Trafficking for Begging: Old Game, New Name, discusses her book, her journey as a writer, and self-publishing on Kindle.
DAVID WISEHART: What can you tell us about Trafficking for Begging: Old Game, New Name?
IVETA CHERNEVA: Let’s start with the title. What do you think when you hear ‘trafficking for begging’? Do you think of human trafficking? Have you considered that begging can be human trafficking? This is exactly what the book is trying to accomplish by arguing that certain forms of begging should be considered human trafficking. With this title, I also wanted to underscore that the practice has been around for a long time, hence: old game. In the same time, I wanted to draw attention to the fact that we are shaking up things here and re-conceptualizing old phenomena into new legal shapes and contours.
DAVID WISEHART: How did you research your book?
IVETA CHERNEVA: I observed the streets of Geneva in Switzerland, and tried to detect similarities in begging patterns. Often I also saw the interaction between beggars and begging pimps. I added news from other parts of the world where this happens—developing and developed countries alike. On the more technical side, I researched international law, as well as domestic legislation and cases from around the world. I looked into different campaigns; read books and articles. Another bit, which is not usual for an international law piece, is the psychological analysis contained in the book. Do you give money to people on the street thinking you are helping them? Have you thought about why you do? I thought that the only way to answer this was to merge law and psychology, and on that basis suggest a policy direction.
DAVID WISEHART: What can we do about this issue, both as individuals and as a society?
IVETA CHERNEVA: In my view, the laws against human trafficking should be adapted to cover that form as well. Begging victims should not be treated as criminals, but should be assisted. The real criminals here are the begging pimps. In order to discourage this activity, we should also stop giving money to beggars on the street, which is perhaps the most controversial assertion the book makes. I leave the readers make up their mind after considering the pros and cons for this recommendation.
DAVID WISEHART: Who do you imagine is your ideal reader?
IVETA CHERNEVA: I feel any author would like to answer ‘anyone’ to this question. My book would be of interest to people interested in reading about social and political problems. Also students of international relations, public policy, law, human rights and international law, practitioners, lawyers and of course those fiction lovers who would like to become familiar with a very non-fiction problem, while connecting real life stories.
DAVID WISEHART: What was your journey as a writer?
IVETA CHERNEVA: Writing has been a part of my work, irrespective of whether I’ve worked in academia, for a non-profit organization or for the United Nations. When people speak about the divide between practitioners and the real world, on one hand, and academia and theory, on the other hand, I always wanted to say that this doesn’t have to be that way. I try to make use of what I encounter at the work place—be it new evidence and research, or simply an intuitive direction as to where political processes might be headed. Traditional publishing came to me first in the context of my work. The first book I co-authored in 2009 entitled Beyond Market Forces: Regulating the Global Security Industry was published by a mainstream publisher. The next project I started was for a traditional publisher as well (Cambridge University Press), which will see the day light in 2012.
And only very recently I realized that amazingly self-publishing was an option, too. I just couldn’t resist.
DAVID WISEHART: What is your writing process?
IVETA CHERNEVA: Usually I start writing in my head. Then I just sit down in front of the keyboard and it pours out. I am definitely a night bird. I write at night. That’s when I feel alone with my thoughts after all the impressions of the day. When I sit down, I tend to write relentlessly. Sometimes up to 10 hours in a row when I have all my ideas and research ready. I do as it feels. Sometimes my back and shoulders complain though, and I have to listen to these guys, too.
DAVID WISEHART: What authors most inspire you?
IVETA CHERNEVA: I love Arundhati Roy. Her world is magical.
I just finished reading The Justice Game by Randy Singer. The novel is fantastic and exciting! I also enjoy romantic stories and my favorite author in this area is Leslie Kelly.
DAVID WISEHART: What one book, written by someone else, do you wish you'd written yourself?
IVETA CHERNEVA: It would have to be The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy.
DAVID WISEHART: How have you marketed and promoted your work?
IVETA CHERNEVA: That’s the tricky bit, which has become a bone of contention in so many Kindle blogs and forums. It’s called ‘self-publishing’. Yet, ‘self-promotion’ carries a stigma. To be honest, I have taken a step back from the Kindle blogs and forums, which I sometimes find aggressive especially when negative vibes stream from other authors as well! Personally, I have relied on friends and connections who forward the flyer about the book to individuals who might be interested and also potential reviewers. Friends have been great and helpful in featuring it in events they organize and on their blogs, adding it to their ‘goodreads’ list and tweeting and posting it on Twitter and Facebook. Especially for a legal book with a narrower audience, indiscriminate messaging and posting, I find, may harm your baby more than help it. That’s why I chose the network path, which is what lead me to this interview for which I am thankful.
DAVID WISEHART: Why publish on Kindle?
IVETA CHERNEVA: There is something ultimately intimate about a self-published Kindle ebook and this is exactly how I feel about Trafficking for Begging. It might sound cliché, but this is the first and only book I really feel as my baby. I was responsible for formatting, selecting an image for the cover, publishing it and carrying out the press work around the launch. Self-publishing is just great and gives you the unparalleled feeling of ownership and intimacy. In terms of content, Kindle was the only option for what I wanted to achieve with Trafficking for Begging. David, as you’ve noticed, my books are not exactly about love and adventure—I write about human rights violations, which often means sad and heavy topics. With Trafficking for Begging I wanted to bring the real world into the legal content. That perhaps would have raised a brow in some academic circles. Just as an example, in Trafficking for Begging I include vivid stories of begging victims told in their own words. Had I not self-published it, but dealt with a law publisher instead, I assume these parts might have not survived at the expense of pure legal narrative. I am grateful that Kindle exists and the book can profit from a hybrid law/personal story model, which otherwise probably wouldn’t have been possible.
DAVID WISEHART: What advice would you give to a first-time author thinking of self-publishing on Kindle?
IVETA CHERNEVA: To self-publish or not—here there is no question. You can only win if you do. Be sure in your writing. Make sure your cover is well done and the image is high quality. Time well your book launch around an important event or significant date, so that you can profit from attention to the issue or the genre. Reinvigorate your network. And go for it, buddy!
DAVID WISEHART: Thanks, and best of luck with your book.
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