After a 24-year career in publishing, Erika Berg began running visual storytelling workshops with refugees—mostly ethnic and religious minorities from Burma, people whose voices were rarely heard. It was this experience, that inspired Berg to self-publish Forced to Flee: Visual Stories by Refugee Youth from Burma.
Publishers Weekly reviewed the book, saying, “[the] power for an American audience derives from the artists' ability to express private struggles and grief with universally understandable images that transcend language and cultural barriers. The book as a whole articulates the human cost of systematic abuses in a profoundly approachable, moving way.”
When Berg announced the project, countless people donated their support to it, not only through the book’s Kickstarter campaign, but by sharing their publishing experience as well. According to Berg, the publishing process was surprisingly straightforward.
Since her book’s publication, Berg has continued working with refugees and is using her book and its companion website as an advocacy tool for giving voice to refugees. She’s also in talks with potential visual storytelling workshop facilitators from Syria about the possibility of publishing a second book.
We asked Berg for her advice for indie authors working on unique projects like her own:
Keep Your Eyes Open
“When conceptualizing your book, keep your antennae up for possible win-win partnerships. I put a lot of effort into investing potential advocates into the book’s success; that is, cultivating a shared sense of purpose and ownership. I solicited content reviews from 42 ethnic community leaders in Burma and directors of refugee programs. In addition to offering suggestions, they contributed testimonials which lent credibility in hard-to-reach segments of the book’s market. I used LinkedIn to connect with journalists interested in writing about Burma and refugees. Finally, I started befriending advocates as soon as I facilitated my first visual storytelling workshop. Everyone who played a key role in the development of Forced to Flee has benefitted personally and professionally and academically. The benefits have been short term and long.”
It’s Your Book
“Be fastidious about quality. If you aren’t wild about the type font, leading, color scheme, paper, trim size, binding, and of course content -- about every aspect of your book, why would anyone else be? The prouder you are of your book, the more determined you will be that it is successful.”
Off the Beaten Path
“When it comes to marketing, again, be alert to possible win-win partnerships. Forced to Flee’s most fruitful events haven’t been at bookstores; they have been hosted by school districts, universities, organizations, etc. that had even more to gain from a large turnout and media coverage than I did.”