Tag Archives: Amazon

Publication Day!

It’s publication day again! I’m really excited that my second novel, When the Future Comes Too Soon, is out today – July 18, 2017!

I dedicated When the Future Comes Too Soon to my late maternal grandmother, Chang Kim Eng. More than anyone else, she bore the brunt of my curiosity about the war and Japanese occupation. I know how much she shared with me because on my last visit to my parents’ house, my mother dug out sheets of notes in my childish handwriting, which must have been taken during one of the many conversations I had with my grandmother.

She passed away in 1993, when I was already in England and did not get the chance to say goodbye. While writing this novel, I thought a lot about her and about grandparents everywhere, who have so much to offer younger generations. Unfortunately they usually leave this world before we have the chance to have truly meaningful conversations with them. Much of what my grandmother told me, I was too young to understand at the time. I console myself by imagining how proud she would be today.

When the Future Comes Too Soon is an emotional story of a woman trying to save herself and her family in a time of war. It blends the exotic setting of Japanese-occupied Malaya with eternal questions that cross cultures and time. The following comment from an early reader has really touched me:

“…this should be read by women who have felt silenced. Silenced by fate, by bad company, by circumstance. I was moved to crying twice while reading it, and that is not something that often happens.” (From the book blogger with the wonderful moniker of Literary Dust).

As part of the publicity campaign for this new book, I’ll be interviewed on British and European radio and will appear in newspapers, magazines and blogs! I will also be meeting with book groups in London, where I live; in New York City which I’ll be visiting in October; and in Orlando, Florida in December. If you belong to a book and/or women’s group and would like to meet me, please contact my publicist Angelle Barbazon at JKS Communications (Angelle@jkscommunications.com). You can also get in touch via the Contact Form on my website www.siakchinyoke.com.

If you haven’t pre-ordered your book, here are some of the outlets selling it:

Amazon USA                      Amazon UK             Book Depository

Barnes & Noble                 Foyles                        Kinokuniya

And after reading, please do leave a review on Amazon and/or Goodreads. Even a few words would mean a lot to me. Happy reading, and stay tuned for details about my future media appearances!

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Filed under Malaysia, Novel, Publishing

A Thank You Message

At last, it’s publication day! From today my novel – The Woman who Breathed Two Worlds – will be available for purchase at major bookstores (Barnes & Noble in the US, Waterstones in the UK and at many others) as well as on leading websites worldwide. My book is available in three formats: print, as an audio book and also as a Kindle e-book, the latter from Amazon.

The past month has been exhilarating. When the e-version of my novel was placed on the Kindle First platform beginning October 1, 2016 I sat in trepidation, knowing that early readers would soon be reviewing my work. At heart writing is a solitary activity, and although I knew what I wanted to achieve with my novel I had no idea how readers would actually react. The process of waiting for those first reviews was nerve-racking. I told my editor, Elizabeth DeNoma, that I was not going to check for reviews.

October 1 fell on a Saturday. Bearing in mind that my book is over 400 pages long (nearly 500 pages in the paperback version), I was surprised to receive an email on the evening of Monday, October 3, when it would only have been noon in Seattle. Could anyone have actually finished reading the book? Apparently, yes. Elizabeth’s email said that the first reviews were in, they were “pretty great” and I should take a look.

My heart was thumping when I opened Amazon’s US site. Everything was a blur and my eyes could barely focus. I felt a little like the parents of my protagonist at the moment when they stood staring at the island of Penang. There before them was the object for which they had given up so much, yet as the island rose in front of their eyes, its beckoning shape seemed too daunting.

A day later, I received my first fan mail. As an author who is keen to be read, I cannot tell you how thrilling that was. Many others have written since, either on this blog or via Twitter or my Facebook Author page. Thank you to all, your words mean a lot.

Thank you, too, to readers who have written reviews on Amazon. To say that I’ve been overwhelmed by my book’s exceptional reception would be an understatement. The start of my novel is somewhat meandering – mimicking life as I imagined it would have been in 1878, when the story begins. With pace being the norm today, I worried that readers would not be drawn in. How wrong I was.

…fabulous job of writing drawing you immediately into an unknown Asian family and their world…

Loved it – it was hard to put down” was a common refrain, but it took a week before I could read such compliments without heart palpitations. A fortnight passed before I really grasped the sentiments readers were trying to convey. It was difficult to take in the adjectives readers were using: “wonderful”, “enchanting” and “epic”. Some of the comments brought me close to tears – and I don’t cry easily. One reader said: “When I started this book I wasn’t sure I would like it. But it turned out to be a very good book and I didn’t want it to end.” For an author, there can be no greater compliment.

