's the pitch (up to 300 words were allowed) that worked for me:

When she doesn’t get a place in a Mexican study abroad program, Rachel anticipates another summer working at a coffee shop - until an opportunity to spend a month with a family in Turkey drastically changes the course of her summer. This intercultural coming-of-age novel is full of exotic tastes, summer heat, promises, 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.  

Can coffee grounds tell your future? Will fate bring you to your soul mate thousands of miles from home? Would the evil eye dare stop two souls on their paths to each other? 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 91,075 -word novel, Rachel learns that many aspects of Turkish culture are different than her own, but that family, friendship, and love are universal 

Maybe you noticed that there is no period at the end of paragraph three of the pitch.   Apparently, it wasn't enough to get me thrown out of the contest!

The next step involves a 3000-5000 word excerpt.  That may sound like a lot of words, but it's not when you consider that the book is just over 91000 words long.  About 5% of the book in my case.  And the catch is that it has to be the first three-to-five-thousand words, not your favorite excerpt.  That said, it makes perfect sense.  First, a potential reader reads your back cover, which would certainly not be longer than 300 words.  Then, they stand at the bookstore (or read online) the first few chapters before they decide whether or not they want to buy the book.  

I am pretty nervous about this stage, but thrilled I got into it.  Are the first 5000 words of my book enough to make a reader want more?  We'll find out around March 20th...

Monday, February 20, 2012

Not MY book club

I barely slept on Wednesday night.  The reason?  I was invited to the book club of an acquaintance, who had arranged that her book club read my book for their February meeting.  I. was. nervous.  I have taught at least a thousand days worth of (language) classes, I've spoken before dozens at professional conferences, and was not nervous about any of that.  Yet I was kept up at night in anticipation of sitting with around 10 women - three of whom I know - to talk about my book.  There is something about sharing my writing with others that scares me, and I don't know why.  I suppose that I like my book even though I realize it is not the Great American Novel.  I do think that the fact that it is self-published rather than backed by a traditional publisher could have something to do with it.  It's just me and my book.  Hoping people read it.  Hoping people like it.

It took me a good hour to shake off my nervousness.  My acquaintance - and I say this because as lovely and kind and fun as she is, the book club hostess is not a good friend of mine because we just haven't had that much time to get to know each other.  And yet she went to all this work to organize this.  She got the books for everyone, she had them over to her house, she prepared lovely food (and amazing cupcakes), and was one of the most gracious hostesses I've ever met.  People can just be so nice!  I read all the bad and sad headlines of awfulness in the world, but really there are incredibly nice and friendly people in the world.  And they were at this book club meeting.

A hundred questions were asked - is the book autobiographical?  Why is the main character half Chinese?  How long did it take me to write the book?  How much research did I do?  How does self-publishing work? How many copies have I sold?  Did I take writing classes?  I tried my best to answer them all.

So they have read my book, learned about the writing process, the publishing process, they drank wine, ate food, chatted with their friends... it was a lovely evening.  One of the people I do know who was a part of the club sent me an e-mail saying that I had done a good job answering the questions (whew!)  My only, teensy tiny wish that was not fulfilled is that I didn't get a good sense of how they liked the story.  A few of them made it clear that they had, but the vast majority didn't.  I asked them if they would write me reviews on Amazon.  There haven't been any new reviews since the book club, but I keep checking... then maybe I'll get a better idea of what they thought.

What an exciting, different experience.  Thanks Bridget!!!


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Begging for Feedback

There's an awful lot of waiting involved when you write a book. Whether you self-publish or not, you have to wait for proof copies, wait for reviews, wait for feedback... But unless you are a famous person, you have to ask for reviews, from readers and from review organizations.  They do not come knocking at your door asking to review your book.  You have to ask THEM to review it, and you also have to send them free copies of it.  And so that is precisely what I am doing...

Midwest Book Review - On the weekend, I finally received a review from the well-respected Midwest Book Review.  The organization only reviews less than a third of the books for which reviews are requested, so I was excited and smiling when I received the review from them.  Without revealing too much, let's just say that it was a positive but problematic review.  It had a major error.  I have the right to use the review, which has some very favorable sentences that would be good for marketing purposes, but it didn't feel right because of the flaw.  So I wrote to them and pointed out the error.  I thought I might never hear from them again, but the next day I received a letter from the editor, who apologized and said he'd look into it with the reviewer.  I don't know if I'll hear from them again.  But given that they are a reputable organization, I really hope that I do.

