Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Stirring the pot with self-published author JC Greenway

Our Man in Abiko managed
 to pry Tokyo resident
 JC Greenway away from her
 beloved Earl Grey,
ten minutes hate blog
 and Liverpool Football Club
 long enough to answer
 10 questions
about self-publishing
 her first book
1. Tell Our Man about your book. What's The Teas that Bind about?
The Teas That Bind is about Japan, and earthquakes, and – somewhat obviously – tea. It is my slightly over-long answer to a question I have been asked a few times since March last year: "What was the big earthquake like, then?"

Including a collection of posts written at the time for my website, ten minutes hate with new writing and some previously unseen photographs, it features things that I am sure other expats in Japan will remember, such as aftershocks, blackouts, milisieverts, The Great Flyjin Wars of April 2011, the summer of cool biz, all washed down with quite a few cups of Earl Grey.

2. Why did you feel compelled to write this book?
Most of my writing is trying to make sense of what is going on around me and with the anniversary approaching that impulse was too compelling to ignore. When I was editing the posts, there was a lot that I had forgotten, even in such a short time – will I remember it in three years, or five, or ten? There was an element of trying to put a marker down too. To say, "this is what it was like for me."

Since December 2011, as you know, I have made a couple of trips to Tohoku and so there are also my attempts to come to terms with what I have seen and heard there, as well as what it is actually like to volunteer, trying to inspire others to go.

3. Why did you go the self-publishing route?
I like to think I have always had quite a punk, DIY approach to writing. Putting out fanzines was how I got started as a writer – myself and former co-worker Mark Woffenden literally cutting and pasting editions of our political/satirical zine Whaaat? together on breaks from editing legal documents.

Also, someone who knows a lot more about these things than I do mentioned it was the Wild West of publishing and anything could happen. It isn’t perfect but it is the best chance for a long time for writers to own the means of production, and that is potentially revolutionary. If you want to change the way we produce books for the better, you have to get in there.

4. How did you decide on the price of the book?
Blind faith and guesswork.

5. Any advice you'd give to aspiring self-publishers?
Do it! But do it well.

6. What was your approach to PR?
Still feeling it out, but I am working on a slow building up of word-of-mouth. I don’t want to bang on about it to the exclusion of everything else as I think a lot of ebook marketing is too shrill. It seems everyone is trying to prove they have the answers when in reality no-one does. Produce a quality read and it will find an audience without the need to send 25 BUY MY BOOK tweets a day. Readers have told me they have enjoyed mine, and that is great.

7. How many people were involved in the project?
There is a comprehensive thank you list in the book (buy it and you’ll see!) but illustrator Barney Meekin deserves a huge share of the glory for his fantastic cover art. He created exactly what I wanted from the vaguest of instructions in next to no time.

8. Print and ebook. How were they for you?
The number of people who reacted to the launch of the ebook by saying: "Meh. I’ll buy it when it’s a REAL book, cheers" makes me think that all those shouting about the death of paper don’t know what the flip they’re talking about. I was quite encouraged, as I think TTTB might have stayed as an ebook without them and the paperback version looks so incredibly slinky that would have been a shame. (Buy it and you will see!)

9. What's your next project?
Writing, writing, writing.
Like you, I put the novel on hold to produce the non-fiction book in time for the anniversary. Having proved to myself I can finish and publish a book in three weeks, I have no excuse not to finish it this year. Ten minutes hate recently celebrated its third birthday and its most read month, so I would like that to continue! Like its author, the site is a mix of serious commentary and daft observations and while I used to worry about it lacking a coherent theme, now I think that gives it strength.

10. Anything else you'd like to say?
If you like tea and hate earthquakes, I’ve got the perfect read for you… at Amazon here, Smashwords here, or Lulu here for the paperback. And I'll be appearing at The Cat's Meow on Friday, May 11th, from 8.30pm at Biscotti Tapas in Tokyo. Follow @kimiecat or @biscotti_tapas on Twitter for details.


  1. As the proud owner of 2 incredibly slinky looking paperback copies of TTTB, I have to say that it is a great addition to any bookshelf. A perfect partner for a great cuppa too. As Arthur Pinero said, "Where there's tea, there's hope".

  2. On my epic journey home to the frozen north today I read this book. It's not my usual sort of book but I've been following Joanne on Twitter for a while and decided to purchase it to support another self-published writer. I'm very glad I did. I certainly wasn't expecting it to be as moving as it was.

    It was a difficult book to read - most of the contents were written at the time of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan and are collated here (I suspect) almost exactly as they were back then, with minimal reflection and without hindsight. As a result, what you get is a very real and palpable sense of frustration, sadness and helplessness. There's a weird surreal feeling to it, like the anecdote about the little old man out sweeping the streets with his dustpan and brush in the middle of the night. As a very visual reader I found my eyes prickling with tears at the thought of all those school children facing empty seats and desks every day as a constant reminder of the friends that they lost. I could see it in my minds eye and it ached. I also admit to being frustrated that without wifi (I was on a plane) I couldn't follow the links provided for further information and I wanted to know more, to see the stories that inspired the posts.