There have been highly personal messages from readers who grew up in South-East Asia, for whom my book brought back vivid memories. To be clear, no familiarity with Malaysia is required: readers who knew nothing about Malaysia beforehand have enjoyed the story as much. A few even had their interest piqued: “I loved this book so much I’ve started making a Pinterest board about it so I can see all the items and sites described.” This reader, like many others, described my novel as a journey.

I was sad when I finished this book. Felt like leaving a good friend.

It has been an honor to travel with this courageous, feisty and loving woman, to be her companion. I will miss her.

One of those books you hope will never end and you feel bereft when you reach the final page. Excellent story, beautiful writing.

At this point, I must make a digression to thank my publisher. One of the reasons so many of you have found the reading experience to be unique and authentic is in part thanks to my publishing team at Amazon Crossing and their bold editorial decisions. My editor, Elizabeth DeNoma, loves my book as much as many of you do; she did not want to see any of it cut. As a debut novelist no one had heard of, I’m really grateful for this.

Amazon Crossing made other decisions that preserved the cultural content of my work, notably with respect to dialogue. Some of what the characters say to each other is written the way Malaysians speak, which means that the word order is slightly changed. The vast majority of readers have appreciated the sense of place which this helps to create. Someone put it thus:

I loved the dialogue. Making the word order match the dialects represented made everything more real.

Who said books had to be dumbed down?

I also wanted to depict my homeland, Malaysia, in the fullest possible way, so that people who had never visited would be able to picture it and smell all the smells I grew up with. From the reaction of readers, it’s just possible that I succeeded. “There are some books you devour, and others you savor. This, Selina Siak Chin Yoke’s debut novel, is the latter. Her beautiful descriptions bring the time and place in which her characters live to vibrant life, and turn the setting itself into a character in its own right.

There have been many, many other heart-warming comments; I could not possibly quote them all here. If you submitted a review, please know that I have been deeply moved by the way my story has resonated.

Now that The Woman who Breathed Two Worlds has been published, the cover name of my blog will no longer be ‘Journey of my First Novel’. The blog’s URL will remain the same and if you’ve subscribed to this site, there’s nothing you need do.

Let me conclude with the following lovely comment from another reader:

The rhythm of the words, the flow of the story, the tales that were shared – it all seemed so real. It’s been a long time since I’ve read a book that tugged at my emotions, culminating in tears for a woman I felt I had grown to know.

As we say in Malay, Terima Kasih Seribu Kali (Thank You a Thousand Times). Thank you for reading, for writing to me and for all your kind words. Your messages make the years of toil worthwhile.

NB All of the above reader comments (and more) can be found on Amazon’s US site as well as on its UK site. With thanks to Amazon Crossing for allowing me to cite them on this blog.

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Proud to Announce …

My debut novel, The Woman who Breathed Two Worlds, has been selected by Amazon Publishing’s editors as one of their 6 hand-picked book choices for the Kindle First programme during this month of October. In case you’ve not heard of it, Kindle First is an invitation-only programme for authors. It allows the many book lovers who are also Amazon Prime subscribers to read books on their Kindles a month before their official release dates. This means that Prime subscribers can already download my novel and read it on their Kindles!

Here’s what Amazon’s editors have to say about their selections. If you prefer, you can watch the following video: there are previews of all 6 books. And if clicking on a link seems too much like hard work, below you’ll find the front and back covers of my novel. The overview on the back cover provides a good feel for the unfolding story and its key themes.

front-cover

 

back-cover

I will also be doing two readings in Malaysia this month (October 2016). The first will take place in Ipoh – the town which provides the setting for my novel – on Saturday 15 October. Full details will be posted on my Facebook Author Page, which has just gone live. If you happen to be in Malaysia then, I’d love to see you!

Meanwhile, there are fewer than 30 days to the official worldwide release of The Woman who Breathed Two Worlds. There’s still time to pre-order your book! Click on any of the links below:

USA Barnes & Noble

UK Waterstones

Australia Booktopia

Malaysia Kinokuniya

Singapore Kinokuniya

and, of course, on all Amazon websites

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Filed under Cultural Identity, Malaysia, Novel, Publishing

Dreams can be Made

I’m thrilled to tell you that my novel – The Woman who Breathed Two Worlds – will be launched on November 1, 2016 in three formats: in print, as a Kindle e-book and also as an audio book.

