13 Jun Brown People Don’t Read. Much.
We interrupt this program to let you know that Amazon.com has jumped the gun and the second book in my Telesa Trilogy, ‘When Water Burns’ is now available in a print edition. Right this minute. For $14.65.
‘When Water Burns’ – the second book in the Telesa Trilogy.
It’s not easy for a book written by a Samoan author to find a global voice. Thank you to all those readers who took a chance on the first ‘Telesā’ book and then were generous enough to share it – review it, blog it, tweet it, Facebook it, email it, harass their family and friends to read it. The Telesā series has the bestest readers in the world. I am in awe of your passion, enthusiasm, and fiery creativity as you have embraced this Pacific story. It is always a joy to connect with you, whether in person or in the virtual world.
Many people have been asking me WHY did I put out the print book first? What’s the delay with the electronic book. Its a long story, but here it goes…
* The first Telesa book was released as an electronic book in Oct 2011 on both Amazon and Smashwords. I chose this option as it was the fastest way to get my book out to a global audience. Many, many people chose to buy one PDF or Word document copy of the book from Smashwords and then copy it and email it to all of their friends and family. Twitter and Facebook were filled with people talking about how they shared copies with “everyone at my church…everyone at work…all my cousins…” and more. Our Pacific Islander communities overseas have been superb supporters, talking up the Telesa book in our churches, schools, councils and social networks. As a very new author, I continue to be grateful for the generous support of all those who help to spread the news about my book.
*However, as a Samoan author trying to take a very Samoan/Pacific story to the world – the file sharing severely hampers Telesa’s standing on the Amazon bestseller ranking. Back when I was trying to find a publisher for my book, more than 30 different agents and publishers rejected ‘Telesa’ and a common reply given was, ‘There is no market for a Pacific/Samoan young adult book.’ And so I published it myself. Mindful that many readers in Samoa etc do not have access to e-books, we took out a mortgage on our house to pay for print copies. It has been a challenge to get the Telesa books into mainstream bookstores in NZ and Australia. I have huge appreciation for the 25+ stores in Samoa and American Samoa that stock Telesa. Huge appreciation for the online book distributors (like Wheelers, Academy Books etc), University Bookshops, Paper Plus,and other Pacific stores in NZ that support my books by stocking them. (And no love for Whitcoulls that said no, no, no.) Huge appreciation for the libraries in NZ and Samoa that have been so willing to support my books. I am honored that institutions like Auckland University, the Univ of Guam and several high schools have made Telesa a required literary text of study.
* I understand that it is something of a risk for a store/distributor to take on my book. There are no other Pacific authors writing in the Young Adult genre.YET. So how are stores supposed to know if there is a market for such a book? Perhaps the traditional book industry believes that brown young adults don’t read much. As an ex-English teacher of Pacific youth, I know firsthand how difficult it can be to get our young people to read – and enjoy it. To some extent, the book industry perception may be right then. But maybe, we all would read more if there were more books available that we could connect with? And more ‘brown’ books we could actually access easily. I can’t even buy a novel by world-renowned Albert Wendt from Whitcoulls here in NZ and he’s the mostest famous-est Pacific author on the planet. I can’t get a Sia Figiel book from anywhere either. I don’t know about you, but I find that disgusting. When literary masterpieces of Pacific fiction can’t get on the mall bookshelf, what chance does an easy fantasy read of Pacific storytelling have?
The international response to the Telesa e-books has shown that yes, there is an audience who wants this kind of reading material. And no, it’s not just brown people reading it either.
* But publishers, distributors and stores are not going to know this unless they can see the numbers. The cold hard facts. The stats. They need to see Telesa and other books like it rank on the world bestseller lists. The Amazon listings. The New York Times listings. Only then will they be willing to publish more of our stories, distribute them, put them in libraries and schools worldwide and even make movies about them. This will not happen as long as we file-share and as long as we are content to keep quiet and not make our buying, reading voices heard. I may be the first Pacific YA writer to publish electronically but I certainly do not wish to be the last. There are others writing great Pacific stories and poetry right now, powerful young writers like Seti Matua, Samantha Peckham-Togiatama, Maryanne Pale, Sita Leota, Nydia Aloaina, James Toma and many more. I look forward to the day when I can log on to Amazon searching for a good book to read and be able to choose from a myriad of Pacific authors writing captivating stories from all the different places and cultures that make up the vibrant fabric that is the Pacific. We all have a part to play in helping to make that happen. We need to support our Pacific storytellers so they will write more AND we need to harass stores and distributors for ‘Young Adult books written about us, for us, and by us...’
*I was hesitant to release the electronic version of ‘When Water Burns’, wanting to first address this issue on my blog and so, I have released the print version on Amazon.This is not a financially wise choice for me. Amazon sells my print book for $14.65 USD. I get $2.30 of that. Compare this with the electronic version which will release for $7.99 USD, I get $5.59 of that. Do the Math. But then, this journey is not just about the money. Since Telesa’s release, I have held regular free download promotions and given away more than twenty thousand electronic copies. Everywhere I go, I donate print books to libraries and schools. The most rewarding part of this journey has been the feedback that says, ‘I hate reading, but I read your book in two days…I’ve never read a book before until I found Telesa…Your book has made me want to visit Samoa…This story makes me want to learn more about my heritage…’ Yes, I am a writer trying to earn a living with my writing, but I am also an educator who is passionate about nurturing a love for books, fueling creativity and igniting a fire for our culture, legends and ancestry.
I believe that our Samoan and Pacific stories are powerful enough, good enough and unique enough for the world stage. I also believe that our stories can have a global market that goes beyond Samoans everywhere.People are calling ‘Telesa’ the “Pacific Twilight”. I bow to that as a huge compliment. But I also hold my head high and affirm that this is not some tawdry rip-off of a sparkly vampire series. It’s a unique something special all its own, –
‘supernatural elements grounded in Samoa of old
Pacific epistemologies wrapped in passion sublime…
Its ancient mythology meets teenage biology…a kind of Sex in the city meets Hex in the Bush!’
(Prof Selina Tusitala Marsh)
In two weeks, the electronic version of ‘When Water Burns’ will release on Amazon. I am hoping for your continued support for the Telesa Trilogy books. Fa’amolemole, I am asking that you purchase your e-book from Amazon. I am asking that you refuse to file-share.
Fa’afetai tele lava.