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Discussion Starter #1
How many of you read, or have ever read, foreign fiction by an indie?

I write women's fiction with Muslim female protagonists.  Aside from my novel and short stories, which could be termed an "exotic read" (read for cultural anthropological value), I have released my first novella, where I wish to engage readers in a human story. 

Is there a readership for foreign stories about women's lives, with challenges of family, love and other struggles that are common across cultures or do you as readers, prefer to read stories about Anne, who met Joe in college, and will get married after Christmas?  After all, reading even a human story about another culture entails some confusing new words and things, even if the story is a human story. 



 

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The Kite Runner, a novel about two best friends  set in Afghanistan, was a huge bestseiier here in the US so there is certainly a market for the kind of story you refer to.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Indeed it was. However, the Kite Runner is read for cultural anthropological curiosity, and the theme is hardly your everyday family theme. Also, it's partly set in America.

Do people who read the Kite Runner, become fans of Khaled Hosseini, who buy his new releases? Or did his American readers read that one book and said, "nice read, now where is my favorite American author?"
 

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My contemporary fiction titles aren't doing too shabby and the books are all set in China. A quick look at my alsobots shows that readers are reading other titles of mine, not just the one. However, my experience is a bit unique as there is a huge community of adoptees and adoptive parents interested in China and I've been able to get my name out there.

Though on the other hand, many of the readers who contact me just ran across my books in an advertisement, daily deal, or other venue and have never read China-inspired fiction. More people than you might think are willing to broaden their horizon and read stories set in other cultures and worlds, if you can just get them to sample it.

Edited to add, take it from what one reviewer said:
"A Thread Unbroken is powerful cultural resource and advocacy motivational disguised within a great "Read" that is awesome in it's own way as a work of fiction!!"
 

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..and this book is in my personal Top 10 books read in 2012. A Walk Across the Sun is set in India but involves an American side story that is weaved into the plot, and is very enlightening but riveting at the same time!



Oops. Just realized this is not an 'Indie' author. But hey--looking at the track record of all books of this type, indie or not, will tell you that foreign fiction can be successful with the right story and a way to get the buzz going!
 

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Discussion Starter #7
That's great KayBratt. I have heard good things about your stories too.

However, I have one observation to share. Your stories, The Kite Runner and the Walk Across the Sun, all share the element of tragedy. It's focused on the flaws or vices of other cultures, with a western savior, as a common thread. That to me, reinforces an asymmetric literary cultural engagement, for want of a better term.

I am referring to human stories, where characters face family dilemmas that can take place anywhere. Where no one is getting sold, or abandoned for being a girl, and there is no sexual violence of the kind described in the Kite Runner. The non-western world is not all about those things :)
 

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rubyscribe said:
That's great KayBratt. I have heard good things about your stories too.

However, I have one observation to share. Your stories, The Kite Runner and the Walk Across the Sun, all share the element of tragedy. It's focused on the flaws or vices of other cultures, with a western savior, as a common thread. That to me, reinforces an asymmetric literary cultural engagement, for want of a better term.

I am referring to human stories, where characters face family dilemmas that can take place anywhere. Where no one is getting sold, or abandoned for being a girl, and there is no sexual violence of the kind described in the Kite Runner. The non-western world is not all about those things :)
True, true. (Except none of my fiction titles have any 'western saviors' in the storyline) But they do share the element of tragedy and my goal with my work is to raise awareness about travesties that happen to women and children in China, while tellling a captivating story.

The trilogy I just signed on for is a family saga set in China so of course faces family dilemmas, though I don't promise I won't throw an abandoned baby or two in the mix!

I see where you are going with your question. Maybe others here can have other examples that fit better to hopefully give you some answers. Thought-invoking, to be sure!
 

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Discussion Starter #9
May I add that stereotypes run both ways. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, presents a western world, with no place for the old. The retirees then go to India and find that India (or the east) reveres the old and that there is a spot in the world, where they are respected/wanted.

To some extent, these stereotypes are true both ways, however, I do not like to pigeonhole people and view things from a set perspective!
 

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I think there's truth to the stereotype of the insular American who is not all that interested in and perhaps quite ignorant about the rest of the world. That said, it's a big country with a very diverse population, so there are millions and millions of people here who don't fit the stereotype, even if some do.
 

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My books center on Japanese queer minorities, facing the challenges of both long term relationships, and the unique issues that are presented in Japanese society for queer people. (particularly women. Which is another bag of fun.) Since they are romances, they all have HEA and HFN. No big tragedies other than the usual everyday sucks. Should probably note that, to my knowledge, most of my readers are women from North America and Europe.

I think as a cultural whole, in the West (and by West I mostly mean America) there's the general theory that people aren't interested in anything dealing with other cultures. (I run into this aaalll the time with Asian Music, a huge love of mine. "Omg why isn't it in English though???") But I think there is an audience for everything. As you said, pigeonholing isn't fun, and even in my local extremely xenophobic and  ethnocentric culture, there are those who love to read about experiences outside of their own. There are also many themes that are considered "universal" such as love (romantic and platonic), death, and depression. One of my favorite authors, Amy Tan, has books that do take part in America with some Western characters, but usually the most praised parts are the backstories of life in China.

