Publisher Hey Uhm
There was a writer that would “directly sell” her writing to readers through Social Media. It is the story of writer Lee Seula, who came up with a clever idea to continue securing stable finance through writing. This fresh approach shocked the publishing industry which sparked little changes to take place. And writer Lee Seula, the one that ignited the changes, set up Hey Uhm to create books she wants. Writing a story and making a book. They are different in many aspects by nature except one thing that they are all for readers. Still, many questions arose regarding the publisher that was born with a bold decision and its founder.
Writer Lee Seul-ah, founder of Publisher Hey Uhm ⓒ Ryu Han-kyung
The name of the company, Hey Uhm, is unique. What does the name “Hey Uhm” imply?
“Hey Uhm” is a pure Korean word that means “to swim.” The feeling I get from this word is beautiful. I learned how to swim in my childhood from my Dad, who was a swimming instructor and an industrial engineer diver. The swimming senses he taught me have been of great help in my life. I think they even helped me write. When you swim, the power you put into your body never helps you to stay afloat. It was the same with writing. I think swimming taught me the movement of powerfully pushing forward while smoothly relaxing my body. I want to do the same thing with writing and publishing. I named the company with the wish to joyfully swim in the vast sea of the publishing industry.
Many writers eagerly write stories, but they do not always guarantee profit to make ends meet.
And I think I was lucky in this regard.
Writer Lee Seula has a unique career of steadily selling her essay “Daily Seula Lee” by gathering readers herself. What kind of an experience was it to write for a living?
I began working as a full-time author after writing “Daily Seula Lee.” In the past, you could make money with writing only when you are requested by a newspaper, magazine, or a publisher. But then in early 2018, I got to think that it would be good if I could gather readers with my Social Media channel. So my idea was to send stories directly to the email of the readers who prepaid subscription. It did not have an intermediary. As few writers directly sold stories to their readers, it was quite a fresh experience for me and the readers. I also think it was a highly valuable and thankful experience as I made a living and repaid the student loan by writing. Many writers eagerly write stories, but they do not always guarantee profit to make ends meet. And I think I was lucky in this regard. After “Daily Seula Lee”, many authors adopted this method and began to sell their stories to the readers. I am indeed on their side.
How much did your experience of “making a living by writing” contribute to opening a publishing company?
Labor to make ends meet was not something new to me as I have been doing it since I was 19 years old. I used to have two or three jobs, so making a living by writing only was like a dream. I am sincerely thankful for what I have today as I know that such luck may not last forever. As I tend to do almost everything by myself, I could independently write stories and begin publishing. I also did some collaboration with other authors, but it was a double-edged sword: you not only learn the synergy effect but also the inefficiency and emotional exhaustion. That is why I would rather choose to do things that I can take full control of in most cases.
<Daily Seula Lee Essay Book>
What was the difference between your book as a writer and your book as the leader of a publisher? Independently publishing your book would have been different from having a big publisher as the intermediary.
In 2018, two books were published in Fall at the same time. They were <Daily Seula Lee Essay Book> made by Hey Uhm and <Whenever I Cry, I Resemble My Mom’s Face> published by Munhakdongne. Both of them are precious to me. Munhakdongne is one of the major publishing companies in Korea, where outstanding professional publishers produce books. The book <Whenever I Cry, I Resemble My Mom’s Face> has almost no mistakes compared to <Daily Seula Lee Essay Book> that I made myself. The completion of the main text is better, as well. Meanwhile, <Daily Seula Lee Essay Book> was greatly loved by readers. Maybe it was because of the cover design that would have not been passed by the publishing companies and the thickness of the book.
Essay stands in bookstores are mainly filled with books that have covers with “added design.”; those of Hey Uhm relatively have “less design.” I believe that a simple experimental idea was embedded in <Daily Seula Lee Essay Book>. Even though the book may be clumsy, it is amazing that a rookie publisher sold 20 thousand copies in a year. But still, I think I will sometimes work with professional editors from other publishers. It is because it is difficult for an author to properly edit his or her own story, and besides, it is such a precious experience to work with an editor that I respect. So a new work will be published by Munhakdongne in 2020 as well. I am also planning to make <Anyway, Karaoke> with Hugo Publishing House, a small but outstanding publisher.
