Sabrina Zollo is a marketing maven by day and a published author all other hours of the day. Meeting her was a great joy given how much I adore books and how much I love the writing process.
Talk to as many people as possible; leverage your own network
Sabrina was inspired to write her novel "Why I Love My Gay Boyfriend" from her experience working in marketing at a major, global, cosmetics company. "I have always wanted to be a writer," Sabrina shares. "Even as a child I wrote stories." With this passion in mind Sabrina was interested in journalism but quickly discovered traditional journalism wasn't where her interest lay. "Most of what journalism covers is negative; it's about covering often tragic, negative stories," Sabrina says. "For me, reading is an escape; I want to bring joy into people's lives. I want to make people laugh," explains Sabrina.
I want to bring joy into people's lives
Sabrina started out in a digital marketing company in Ottawa and then opted to go back to school to complete her MBA when the company went bankrupt. The MBA program at York University opened up many doors and Sabrina was eventually recruited into a marketing position at the international cosmetics company. "Working at the cosmetic company was a great learning experience but ultimately I found that I didn't share the same culture and values as the company. After two years I made the decision to leave," explains Sabrina.
"It took me a couple of years after leaving the cosmetic industry to realize that my experience there was an excellent foundation for my book," she reveals. "Once I had some distance from the experience I was able to write about it in a funny, candid way."
My friends would remark: I didn't know you were funny!"
Sabrina's novel is a Sophia Kinsella (Confessions of a Shopaholic) / Lauren Weisberger (The Devil Wears Prada) genre novel. "Essentially the book is about a young woman with an MBA (not me) who wants to work at Amnesty and change the world, but who ends up getting a job at a cosmetics company and who struggles to fit in and buy into a corporate culture counterintuitive to her own," comments Sabrina. "She meets a gay friend at the company who helps her make the transition but she becomes so carried away by ambition that she ends up hurting those she loves in the process."
"Why I Love My Gay Boyfriend celebrates the special friendship that women have with their gay male friends," Sabrina remarks. "I had many friends tell me after reading the book, 'I didn't know you were funny!' I am definitely funnier on paper," laughs Sabrina.
This isn't me, it's my brand
Sabrina finished the book in 2011 while working full time at Johnson & Johnson as a brand manager. Then it was time to get published. "I had a tonne of rejection," Sophia reveals. "When you do something artistic it is very subjective," she explains. "And just when I was ready to give up a good friend of mine told me to try until I got 100 rejections. And that is exactly what I did." Sabrina ended up getting a publishing contact through her full time job at Johnson & Johnson and in October 2012 her book was published. It is now available for purchase from Amazon.
Don't minimize anything you do
"In my experience it is hard for women to promote themselves, and this is necessary when trying to sell a product," Sabrina adds. "I manage my own PR and brand. I have to remind myself that this is my brand and not who I am. I have to treat it like a business." Having a good work ethic is critical when writing. It takes time and discipline, particularly when working full time. "Writing can be very solitary and in order to finish the book in one year I devoted every Sunday to writing," confides Sabrina. "Once I get started I can write for hours, and that's when you know it's good."
Humour diffuses tension and makes people more productive, motivated
Talking about writing a book and doing it are two very different things, as in anything in life. "I took a great workshop in Toronto called Bestseller Bootcamp with Rebecca Doll which taught me how to formulate my idea into a story, and provided a disciplined approach for how to write a novel, " explains Sabrina. "From there I referenced an excellent resource The Writer's Journey by Christopher Vogler which helped me create a compelling story from an idea."
The majority of writers are struggling; very few make it a career
"My book falls into the 'chick lit' genre of writing," explains Sabrina. "And for some time after it was published I didn't feel like a real author because it wasn't literary fiction," Sabrina confides. "Yet women can relate to my books and I offer them an escape, which is often exactly what a reader wants," adds Sabrina. "From this experience I have learned not to minimize anything I do; just because it is chick-lit doesn't mean it doesn't have value." Given that the majority of writers are struggling Sabrina is among good company to have a publishing deal.
An even bigger accomplishment is to be working on one's second book, which is exactly what Sabrina has planned. "I have a new book ready to start in the Fall (2013)," explains Sabrina. "It will focus on the awkward first date/ dating in your thirties theme." Look for it to be as refreshing, witty and relevant as the first. Much like the writer herself.