I will agree that there's a bit too much Western Savior out there for my tastes, particularly in earlier works.

I think women's fiction with a Muslim protagonist can find a great audience out there - in fact, I'm sure there are many readers hungry for this very thing. (I know it sounds interesting to me.) Of course, you will get the readers who don't understand why it has anything to do with them, or will read it just to tout how cultured they are, but you'll also be reaching a readership who will really appreciate what you are doing.

To be sure, it's an interesting discussion.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Becca Mills said:
I think there's truth to the stereotype of the insular American who is not all that interested in and perhaps quite ignorant about the rest of the world. That said, it's a big country with a very diverse population, so there are millions and millions of people here who don't fit the stereotype, even if some do.
I hope so! However, to be found by that audience is another story altogether.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Hildred said:
My books center on Japanese queer minorities, facing the challenges of both long term relationships, and the unique issues that are presented in Japanese society for queer people. (particularly women. Which is another bag of fun.) Since they are romances, they all have HEA and HFN. No big tragedies other than the usual everyday sucks. Should probably note that, to my knowledge, most of my readers are women from North America and Europe.

I think as a cultural whole, in the West (and by West I mostly mean America) there's the general theory that people aren't interested in anything dealing with other cultures. (I run into this aaalll the time with Asian Music, a huge love of mine. "Omg why isn't it in English though???") But I think there is an audience for everything. As you said, pigeonholing isn't fun, and even in my local extremely xenophobic and ethnocentric culture, there are those who love to read about experiences outside of their own. There are also many themes that are considered "universal" such as love (romantic and platonic), death, and depression. One of my favorite authors, Amy Tan, has books that do take part in America with some Western characters, but usually the most praised parts are the backstories of life in China.

I will agree that there's a bit too much Western Savior out there for my tastes, particularly in earlier works.

I think women's fiction with a Muslim protagonist can find a great audience out there - in fact, I'm sure there are many readers hungry for this very thing. (I know it sounds interesting to me.) Of course, you will get the readers who don't understand why it has anything to do with them, or will read it just to tout how cultured they are, but you'll also be reaching a readership who will really appreciate what you are doing.

To be sure, it's an interesting discussion.
Hildred, I wish to ask you, is the Unique Selling Proposition of your book, the Japanese culture, or is it erotica? Are your books being read for an exotic twist in erotica? If, lets say, they had no adult content, would they still find an equal or larger content?

As for Muslim fiction, I agree that there is a big unserved market for that. However, again, that market feeds on stereotypes, which can be gauged from the available titles. What's present is, child brides, all possible forms of female abuse, and ofcourse militancy.
 

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rubyscribe said:
I hope so! However, to be found by that audience is another story altogether.
I'm sure that's very true. Heck, I'd settle for being found by the absolutely average American reader, and it ain't exactly happening. If you write something more challenging or unusual, it must be a great deal harder to reach those who are interested.
 

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rubyscribe said:
Hildred, I wish to ask you, is the Unique Selling Proposition of your book, the Japanese culture, or is it erotica? Are your books being read for an exotic twist in erotica? If, lets say, they had no adult content, would they still find an equal or larger content?

As for Muslim fiction, I agree that there is a big unserved market for that. However, again, that market feeds on stereotypes, which can be gauged from the available titles. What's present is, child brides, all possible forms of female abuse, and ofcourse militancy.
Honestly? Neither. Most of my readers seem more interested in the 40yo MCs aspect, long term relationships, and for some of them the polyamory. (All aspects sorely lacking from most romance in general, let alone lesbian romance.) I am sure there are some who read it solely for the "hawt japenese womenz sexx0rz" but I'm not writing for them. I'm writing for other queer women, and it so happens in this case that I decided to focus on Japan as it's a place/culture I have a lot of personal experience with. (And because the base story is a spinoff for another series, in which the characters were created.) I have some friends/readers tell me they care more about the plot of the story than the fact there was any sex in it, and according to my reviews, most seemed apprehensive that it would be TOO sexual - as in, all porn, no plot, but were happy to find that's not the case at all. I consider my series a romance above anything else, but obviously an erotic one since I like writing about sexual relationships and my characters are sexually liberated women (for the most part.) My rock and hard place is that lots of places turn away anything with erotic elements, so while I consider it romance I also have to label it "erotic" to appease the algos and webmasters.

Yes, the markets feed on stereotypes. But at this time one of the only ways to combat those stereotypes is to show the alternative. I think part of the reason why child / female abuse is so prevalent in some markets is because of the White Savior idea that that's all that goes on in other cultures and the armchair passive "Oh, wow, that's so horrible!" I'm not quite sure what to tell you beyond write what you think should be out there - it may take a while longer, but I think readers will eventually pick up on what you're offering and be really appreciative.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Becca Mills said:
I'm sure that's very true. Heck, I'd settle for being found by the absolutely average American reader, and it ain't exactly happening. If you write something more challenging or unusual, it must be a great deal harder to reach those who are interested.
In a way, being a foreign fiction writer, helps in standing out from the crowd, because I have a pre-sold audience (one that wants to read about Muslims) with few options. Though, getting them to read more than 1,2 books and become brand loyal, may be a challenge but getting that first sale is easier. In your case, the first buy can lead to brand loyalty, as you're serving a category need (whichever genre you write in).