Below is what the cover will look like. I love the artwork, I think it’s amazing – and I’m not just saying this because it happens to be my book.

The Woman Who Breathed Two Worlds (The Malayan Series) by [Siak Chin Yoke, Selina]

If you’ve been waiting for my novel, the good news is that it’s now available to pre-order! Here are some of the stores which will stock it: Kinokuniya in Malaysia ; Kinokuniya in Singapore; Waterstones in the UK; Barnes & Noble in the USA and of course Amazon.

I mentioned before that I was stunned by how much work goes into a published book. I had expected the text to be scrutinised; this, after all, is the heart of a book, but I never imagined I would be taught the fine points of English grammar in the process!

For instance, I was told that I used the “subjunctive were” a lot (one of the copy editor’s comments). Funnily enough, I did not know what a “subjunctive were” was: I had to look it up on Google. It’s a relief to know that there are still people on this planet who understand the rules of English grammar. When I see the types of grammatical mistakes being made nowadays, I have to conclude that such people are a dying breed. So I’m really glad to find them in publishing!

At the outset, I was asked whether I wanted to be consulted about my book cover. Of course I said yes, and I’m glad I did – because it has allowed me to appreciate the amount of thought which designers put into book covers. Everyone sort of knows that book covers are important, but how much attention do you really give them beyond whether they are “nice” or not?

I was flabbergasted when my publisher began to articulate the different elements they felt that our cover had to convey. First, geography – so that it evoked at a glance not just Asia but South East Asia; secondly, the era – vintage yet somehow also timeless; and finally the sense of story, of how central the female protagonist is. I’m really proud of what was achieved even though I did not participate actively in the creative process. I only watched from afar, lobbing ideas when asked and making the odd irritating comment, like “too much yellow, could we have more blue please”. The artist, David Drummond, has featured the work on his own blog, where he describes it as being a “fun cover” to work on. I’m glad he thinks so, because there must have been goodness-knows-how-many iterations! (I don’t actually know how many there were – my editor did a wonderful job in shielding me from the (no doubt) heated discussions.)

I don’t suppose that many authors have much involvement with the creation of their audio books. Because of the peppering of Malay and Chinese dialect words in my novel, I had offered pronunciation assistance to the narrator, a British actress by the name of Christine Rendel. I did not know whether Christine would take my offer up, and was impressed when she not only did but came prepared with an array of of questions. I had to explain how to say “ai-yahh” and “lah” and “ngi cho ma kai-ah”, among other things. And now I can’t wait to hear what she has done with these expressions!

Finally, a word about my publisher Amazon Crossing – Amazon Publishing’s translated works imprint. In line with its remit Amazon Crossing has to date mainly published works written in other languages and translated into English. I’m pleased to be among the handful of authors writing in English whom they have chosen to publish, and especially honoured that they selected my debut novel. I must thank the whole team in Seattle, most of whom I have not met, many whose names I don’t even know, for being so pro-active and re-active and patient with the questions I’ve asked. My editor, Elizabeth DeNoma, has been exemplary. Her job, apart from managing various strands of the book production process, has included holding my hand, especially as publication day creeps ever closer.

Because, with less than two months to go, my emotions are starting to cause havoc. This may sound counter-intuitive but I’ve become increasingly nervous; what if people hate my book? To be honest, I’m having trouble sleeping properly. I fear I may be a wreck by November.

Thank goodness I’ll be visiting Malaysia before then – I’ll certainly need doses of petai and Nyonya kueh to calm those nerves! If any of you are in Malaysia in October, please come and hear me read an excerpt from The Woman who Breathed Two Worlds. I will be at The Sharpened Word in Ipoh, my hometown, on Saturday, October 15, 2016 and then at Seksan, Bangsar Village in Kuala Lumpur a fortnight later on Saturday, October 29, 2016. Details will be posted here in due course.

Meanwhile I’ve been asked for an interview. Part of me cannot believe this is actually happening… For so long I dreamt about having a novel published. But I had other interests too and I pursued these first. If I had not had cancer when I did, I would probably only have started writing seriously much later. Which goes to show that positive things can rise out of the ashes of personal difficulty.

