amazon, dr selina tusitala marsh, literacy, Pacific authors, Pacific stories, Samoan author, Sia Figiel, Smashwords, Telesa book., twilight, when water burns, Whitcoulls

Brown People Don’t Read. Much.

We interrupt this program to let you know that 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

the reading and seeding of myths and legends and lores untold
genealogy and story strung in the integrity of line

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.

30 thoughts on “Brown People Don’t Read. Much.”

  1. I am a white 24 year old female from Massachusetts who just happened to stumble over Telesa on a kindle lending website. I downloaded it and left it on my Kindlr for over a month before I started reading it. Once I started it, though, I was hooked. I read it all the same day and I have been following you on Facebook and goodreads ever since, waiting for the second book. I was so impatient I bought it on Amazon instead of waiting for the Kindlr version just so I could read it. I find these books to be amazingly we'll written, and as someone who has never been to Samoa it's all so intriguing. I've already told my husband I would love to visit someday! You've done a great job with this books and I think you have really opened up a lot of eyes to a different culture which is not always easy to do! Thank you for writing these books.

  2. Hahaha! Which is why I only let my little sister read your electronic copy you emailed me AFTER I had already purchased the print book for my collection. My mom said, "It's an e-copy Sherre. Why on earth do you feel the need to buy another one? You already have the words, why do you need the book. She's your sister and you need to learn to share!" One thing being an only child for 9 years has taught me…sharing is overrated. I want it to be mine!!! And so, now we have our own copies, partially because i dont know how to share, and partially because I believe that it's important to support the people who make you happy in one way or another. You gave me this wonderful book, and since I fell in love with it, its only right for me to show my appreciation, and that means no file sharing!

  3. This post caught me at the worst possible time so I'm trying really hard not to go into a vicious rant about how much I hate the publishing industry at the moment. To cut a long story short, they're just so out of touch with not only what their readers want, but also with how their own industry is evolving. It's like they think if they ignore something, it'll just go away. I'm not a person of Pacific Islander background but I found everything in Telesa to be relatable in one way or another. Being lost and out of place? Been there! Fantastical paranormal powers? I so want those. Two hot guys after me? Sign me up! And hey, I learned a few things along the way. I'm beginning to think that the best way to get our indie voices heard is to get as many people publishing as possible. Get writing people! And rest assured Lani, I won't be sharing my copy of When Water Burns. I don't even know how to transfer files without Whispernet!

  4. Congratulations on publishing the second book! Thanks also for sharing why you chose not to release the e-book first (for your fans like me hanging out for the e-book version).

  5. Lani, what abeautiful piece! Keep on soldiering for such a great cause! I am so excited to hear that the ecopy is coming out too. It was much more convenient having to just go to my kindle on my phone to read than taking the book everywhere. Like the first book I will have a paper and electronic version…..YAY!

  6. Awe Lani ALL HATS OFF TO YOU! Honestly I'd rather purchase the e-book version because its easier to read from my kindle but I also collect books so I'm going to order my copies just to have 🙂 May God bless you always, Lani 🙂 You're an AWESOME writer that's going to take things to a whole new level in the writing/film industry where Pacific Islanders will no longer be snubbed 🙂

  7. I'm excited to hear the e-book is coming too – and I totally understand your reasons for holding off. It's such a shame that Telesa isn't showing in the Amazon rankings just how awesome it is, but When Water Burns is going to give it a new lease of life and I can't wait to watch it – and your career take off! I hope you don't mind, but I'm planning on doing a blogpost to share the love when I get my kindle copy at last.

  8. You couldn't have explained it any better. I am one too, who quickly downloaded the e-book for your 1st book and couldn't keep my eyes away from my tablet from start to finish. I have purchased the paperback copy of the 2nd one this morning – did the 1 Day delivery option. 😉 No doubt will I briskly download/purchase the e-book copies on each device that my family of 7 owns when it becomes available. So you have my support. You are inspiring, Lani! God bless.Highest Regards from another "Telesa Triology enthusiast"!

  9. 🙂 Congrats Lani! Good luck with all that you have stated above and beat wishes to all the Polynesian Authors that are not far behind you! 100% support from this side of the globe!

  10. Kia orana Lani- Author Extraordinaire and Kick-Ass Domestic Poly-Goddess!!! I will forever be indebted to you and Telesa for reigniting my passion for reading, and like many others have been hanging out for "When Water Burns" (in fact I had my order in for a advance print copy within about 20 minutes of Sina posting the notification that it was coming!) I too believe that our Pacific stories are strong enough and powerful enough to make it on the world stage and look forward to the day when the rest of the world wakes up to this unrefutable fact (hey I'm not biased). I was in a local bookshop during the week and asked to see the Pacific children's stories as I was looking for a book to present to my daughter's kindergarten. The snippy assistant said "we don't have any" and when I said that I couldn't believe that I couldn't buy a Pacific story in a NZ bookshop she snapped "there is no market for them". When I pointed out that I was part of the so-called non-existent market she was not impressed…….so you keep up your quest, and I am happy to continue supporting you and your wonderful writing. Kia manuia, Caren

  11. Your message made my day. My book is so entrenched in its Samoan setting that it was always a worry that non-Pacific readers would not connect with it. It is truly a joy when western readers enjoy this story and fall in love with the characters. And the place. Thank you.