I think in the end, it boils down to great writing. If any one author can be interesting enough, fans may follow.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Hildred said:
Honestly? Neither. Most of my readers seem more interested in the 40yo MCs aspect, long term relationships, and for some of them the polyamory. (All aspects sorely lacking from most romance in general, let alone lesbian romance.) I am sure there are some who read it solely for the "hawt japenese womenz sexx0rz" but I'm not writing for them. I'm writing for other queer women, and it so happens in this case that I decided to focus on Japan as it's a place/culture I have a lot of personal experience with. (And because the base story is a spinoff for another series, in which the characters were created.) I have some friends/readers tell me they care more about the plot of the story than the fact there was any sex in it, and according to my reviews, most seemed apprehensive that it would be TOO sexual - as in, all porn, no plot, but were happy to find that's not the case at all. I consider my series a romance above anything else, but obviously an erotic one since I like writing about sexual relationships and my characters are sexually liberated women (for the most part.) My rock and hard place is that lots of places turn away anything with erotic elements, so while I consider it romance I also have to label it "erotic" to appease the algos and webmasters.

Yes, the markets feed on stereotypes. But at this time one of the only ways to combat those stereotypes is to show the alternative. I think part of the reason why child / female abuse is so prevalent in some markets is because of the White Savior idea that that's all that goes on in other cultures and the armchair passive "Oh, wow, that's so horrible!" I'm not quite sure what to tell you beyond write what you think should be out there - it may take a while longer, but I think readers will eventually pick up on what you're offering and be really appreciative.
That's good then, that you have claimed a stake in an unusual niche. That niche comes from older characters and their complex relationships, which I assume finds an audience in older readers.

True that about the reader eventually finding the "different" but great writer. Now, how to be a "great" writer! :)
 

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rubyscribe said:
That's good then, that you have claimed a stake in an unusual niche. That niche comes from older characters and their complex relationships, which I assume finds an audience in older readers.

True that about the reader eventually finding the "different" but great writer. Now, how to be a "great" writer! :)
Interestingly, most of those readers (that I know of) are my age, or mid-late 20s. I think a lot of it just has to do with people being tired of the usual teen/college romance tropes. Somebody mentioned they like knowing what happens after the "happily ever after."

Maybe it's like Field of Dreams - if you write it, they will come!
 

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rubyscribe, I'm glad you brought this up. When reading a lot of "third world" stories that became popular in the U.S., I find so many are sensationalist. I was fascinated in the beginning, like The Kite Runner and The Joy Luck Club, but now I don't feel like re-reading them anymore. I want to see more of "normal" stories--all of us, whether in the West, East, anywhere, have very human problems. Like friendships in school, frustrations at work, problems in relationships, family, etc.

Hildred, while I'm not exactly your target audience, I appreciate your effort in writing something different. I love Japanese culture, but it's so much more than anime and samurais and ninjas, and it seems that's what only gets noticed. Modern, urban Japanese life is sadly neglected or portrayed as just "weird" (like the movies Lost in Translation, Babylon).

All the best with your writing, and hope that your stories will find more readers and gain more influence!  :) 
 

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Aya Ling said:
rubyscribe, I'm glad you brought this up. When reading a lot of "third world" stories that became popular in the U.S., I find so many are sensationalist. I was fascinated in the beginning, like The Kite Runner and The Joy Luck Club, but now I don't feel like re-reading them anymore. I want to see more of "normal" stories--all of us, whether in the West, East, anywhere, have very human problems. Like friendships in school, frustrations at work, problems in relationships, family, etc.

Hildred, while I'm not exactly your target audience, I appreciate your effort in writing something different. I love Japanese culture, but it's so much more than anime and samurais and ninjas, and it seems that's what only gets noticed. Modern, urban Japanese life is sadly neglected or portrayed as just "weird" (like the movies Lost in Translation, Babylon).

All the best with your writing, and hope that your stories will find more readers and gain more influence! :)
I think sensationalist is a good word to describe it. I liken it back to my comment about westerners getting to sit in their comfy chairs and contemplate passive activism. I also ~love~ when somebody posts about going to a foreign country and remarking on how "THEY'RE REALLY JUST LIKE US!!! WOW!" Like really no ****.

And aw, thanks! I get a nice big fat cringe every time I do keyword searches on my works and see some really...uh, "no thanks" results. Mine's slowly creeping up and overtaking stuff like "Ninja Girls Go Wild". :-X

As I keep saying, I think there are definitely audiences out there waiting to read about the everyday in other cultures, it's just a matter of them actually finding you through the other stuff. (Especially if they've been burned a lot.)
 
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