<Physical and Mental Training>, <Clear Respect>, <You are Waiting to be Born Again>
Please tell us about the books Hey Uhm has been publishing.
<Daily Seula Lee Essay Book> mentioned above was the first one. It is a think essay collection composed of almost 100 “Daily Seula Lee” essays written in 2018. Many readers left a comment that they cherish reading each of the essays even though the book may be thick. Also, in the winter of 2019, it published many new works. They were the three works by Lee Seula, the No. 1 writer in Hey Uhm. The first work was an essay book titled <Physical and Mental Training>. It is about the body and mind that support our everyday life. Second is an interview book titled <Clear Respect>. It contains long dialogues I had as I met four people that I respect. As it is such a beautiful interview book, it became one of my most precious books. And I also created a book-review collection titled <You are Waiting to be Born Again>, which talks about love borrowing the words from the books that I read over several times. In addition, there is also <Browsing Seoul> written and illustrated by Jung Jae-Yun, the No. 2 writer in Hey Uhm. It is a magnificent feature-length comic book that talks about Seoul from outside. It will make you giggle as you read, but you will also become sad without notice; yet, it will make you look for it again after finishing the book.
You are known to be quite skilled at utilizing Social Media. You must have used Social Media to advertise books published by Hey Uhm as well. Is there any know-how or a sales point that you emphasize when advertising them?
Well, I will never fully understand Social Media. So there is no such thing as know-how or a strategy regarding advertisement. I just try not to be too kind or too excited when posting. I tend not to upload things that are buttery, depressing, or sorrowful. The same thing goes for creating works too. I want to be a person that does not use Social Media at all in the future, but who knows how things will work out in the end?
I had no idea that publishing requires the labor and effort of so many people.
Writer Lee Seula and leader of Hey Uhm Lee Seula. As an ordinary person making a living with a career, which one is more fun?
Writer Lee Seula is more fun. Growing as a writer is the priority. But I learn a lot of things that I would have never known by working as a publisher. I had no idea that publishing requires the labor and effort of so many people. As I visited printing houses, paper companies, distributors, logistics centers, delivery companies and departments of many bookstores and met people, I got to respect and be thankful for all of them. Also, I could understand numerous systems related to publishing to a small extent. Because I make critical mistakes in the process of production and sales and fix them again very hard, I never get to forget them. So even though Hey Uhm may close in 2 years, I would think that it was worth the try.
<Browsing Seoul> ⓒ Kim Jin Sol
Writer Jung Jae-Yun published her feature-length comic book <Browsing Seoul> through Hey Uhm. As the leader of a publisher, how was the process like from contacting the author to adjusting schedules, editing, designing, and printing?
As Hey Uhm was a just-born publisher, there was no plan nor room to hire other authors. Writer Jung Jae-Yun is a good author as she decided to push forward the publication regardless of it. She has an insight into “something Korean.” To be precise, she sees through the unique humor of Korea. She is a person that heartily looks at things that she does not like. If Lee Seula is a writer that well explains why the thing she likes is good, Jung Jae-Yun is skilled at explaining why the thing she does not like is bad. She also has a meticulous sense of humor as well. I believed that it was the role of Hey Uhm to highlight the skills that I don’t have, but she has. Publishing was smooth and simple thanks to the good manuscript and neat work processing of Jung Jae-Yun. At book talks as well, I get to learn more about her courageous and candid charming points. Publishing is such a wonderful work as the outstanding talents of another author can be something positive to me as well.
Lastly, please tell us about the books that are set to be published by Hey Uhm.
There are no plans for new works for now. I feel like having a break and stop producing as four new works were published recently. As “Daily Seula Lee” for 2020 is set to begin in April, I think I will be busy until Fall writing, but I am planning to write and publish a book about veganism that I am also pursuing. I would be contacting No. 3 authors too, but it will be in a distant future. No matter what kind of books I publish, I try to reduce unnecessary packaging or trash caused by product packaging. I might also be working in another form than paper books. Moreover, I am thinking of gathering stories by having workshops at Hey Uhm located in Paju. I believe that it is the job of a publisher to protect and record good stories.
Arranged by Jeong Hwan-jeong