After a successful first series The Telesa Trilogy, Lani is back with brand new material much to her fans delight. The new Scarlet series is about a girl who returns home to Samoa after leaving the country in disgrace many years ago. It is written for a more “mature audience” with tangled relationships, steamy sex scenes and plenty of drama.
Earlier this year, Lani’s Telesa series was given the green light by the New Zealand Film Commission to fund the development of the Telesa movie. It will quite possibly be the first NZ movie to be based on a book by a self-published author.
Branding herself under her new author name Lani Young, this SUGA writer is “Indie Proud” when it comes to her self-publishing writing achievements – and she should be. Being a self-published author as opposed to having her books traditionally published, means Lani has to do twice, three, four times the work.
She manages and markets herself as an author consistently by keeping on top of her blogs, promoting her books and interacting with fans on social media. Fortunately for Lani, she is a super savvy business women and is successfully able to execute both her creative and business talents with ease.
Thanks to today’s digital tools such as e-books and social media, the publishing industry has shifted rapidly. E-books are becoming just as popular as physical books. Self-publishing programs such as those on Amazon means it is a lot easier to get your work out there for people to read. In short, anyone can be a writer.
There is a stigma attached to self-publishing – probably because it conjures up images of cheaply designed books and bad editing but that stigma is fast fading. As long as self-publishers follow the same steps as commercially published books in terms of design, editing, production and marketing (all of which Lani does well) than it’s anybody’s game.
Take those amazing Telesa book cover designs for example – those covers can put mainstream publishing company designers to shame.
But for a small niche like the Pacific market, self-publishing works better for a Pacific writer in this market. More so than the ‘Palagi’ writer who is trying to succeed in a much bigger world – mainstream.
Not that she is wanting to cater only to a Pacific market. Her books are enjoyed by non-Pasifika readers too.
Yes there are still those people who turn their nose up when they hear the words ‘self-publishing’ but whoever thinks like that in this day and age really need to make an effort to understand the term relevance. The self-publishing boom is so huge that traditional publishers are starting to look for writers rather than the other way round!
Self-publishing can be a great stepping stone towards gaining the interest of a traditional publisher. Take Self-Publishing author icon Amanda Hocking for instance, the writer who made millions from self-publishing and is your typical rags-to-riches story. She wrote 17 novels in nine years and each one of them got rejected by Publishers. She uploaded her first book to Amazon in 2010 and last year was selling more than 100,000 copies a month. She was exhausted though, having to create her own book covers, editing her own copy, writing blogs and keeping on top of social media. But all worth the wait. She struck a $2.1 million deal with major publishers Pat Macmillan and St Martin’s Press. Good on her.
Of course all writers hope for a traditional publisher to sign them. To have several or many people work on different areas of your writing like acquisition, planning, editing, designing and distribution is a dream. The writer can just focus on doing what they do best: writing. Let’s not forget that Lani did spend years trying to pitch her books to traditional publishers and writers are encouraged to try that route first.
But I wonder, without any big-name Pacific traditional publishers who have those important contacts, what mainstream publisher is going to understand Samoan story telling the way we do? Or understand Samoan mythology, our culture, the environment, malus and tataus. Will traditional publishers “get” our Samoan humour? The crudeness, the way Samoans mock each other and the demographics to be able to understand how best to plan their strategies? For example, Samoans live all over New Zealand, not just in South Auckland.
Having publishing companies and literary agents’ means you will lose 100 percent control of your work so to hand this over to a reputable and more-than-likely a non-Pacific publisher would be quite scary although something an author wouldn’t resist turning down.
Lani entered a niche Pacific market with arguably little or no competition. Sure there are Pacific writers out there but how many writers can market, manage, distribute and design their books with such proactivity and enthusiasm as she does?
Self-publishing also works best when the author knows her audience. Who better to tell stories of Samoan women, their relationships, their experiences and cultural attitudes than someone who has grown up in Samoa? Studying at universities in NZ and the US also contributed to her invaluable life experience. On top of that she is a mum to five kids so I would say she knows a lot of about “life.”
She knew that what she was writing would resonate with a young Pacific audience and she had faith people would enjoy her books. She knows how to make her readers, laugh, cry and melt island styles (Cue Jackson!).