  12. I always love your blog feedback Sherre – you and your sister sound a lot like mine! LOL Agree, when it comes to family sometimes sharing is overrated. ( I can feel a blogpost on families and sharing coming on now…)

  13. In many ways Lan, I feel like we're on similar writing and publishing paths. Reading your blogposts on writing dystopian fiction and some of the questions about characters from a mixture of ethnic backgrounds and also being an Asian/Australian writer. I do agree, the publishing industry does seem to be way out of touch with what readers want. I cant wait to see Iron Willed and Seeders Poison published and start reading(blatant hint hint!)

  14. Thank you TS. It is coming – just that I put the print version as my priority first. Am now working on the ebook format. I love my Kindle and I know so many of us prefer to read an ebook.

  15. I'm with you Etta. Since I discovered e-books I havent bought a print book for over a year. (and since I got annoyed at Whitcoulls, I defn havent bought any books anymore, LOL) I prefer the ease and convenience of e-books and defn will be getting the second Telesa book out electronically very soon.

  16. Thank you for the encouragement Laverne. I would be honored to have you blog about the book when it comes out on Kindle. I was wondering – is your book available in print as well as electronic version? Is it in bookshops here in NZ? Would love to connect with more self-published authors based here in NZ and learn more about the industry here.

  17. I appreciate that Aitah – this journey is only possible with the support of so many who have been willing to embrace the book and help promote it via their blogs and websites – like yours! Thank you

  18. I like that – "Kick-Ass Domestic Poly Goddess" woo hoo!Your experience with trying to find pacific childrens stories is EXACTLY what Im talking about – and how frustrating to have a snippy assistant make it even worse by asserting that "there is no market for them"…(Cos the hundreds of thousands of Pacific children in NZ dont read books ay…and if they do, they certainly dont need to read books with stories about kids like them) Aaaaaaargh. Thank you for the support.

  19. I adore your story and will purchase my own e copy when available. You rock Lani. I will continue to share this amazing story with all of my fellow bibliophiles. :)))) The anticipation of my kindle fire downloading When Water Burns is almost too much.

  20. Ha! Lani I agree. I cant wait to see those two published, and Lan, I too dont like that. I mean seriously, Society is not stagnant, and people dont like reading the same old crap over and over. They want something new and fresh, and that's why they should have accepted it! Their loss!

  21. You are making my dreams come true!!! So thrilled that mu tire will download the next amazing installment of the Telesa series!!!!!!

  22. No sorry. My books are both e-book only (the other being released end of this month) – and I'm with an American publisher, not self-published, so wouldn't have the first clue about how to go about it. The whole idea terrifies me! 🙂 If you do learn more about the industry here yourself though, I'd love to hear about it! I'll let you know when I've got the blogpost on your second book up though – not that I'm pressuring you to get the e-book out or anything…. 😉

  23. As everyone else who has commented on the book Telesa – I too have just stumbled across your blog (which I enjoy reading) and Facebook page just before heading over to Samoa during the 50th Independence Day. Without this social media I wouldn't have also known about Plantation House. We made a visit to Plantation House and it's funny reading your blogs and although you post pictures up to put names to faces it was nice to meet your lovely folks and the places you talk about. Purchased my copy of Telesa from the store and have yet to read it as I have a 2 and half old daughter, 1 and half year old son and a 4 month daughter which keeps me pretty much occupied. Tried to get my reading in when they fall asleep but there is always something to do as you know you have to be one step ahead. But for sure I will be able to read and put into place the location of all the surroundings of our beautiful Samoa. Congratulations Lani looking forward to reading the second now available copy of When Water Burns.

  24. Wow Lani – double whammy with this post; I got a crash course in publishing (not least a little disheartening for one who romanticises the trajectory of a book from humble idea to Booker prize), as well as a resounding endorsement of Telesa from all your fans, such that I have to rush out and buy it. And the sequel (for which congratulations – truly inspirational now I have the full background). On a related point, I work for the research dept of a Maori Health organisation, and one of our endeavours is to help young Maori academics to get their papers published. We co-fund the publication of an indigenous journal called Pimatiswin (with contributors from Canada, Hawaii, NZ, the Pacific & Australia), and while this is very successful in its own right, it irks me sometimes – many of these papers are worthy of publication in our mainstream, international counterparts, but they don't get a look in. For lots of reasons I won't go into. But there's arguments going both ways, anyway – having dedicated, indigenous journals means there is flexibility/understanding around style in particular, and conformity is almost entirely removed (meaning contributors don't have to be walled in by the constraints of an academic style); but at the same time, it reinforces this inherent notion that indigenous work sits apart, with a separate, self-contained audience. And THAT's what irks me. Who should decide, who should be endowed with that power to decide which work is for who, and by what means?

  25. I am so pleased to hear that you made a visit to PLantation House – even if the owner WASNT my mum, I would still recommend that store to everybody who ever goes to Samoa! Thanks for the book and blog support and hoping your children give you some time to get to reading Telesa eventually (Hope you dont have to wait until midnight when everyones asleep…like I am with this blog! LOL)

  26. finally got around to reading all 3 telesa books.
    Shared shared shared, from one family to the next.
    I brought the books 1 & 2, & as usual islander family always cracks that one liner.
    Can I borrow the book & promise I’ll give it back”
    We have all shared & heard that one line once too many times that I knew I had to buy book 3 from kindle.
    after giving my sister a little loan of my books I quickly said no to the 3rd person waiting inline.
    Forced to buy her own on kindle. Hahaha…
    I’ve stored my books away for one day to be pass on to my girls.
    It gave my sister & I great joy. using my imagination while reading, thought I LOSTED that in year 6. Being 32 it took me back to when I was 19 years old.
    I was at my prime
    The fun days
    The carefree world
    Thankyou so much for your gift
    Thankyou so much for sharing
    & Thankyou for bringing someone back I thought I had lost.

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