'I Am Going to Live in Brisbane': HSE Alumna Publishes Book about Her Time in Australia
Upon finishing undergraduate and graduate programmes in Political Science (2014, 2016), Sofia Glazunova went to study in a PhD programme in Australia. Now Sofia is a research fellow at Queensland University of Technology (QUT), lecturer, and the author of the book I'm Going to Live in Brisbane, dedicated to her experience of moving to Australia and myths about studying abroad. In an interview, Sofia discusses her blog on Telegram, how it was transformed into a book, and the pitfalls one can encounter in the publishing business.
— You are the author of the book I'm Going to Live in Brisbane. What is the book about, and how did you come up with the idea to write it?
— When I came to Brisbane, I started a blog on Telegram. Initially, it was just for my friends and family. I posted some notes about my life in Australia there, and one day, for some reason, I decided to combine all my posts into one text. And it was a real book. I asked my friends if I should publish it or not. I gained their support and started editing the text and adding some details.
I found myself in the flow of writing. I did not notice how time flew by; the writing went swiftly and easily. My journalist genes really came out.
I really wanted to help Russian students get into foreign universities and dispell the myth that studying abroad is expensive and not possible for people from modest families. In fact, it is a great deal simpler. All you need is willingness, knowledge, and effort.
I wanted other people to want to try it after reading my book. Don't get me wrong—the Russian system of higher education is really strong, and I guess I would not have wanted to get my bachelor's degree in any other country. However, having obtained new opportunities and knowledge here, you can compete with scholars from abroad. It was something that could resonate within the soul of a genuine and passionate researcher, and I wanted to refer to this topic.
— Do you think you managed to do this?
— I would say yes and no. My book is not a bestseller, and I am no Stephen King. It is a short work and its target audience is narrow – Russian students of bachelor's, master's and doctoral programmes. When the book hit the stores, these people started contacting me on social media and asking questions.
Not so long time ago, I finally met a girl from Russia, who came to study in Brisbane. Like me, she was originally from a small town. She was also a graduate of HSE University (the Moscow campus) and got accepted to my university. She found me thanks to the book, and I hope that my advice will help her to adjust to living in Australia and prevent unnecessary mistakes.
In general, I am happy to have such a collection of lifehacks to which I can refer while answering similar requests. Besides, if Russian students find me thanks to this book, it means that it touched them, affected their decisions, and, probably, it might affect their future too. Feedback is essential for me.
— Do you plan to reach a new audience, like English-speaking students?
— In fact, I have already started doing this. However, it's slow-going because I do not have enough time.
There is something else. I've realized that my book may significantly change after being translated. In the book, everything refers to the Russian context, experience, humour, and culture, which will not be clear for a foreign reader. However, there is a demand. All my colleagues and students are saying that I should publish the book in English.
As soon as I have time and energy, I will definitely publish an English-language version of my book.
— Did you publish the book yourself?
— Yes, at some moment I felt that I wanted to control the entire process. I did not want my book to gather dust on the bottom shelf in some 'Bukvoed' (one of the largest bookshops in Saint Petersburg - ed.). At the same time, I was well aware that even in such a bookstore there would be no customers who come in looking specifically for a book by Sofia Glazunova.
There are two ways to publish a book. The first one is using publishing house services. Provided that they like your idea, they take all the costs of publishing, get revenue, and you get your royalties.
The second model implies that you do everything on your own. You should find an editor and designer, bookshops, negotiate with a printing house about a print run and release. This is more difficult, but it is the way that gives you more control. Digital technology make the task easier. The Internet allows one to do things without any in-person meetings and negotiations.
Besides, I was lucky. My mom is a professional editor, one of my friends is a designer, and I have another friend who is a proof-reader. They were happy to help me. Even though I did not invest much money and effort, the book turned out to be sincere, as I wanted.
Initially, I released a digital book. Many read books on their smartphones now, so it seemed convenient. Many, but not everyone. Because of many requests, we decided to release a so-called souvenir edition, which quickly sold out.
— What should you be aware of if you want to publish a book?
— The main pitfall is choosing a publishing model. It is clear that all famous publishers will turn unknown authors down. Even if they agree to publish your book, the mark-up for it will be huge in the bookstores, which will significantly limit the audience. Meanwhile, my audience consists of students, and I want my book to be available to them.
Promotion is another key aspect. Should you want your project to become profitable, invest in it. I did not have any commercial promotion of I'm going to live in Brisbane. One can find the book on almost any digital platform - LitRes, Ozon, Amazon, Bookmate. It has its pages on Instagram and VKontakte. Word of mouth is also effective for promotion. I do not think that books for a narrow audience will bring any significant amount of money. If it will bring anything at all. It is more for pleasure.
— Do you plan to write more books?
— Yes, I am writing a book now. It is not a sequel to I'm going to live in Brisbane. In my new book, which has a working title 'Preferred Candidate', I am writing about the psychology of relationships. First, my academic activity is related to social networks, where quick and shallow relationships are becoming more widespread. At the same time, social networks may become a prerequisite to deep and meaningful relationships.
Second, my first book's chapter 'How to Marry an Australian' has proved of interest to my readers. I have received so many questions and comments, so I guess my second book will not be complete without it, plus, I am curious about this too.