Birds of a Feather welcomes Edie Jarolim to the nest
For nearly 25 years, Edie was a guidebook editor in New York (Random House, Simon & Schuster) and London (Rough Guides) and then a freelance travel writer based in Tucson Arizona. She wrote three three guidebooks and updated many others, and has just self-published “Getting Naked for Money“, a humourous memoir about her time as a travel writer.
Edie is in the enviable position of being on both sides of the publishing equation – traditional, and self-publishing. She also has a writing pedigree that any aspiring travel writer would be proud to shout from the rooftops.
If you’re looking to grow as a travel writer, and are actively working towards a career anchored by guidebooks and memoirs, you can do no better than to surround yourself by people you can learn from … and Edie is one of those people. I, for one, am sitting up and taking notice (and notes!)
How would you describe the type of books/genre you write?
I’ve written three travel guides, one dog guide, and one memoir – so, eclectic. The main thing my five books have in common is that they’re all nonfiction.
What motivated you to start writing?
Being a voracious reader, I suppose. I wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember, but had no idea what kind and getting published seemed beyond my reach. I was a late starter, if you don’t count literary criticism (I have a Ph.D. in American lit, and wrote a lot of articles about other writers, dead and alive) or my fifth grade essay on my mother’s hands in P.S. 92’s Hegeman Highlights.
Tell us the journey you went on to get your books published (e.g. direct on your website, self-published, assisted-publishing, traditional publisher)
I was an editor at the travel division of Simon & Schuster/Macmillan/Prentice Hall – the company went through a lot of incarnations — working primarily on the Frommer’s guides. After I moved to Arizona and became a freelancer, my former boss commissioned me to write my first book, Frommer’s San Antonio & Austin. Another editor at the same company then asked me to help introduce a new travel line – thus my Complete Idiot’s Travel Guide to Mexico’s Beach Resorts. I was working on another commissioned Complete Idiot’s guide when the Idiots were taken over by the Dummies (I couldn’t make that up), so my third book was Arizona for Dummies.
Although I wrote all three travel guides from scratch and put my heart – and shoe leather – into them, I have a soft spot for my first non-series book, Am I Boring My Dog: And 99 Other Things Every Dog Wishes You Knew. A guide for first-time dog owners, AM I BORING was my original concept. I cold pitched the editorial director of Alpha/Penguin, which published the Complete Idiot’s guides. To my surprise, he asked to see a proposal and then green lighted the project. Getting Naked for Money: An Accidental Travel Writer Reveals All was the first book I decided to publish myself for a variety of reasons, including being a bit of a control freak.
What publishing elements do you most enjoy and most like to avoid, and why? (e.g. design, marketing, formatting etc.)
I loved working with a designer on the book covers of AM I BORING and GETTING NAKED and on the illustrations of the former. It is great collaborating with talented artists that you feel enhance your work. As for the aspect I like to avoid, I’m pretty sure most authors would agree: Marketing, marketing, marketing. Hey, I did my bit and wrote a good book. Why can’t people just find it on their own?
With the hindsight of being a published author, anything you would have done differently?
I probably wouldn’t have gotten a Ph.D. Writing academic papers, including my dissertation, destroyed my prose style; I now work very hard to make my writing look easy. If I had it to do over, I might have gone to journalism school to get practice in being observant – essential to all good writing – and concise, as well as to gain confidence and make connections. Or I might not gotten any post-graduate degrees at all.
What tips or advice would you give an aspiring indie author who is looking to self-publish?
Don’t stint on professional editing and cover design. You might spend a little more money up front but the investment in credibility is well worth it in the long run.
What marketing or promotional tools or techniques do you use to reach your readers?
I have a blog – well, three, but I’ll get to that — but mostly use social media for promotion. I have 15K followers on Twitter, which I should try to capitalize on more. I find myself most comfortable with Facebook these days. I had some fun campaigns, like getting people to post pictures of my book cover with their pets or in unusual places.
Recently, I went on an old-fashioned book tour – as opposed to a virtual one — in order to get into marketing mode and to meet readers. It was a fun experience, if not a remunerative one.
I don’t do nearly enough marketing, so I’m always thrilled to be asked to do interviews with sites like this.
What impact do you want your books to have on your readers?
I want to make them laugh – but also to make them think and, if possible, to move them. Not too ambitious, right?
What is your latest book about?
GETTING NAKED is a humorous memoir about the 25 years I spent as a guidebook editor in New York and London and as a freelance travel writer in Tucson. It’s a tell-all about the travel-writing and publishing industry. But while travel and travel publishing are the backdrops, it’s a universal story geared toward readers in all professions and walks of life: I switched jobs a lot, I traveled mostly on my own as a single woman, and I set aside a host of constantly regenerating self-doubts to achieve my goal of becoming a published writer.
What’s next on your writing journey?
Ah, the $64,000 question. I mentioned I have three blogs. Along with my writing/resume blog (EdieJarolim.com) and dog blog (WillMyDogHateMe.com), there’s Freud’s Butcher. As the tagline says, it’s a blog about genealogy, psychology, and meat, named for the fact that my maternal great uncle in Vienna had a butcher shop for 44 years at 19 Berggasse, an address he shared with Sigmund Freud.
I set the blog aside for a while to work on my memoir but I went to Vienna recently and decided I’d like to return to the story of my mother’s family, maybe as a book. It’s a difficult subject to delve into because I know how it all ends – with everyone forced into exile or killed by the Nazis. That said, my focus would be on the day-to-day life of middle-class Viennese tradesmen and women – as opposed to the upper class stories told in books like Hare with the Amber Eyes or Woman in Gold.
Freud will be in it too, of course, along with his dogs, who would doubtless have gotten table scraps from my great uncle’s butcher shop. Consider this a preliminary book proposal — if I decide to go with a traditional press, of course.Travel Writer @EdieJarolim talks about Getting Naked for Money @BirdsOAFpress Click To Tweet
Born in Brooklyn before it was hip, Edie Jarolim earned a Ph.D. in literature from NYU and was a guidebook editor at Frommer’s and Fodor’s in New York and Rough Guides in London before moving to Tucson, Arizona, and becoming a freelance writer and editor. She has written three travel guides, one dog guide, and one memoir, and blogs intermittently on three sites: EdieJarolim.com, WillMyDogHateMe.com, and FreudsButcher.com. Her articles have appeared in National Geographic Traveler, Sunset, Travel + Leisure, the New York Times Book Review, The Wall Street Journal, and USAToday.com–despite the fact that, instead of working or looking for work, she spends way too much time on Facebook posting pictures of her terrier-mix, Madeleine. For more details, see EdieJarolim.com
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