Taking this novel from concept to publication has taken longer than I ever imagined it would. Nearly six years, to be precise : two months of research, two years of writing, another year to secure an agent, nearly two years for him to find a publisher and then the months Amazon Crossing has spent turning my raw manuscript into a printed book. Now it feels as if I’m standing on the threshold of something new, a different stage in my writing journey, when I can look back on the hard slog and think that, no matter what happens next, it has all been worth it. Sometimes, dreams do come true.

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Freedom or Theft?

Until recently I had not given a second’s thought to the problem of pirated books. Rather naively, I assumed that piracy was limited to music and software. Until I stumbled on an article in the Sunday Telegraph of 19 June 2016.

In it Robert Colville, a British journalist, author and commentator, describes how he felt when, two weeks after his book The Great Acceleration was published, he discovered that an illegal version had been uploaded onto a website. His first reaction was a sort of flattered bafflement – that anyone should wish to pirate his book – followed closely by anger. Being a journalist, Mr. Colville naturally did some digging. It did not take him long to find other authors with similar stories.

I was stunned to learn of people who indulge in stripping e-books of their software protections and who then distribute the stripped files over the Internet because they think they are making “information” freely available. Excuse me, but since when did Stephen King and Tom Clancy become “information”?

You do not need to be a bestselling author to be pirated: when Mr. Colville’s book was illegally copied onto a website, it ranked 309,607 on Amazon!

The more of his article I read, the more agitated I became. The subject is a salient one, now that I’m on the verge of having my first novel published. Getting to this point has taken five years of toil and persistence and much investment, emotional as well as material – research trips, developmental editing, not to mention forgone earnings. All of these costs were sunk before I was even signed up by a literary agent and a publisher. Yet there are people who seem to believe they should be able to read my novel without paying for it.

My agent Thomas Colchie confirmed that some of the other authors he represents have seen their books illegally uploaded onto a host of websites. Fortunately in the US and UK, large publishers are able to force stolen versions of books to be removed from websites, which contains the problem somewhat. However, this still means that 10% of e-books in the UK – or 7.2 million books – are read illegally. A whopping number, and one for which I fail to see any justification.

Do the people who pretend to be freedom-of-information warriors also refuse to pay at supermarket check-outs and in restaurants? Do they help themselves to Boots’ shelves? Because it seems to me that that is what book piracy is: theft, pure and simple.

Many of those who benefit from versions of illegally downloaded music, movies and books probably don’t think of themselves as stealing. Some may not even understand what I’m talking about. As a youngster in Malaysia, I routinely copied songs for other people and listened to music that had been copied by friends. Back then, I had not heard of intellectual property, I did not understand the consequences of my actions on the singers or songwriters. The same cannot be said of these so-called book pirates.

According to Mr. Colville’s article most of them are aged between 35 and 55 and sufficiently educated that they know how to strip e-books of their software protections. These are not teenagers who cannot afford books. Even if they were, let’s be clear about one thing: books are not an essential item like food or medicine. There can be no moral justification for stealing them in a wealthy country like the UK. If you want to read a particular book and you can’t afford it, take yourself down to the local library.

Lurking in the midst of this troubling phenomenon is a warped sense of entitlement. Some of the modern book thieves apparently believe that “writers are wealthy and publishers are wealthy and therefore, it’s okay to steal from them”. This line of reasoning is both factually flawed and morally disingenuous. First of all, the average writer is not rich. In 2013 authors earned on average just £11,000 – well below average earnings in the UK at the time of £26,500. In my own case, it took two full years to complete my first novel; if I hadn’t already been comfortably off, it would have taken a lot longer. As for publishers being wealthy, this completely misses the point. It isn’t as if my publisher does nothing and then suddenly reaps benefits. In my blog-post The Things that go into Creating a Book, I mentioned that I had not appreciated how rigorous the editorial process would be. My publisher is putting in a huge amount of care and professionalism into ensuring not only that every sentence in my book is as good as it can be, but also that every semi-colon is in the right place. Publishing a book is a huge enterprise that involves large numbers of people and their time.

So, when next you are offered a pirated copy of a book, please spare a thought for those who have put so much of themselves into making it available. That labour must be rewarded appears to be tacitly acknowledged by one of the piracy websites quoted in Mr. Colville’s article, which actually offers to pay its programmers! Apparently, even anarchy has limits. Not everything should be free after all.

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