Kirkus Reviews - Meanwhile, I decided that one review is not enough.  I may or may not receive a review from Publishers Weekly via the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, and rather than wait for that and for the Midwest Book Review to get back to me, I decided to order a review from Kirkus Reviews.  You have to pay for these reviews, unfortunately, but it in no way guarantees a good review.  It is a highly respected company, and it has to stand by its reviews.  Once I receive the review (probably late April - more waiting), I'll have the option of making it public.  If it's bad, I don't have to have it posted on their website.  I predict it wont' be giving me five stars, but if it's mostly good, I will post it. - Finally, I sent my book for review to  Their reviews are free, but there's no guarantee your book will get reviewed at all.  With the Midwest Book Review, I knew I had a 1 in 3 chance, but with IndieReader, I haven't a clue what the odds are.  Still, worth a try.

In the end, I care far more what readers think of my book than what professional reviewers think.  However, good reviews from professional reviewers could potentially get me more readers, so it's a necessary evil.  If you have read my book and would like to review it, please do so on the Amazon of your choice.  You can use a secret pen name if you want your review to be anonymous!

More Reviews!

Thank you thank you thank you :)))) Authors love reviews!!


It is a sensitive expression of true friendship, respect and the difficulties of becoming an adult and a parent, in two, very different cultures. A wonderful read for anyone who appreciates travel and the generational vs. cultural differences in life.
This is the first e-book I have purchased and it was perfect for my daily train commutes. Each chapter brought me to far away places to witness another's adventure in Turkey and learn about myself through my experience of the story. Once finished, I immediately wanted to share it with my teenage daughter. This book was well written and I felt transported the reader not only to Turkey, but also back in time to reevaluate the difficulties of youth. A very enjoyable and refreshing account of a cultural exchange experience. I felt compassion for the challenges of the characters while enjoying my gift of hindsight. It is written through the eyes of teenagers experiencing the world outside of their comfort zone and culture. Embarrassingly naive at times and it reminds one of a time long gone by but not forgotten. Having been to Istanbul, I found the book to be a different experience than the hustle and bustle of a city adventure.
I would recommend every person, who wishes to be a voyeur in a lovely summer adventure and to share that adventure with friends, family or bookclubs, to read this book. It is nostalgia at its best, yet modern enough to actually happen to us, if we are lucky! I wish I could have read this book when I was a teenager and been that much wiser EARLIER!

This Christmas as one of her gifts to me, my Oma gave me this book. I am 13 years old (using my mom's account for this)and found 'Secrets of a Summer Village' an enjoyable read. I learned a bit about Turkish culture and found the character of Rachel highly entertaining...I had a hard time putting this book down.Now I wish to go on a trip like Rachel and share experiences. I love the cover and was inspired by how Saskia self published the book. Wow.


As one who travels, I love to read about different cultures. After reading "Secrets of a Summer Village," I found myself longing to be in this delightful place. The book is so descriptive that I could almost feel the sunshine and warmth of the Aagean Sea, as well as the warmth of the Turkish people.

During Rachael's visit, she discovers cultural differences, and also many similarities to the values from which she was raised.

It would be wonderful if more young people could experience a summer of discovery and adventure similar to Rachel's.

The next best thing to actually being there is reading this book.

Because of the extremes portrayed by the news media, the word "Muslim" has become a dirty word.
This book can help to change that stereotype and open one's mind to acceptance of others. For this reason, and also because the story is delightful and entertaining, I would recommend it to young and old alike, and would like to see it on a suggested school reading list.


I was thoroughly entertained and engaged by Secrets of a Summer Village. The characters are well-developed, particularly Rachel who is literally transformed during her summer in Turkey. Will there be a sequel, Ms Akyil? As an American, I particularly enjoyed being immersed in Turkish culture and glad to see that traditional customs are being carried out. The experiences and friendships of the teenagers present dilemmas that all teens face in any culture. Ms. Akyil has portrayed the challenges in a forthright fashion and I think there is a strong moral backbone. I have given the book to several of my friends who have teenage children and they couldn't put the book down.

This book is a delightful first book written by Saskia. I always especially enjoy books with an international background, and learning a little about Turkish family life was fascinating. I gave copies to granddaughters, and one immediately sat down to read it and enjoyed it as much as I did. I can't wait for her next book!