Crowd Marketing of ‘West Meets East in Kazakhstan’


During the 1990s and into the 2000s, I wrote articles for The Almaty Herald weekly, English language newspaper.  The articles gave my perspective on what I was seeing or experiencing as an American expatriate in Kazakhstan during the early years of independence.

I received many favorable comments over the years, including suggestions from several people that I wrap the articles up in book form.

Well, I might be gullible but I took those people at their word so I scratched around for my copies to prepare them for publication.  That wasn’t easy.  Most of my personal files in Almaty were destroyed when the owner of the apartment above mine decided to hire some cowboys to remodel his premises.  I don’t know what the result was upstairs, but my “office” was flooded by cascading water that ruined all of my paperwork.  I was away at the time and the people who looked after my apartment unceremoniously junked all the papers.  Yikes!

We know that some history is written on the basis of the records and rubble that remain.  The rest is lost for all time.  My book similarly reflects what survives, not all that I wrote.

Fortunately, I had physical copies of many of the articles in England, and quite a few of them were saved on what were called floppy discs, those 3 inch by 3 inch hard things that contained the disc inside.  But some discs turned out to be non-functioning.

Not all was fortunate in England, however.  One fierce winter some mice got into my garage and discovered some pages from The Almaty Herald which they proceeded to chew at the edges in order to line their nest.

Anyway, between salvaged floppy discs and the physical copies, I pulled together around 50 of the articles.  I had to re-type some of them and I re-edited the others.  Then I added in some new material.

The book, like the articles, defies easy classification.  The book might find a place in a library under sociology, travel, contemporary history, and lots of other topics. Perhaps I do not achieve the perceptiveness and scope or eloquence of an Alexis de Tocqueville when commenting on the ways of another country but, in my small way, I think readers, even those in Kazakhstan, will enjoy seeing themselves as someone else has seen them, at least as they were 20 years ago.

The next problem was publication.  Turns out that no traditional publisher was interested in the manuscript.  I am not a known or previously published author (legal writing does not count), and Kazakhstan, while better known now than 15 or 20 years ago, is not thought to be of sufficient general audience interest to risk the investment in publication.  Publishing, particularly in the hardcopy print form, is expensive.  Editing, cover design, font selection, printing, warehousing, marketing – they all cost money which is lost if the book does not sell.

I decided to persist and discovered AuthorHouse in Indiana.  They publish books in hardcopy and ebook form for lots of authors.  In the old vernacular, this is referred to as ‘vanity’ publishing.  You know, people who think they can write want to see their stuff printed with their name on it and to have two copies forever held on file at the Library of Congress or the British Library or wherever filing is mandatory for copyright purposes.

For my part, I didn’t think this was vanity publishing.  I thought I had something to say that was interesting, even important.  Of course that may be what vanity is all about.

Anyway,  I treat the book as ‘self-published’.  That is, I wrote the book, designed the cover, arranged proofreading, sought editorial comments, and chose the typeface.  Then I paid the publisher to pack it together in attractive book form and ebook format.  They provide some marketing support, such as with Amazon, but mainly look to me to find the market.  I am proud of the result and truly believe quite a few people will enjoy the book – if I can locate them!

That is where you might help.

If you bought the book:  Thank you very much!  I appreciate the support and hope that you enjoyed the book or are still enjoying it.  Now, please consider going a few steps further:

–    Recommend the book to someone you know.  Maybe to a former expatriate who worked in Kazakhstan or a person currently working there, or a local resident who might enjoy seeing themselves as someone else has seen them.  You aren’t limited to people who worked in Kazakhstan.  Might have been in one of the other ‘Stans’ or elsewhere in the former Soviet space.

–     Make a gift of the book. There are lots of people for whom buying a gift at this time of year is very difficult.  If you order through Authorhouse, the publisher, you can purchase a ‘bookstub’ which works like a gift certificate for an ebook version of my book.

–     Write a review, such as on Amazon, or send it to me and I will post it on Facebook or LinkedIn.  See if you can beat this extract from a 5-star review of the book on Amazon:  “Never have I seen a book about Kazakhstan that would have so much insight delivered with equal amount of warmth and humour. Apart from being one of the top western lawyers in town in the 90- 00s, Tom turned out to be someone akin to Bill Bryson of Kazakhstan.”

If you didn’t buy the book:  All right, it’s not for everyone and that’s OK with me, but if you meant to but never got around to purchasing it, place your order now.  Here are the links:

Publisher – AuthorHouse


Barnes & Noble

If you are in Kazakhstan:  Buying a hardcopy can be a pain in the neck, and the pocketbook.  If you order from abroad, you need to pay the purchase price, delivery charges, 25% import duty and 12% VAT.  That’s a lot.  I’m still looking for a local POD (“Print-On-Demand”) printer in Almaty that I can authorize to produce the book locally.  I’ll keep trying.  Meanwhile, if you go to the West you might buy a few copies for yourself and friends.

Happily, my publisher (AuthorHouse) has arrangements with some overseas POD printers, but not in Kazakhstan.  I did a test purchase here in England and, although I paid in U.S. dollars to AuthorHouse, the books came from a town near Birmingham.  You might be lucky too.

If you don’t want a copy of the book for yourself, you might still consider buying one for a friend, such as one with some past or present connection with Kazakhstan.

Thanks for any help you can provide!

Tom Johnson




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s