When I was in high school in Wanganui around 1994 maybe, my English teacher asked the class to vote on which book we should read and study. It was out of One More River by Lynne Reid Banks or Nell’s Quilt by Susan Terris.
All the Maoris and I (being the only Samoan) chose One More River because the ethnic content was probably as close to any young adult Pacific novel that we would get. There were no Pacific young adult writers at the time – well none that I knew of. All the Palagi students chose Nell’s quilt which got the majority vote (and was a fantastic book also).
Looking back, I see that it is so important that there is Pacific young adult fiction that young Pasifika can relate to – so if self-publishing is the only way for that to happen, than by all means so be it. Pacific students need these writers.
I tweeted something stupid on twitter not long ago and got blasted for it. It was one of those things that just came out all wrong and I really didn’t mean what I said. I sincerely tweeted an apology afterwards but it was too late. The tweet made its way to the NZ Herald. I wasn’t surprised. These days NZ mainstream media are lacking in quality journalism. Instead of getting off their butts to find real stories, they like to scan social media for their next target. Take John Campbell leaving TV 3 for example – proof that NZ media is becoming a big joke.
Anyway to cut a long story short, I was the target of cyber-bullying for about 24 hours. One of the “bullies” was a media buyer who said I would probably lose my job at the magazine and lose potential media buyers who otherwise would have been interested in the magazine.
So why didn’t I panic and go into damage control mode? Well firstly I can’t fire myself and secondly it’s because SUGA Magazine is catered to a niche market of Samoan and Pacific young women. Little did he know that we’ve had to turn media buyers away because what they wanted to advertise in our magazine had nothing to do with our target audience. Money wasn’t a factor. We’ve also had media buyers who have pitched brands to us to advertise but we only accepted on the condition we would write their ads to suit our Pacific market.
How does this relate to self-publishing books? Well the magazine is self-published. There is a whole wide world of potential advertisers and media buyers out there just like there is a whole lot of traditional publishers out there but sometimes Pacific writers don’t necessarily need them.
With our print magazines, I would stock them in Pacific-related stores only and felt I didn’t to need to pay a major distributor who may stock it in places like Pak-n-save Matamata where it would be pointless and have a higher likelihood of left-over magazines. No offence to any islanders living in Matamata but when it came to small towns, I would be more inclined in stocking it in places like Wanganui and Napier instead.
A general example but you get my point.
Thankfully the logistics drama is something I don’t have to worry about anymore because SUGA has moved with the times and transitioned from print to an online magazine just like how print books are now e-books. When you’re targeting a specific audience like Pasifika with your self-published e-products, the internet and social media is an effective way to reach them in big numbers and sometimes it may be all that you need.
A traditional publisher to books is like a major record label is to music artists. These days more and more Pacific artists are independent and this is beneficial to them because what comes with it is authenticity and a raw-ness with their sound. No pushy record labels trying to mould them into something they are not. Arguably, in Pasifika terms, being signed to a big record label may actually come across as “manufactured” or show less credibility because of perceptions such as “overnight success.”
75 percent of Pasifika artists at the recent Pacific Music Awards are from independent labels and many of these artists took out the awards
An article on popular NZ media site Stuff.co.nz a couple of years back wrote that the Romance writers of New Zealand conference was being held in the same hotel as the All Blacks were staying in. Some of the authors swooned at the sight of masculine men in black sparking suggestions that Rugby players in romance novels could become a new idea. This story was apparently news to Stuff who were all over it.
Pasifika people definitely have the ideas and the originality but it goes to show that the people at the “top” whether it be media, publishers, record labels or whatever aren’t always in touch with what’s going on, what’s trending, knowing their audiences, knowing who’s out there and who’s doing it already. Yes they have the money but they may not always have the right people working to make those investments viable.
That is why, we have to take matters in our own hands and do it ourselves. Don’t wait for people or opportunities to come to you, create those opportunities yourself.
So to add to all the countless congratulations, the high-fives and the pats on the back she’s had already, we’ll add one more! Congratulations again Lani on all your success.
To celebrate the release of her exciting new Scarlet Series, SUGA Magazine are giving away 2 paperback copies of her book Scarlet Lies. Simply comment on this post OR the Facebook post where this article is posted and you’re in the draw! Winners will be drawn by the end of this week.
If you miss out, you can purchase your e-copy of Scarlet Lies here at Amazon! Support our Samoan authors!