Today was a big day for me—I saw my book on display in a bookstore. I stood there in the Foreign Books section of the Kyobo Bookstore in Gwanghwamun with a big, goofy smile as I took the pictures below. As a writer, seeing my book in a bookstore was one of my simple but consuming desires; it was the reason why I tried for such a long time to go the traditional publishing route. When I made the decision to self-publish, part of me was crushed, and I consoled myself by saying, Just wait until the next book.
I haven’t been to the Kyobo in Gwanghwamun for a very long time. The last time was probably when I was still in the service and out on furlough, looking for something to carry me through those long days in the Army. I would mostly buy Penguin classics because they were the affordable option for someone on a soldier’s salary (probably $40/month at the time). For those of you who read my previous blog, one of my bigger dreams was to make such an impact with my writing that, when I’m dead and gone, a book of mine would be published as a Penguin classic. I think it’s one of the reasons why I chose the color scheme for the cover.
Kyobo has changed a lot since my last visit, and as I walked through the store toward the Foreign Books section, I wished it were closer so I could visit more often. It almost felt like I was walking through a fair, and it wasn’t so cheesy or blatantly commercial as I’ve seen in other bookstores. I was particularly drawn to the collection of LPs on sale, and I promised myself that I would pick up an LP player if I ever make a reasonable amount of money from my writing.
I was surprised to find that the book was not on a shelf but on one of the table displays, one with a place holder that reads “Enjoy Your Life in Korea.” The irony. Of course, the book is not a guideline for how to experience the most out of Korea, and I do hope that reading the book gives the reader joy or at least Schadenfreude. I was texting a friend currently studying in the States this morning, and she told me that she finished the book in a day, which is insane because the book is almost 110,000 words. She told me the book was “one of the most depressing books [she has] read,” but also that it gave her “a place to run to—away from all [her] problems, away from [her] life.” Hearing things like that is another thing that means something to me as a writer. “Writers write,” Sean Connery’s character says in Finding Forrester, “so that readers can read.” Now if I only I can capitalize off of why writers read.
A map to help you locate the book
None of this would have been possible without my connection at Kyobo, Yong-jin Jang. I rarely have connections when I need them, but this time I knew the right person. My life is not completely without luck.
The book is 16,000 won. It’s much larger and thicker than I had thought. If you order it from the Kyobo Bookstore website, there’s a small discount—14,400 won. There are only five copies in stock, and while Kyobo will probably order more if they sell all five copies, it will take a few weeks for the books to be re-stocked. If you prefer a paperback to the point that you’d be willing to pay a lot extra, pick up a copy while you can.
* I actually make less royalties off of the paperback even though it’s much more expensive. If you really want to support an economically disadvantaged writer, please buy the e-book from Amazon.com.