Friday, 3 June 2011

Expat Excellence with Jo Parfitt

Jo Parfitt is British and has been living abroad in five countries for over 20 years. She is the author of 27 books, runs Summertime Publishing, and helps new writers to get their book ideas planned, written and published. She is also a teacher and mentor and her workshops on writing life story, books, articles and blogging run regularly in the Hague. Her Definite Articles, and Write Your Life Story home study programs are available from her website, where her active blog inspires new writers.

Want to write a book about your life abroad? Jo Parfitt tells you how

It all began with Peter Mayle, who wrote A Year in Provence a startling 20 years ago. Chris Stewart followed a decade later with Driving Over Lemons, and then, in 2007, Elizabeth Gilbert published Eat, Pray, Love. Today, it seems, books about people doing stuff overseas have never been more popular.

But if ‘everyone’ is doing it, does that mean you can too? Maybe. However, as a publisher, who specializes in expatriate books I have learned a number of things:

§ That novels have a low cover price so there is not much profit in them.
§ That How To books solve a problem, so there is more potential to sell to people who do not know you personally.
§ That memoirs sell well if lots of people know about you already, perhaps you have an active blog or website or are a great networker. Alternatively, a memoir can sell well if you have a terrific story.
§ That what matters most is that you have a good idea.
§ That everything is written to a formula.
§ And that everyone needs practise, feedback and experience.

So, with that in mind, what follows is a list of five types of book that you could maybe consider writing too.

Five winning formulas
A ripping yarnSure, if you have had an exciting time overseas, have battled with a few grizzly bears or skeletons in your closet then you will likely have a compelling plot and a super story to tell. But if your own life story is unlikely to keep your readers awake at night turning pages, then what else could you write?

The How ToDo you know to do something that others do not? Can you build a house, cook with local fish, survive without money, grow an Internet business or emigrate to Australia? Then you could teach others how to do the same.

The culture bookIf you have been living in your new country for a while now, and know the ropes, how to buy a house, sell a car, set up a business and understand the locals, then you could write a guide for others who also want to live there. Culture Smart, Vacation Work, Lonely Planet and Rough Guides are just four examples of publishers who are always looking for books just like this.

The knowledge
If you have been abroad for a while and don’t mind sharing some of your stories then you could support and inspire others in your position too. So, if you have adopted children overseas, brought up teenagers, learned how to speak a language, experienced and survived a divorce, a mixed marriage or moved multiple times then you could maybe write a useful book that would help others in your situation.

If you live somewhere where there are lots of foreigners then you can write a book and sell it in the local market. In fact, if you can produce a book for your own market you will find it easy to sell those books in large numbers – because you are there! David Beckett has just done this with Amsterdam – the essence. I did so with a cookbook called Dates, which HSBC-wife, Sue Valentine I wrote when living in Oman.


  1. Jo really knows here stuff. I thought that there might be a book in my expat blog and sent Jo a sample of my work. She thought I had an interesting idea with a different angle. Since then Jo has been helping me to knock the book into shape. Her critique has always been fair and honest but gentle and encouraging. She has been my muse and my mentor. I listened. Her advice and guidance has been freely offered with a carry on, you’re nearly there message. I think Jo now thinks I have got there. She has offered me a publishing contract. I couldn’t have got there without her.

  2. An informative post is packed with info and ideas to get minds thinking about the interesting possibilities!

  3. This is the great post here..and well good thinking of this one..
    selling a house privately


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