I Could Have Been A White Man But I Remained Asian

As a kid, I loved watching martial arts movies. Drunken Master starring Jackie Chan was one of my favorites. So when I stumbled across a new old show called Kung Fu starring David Carradine, I was thrilled!

I was eight years old and attending Taipei American School at the time. Each summer, I'd go back to my paternal grandparent's home in Honolulu. In the mornings before breakfast, my grandparents would let me watch TV. I'd usually just stick to watching the cartoons like Thundercats or GI Joe. But not this particular morning.

The first thing I thought when I watched Kung Fu was why was this show so slow and gloomy? The second thing I thought was why did the main character look so strange? He looked like a white guy trying to play an Asian guy's role. Ah hah, he was a white guy playing an Asian monk! As a kid, the topics were also too advanced for me, so I quickly lost interest in the show.

It wasn't until I was older did I learn about the controversy regarding Bruce Lee. Bruce Lee's widow asserts that Bruce came up with the show's concept and expected to be cast in the lead role. But Warner Brothers supposedly stole the idea and shut him out. The studio thought it was too risky to have a “non-American” be the lead.

Apparently, Kung Fu was a huge hit with American TV viewers in the 1970s. However, I just didn't get it as a kid who grew up watching much more amazing martial arts shows in Taiwan and Malaysia.

Race As A Business Decision

As a businessman myself, I understand the rationale for casting a white person as the lead character in a martial arts TV show in America. After all, roughly 87% of the American population in 1970 was white.

In contrast, Asian people only accounted for 0.75% of the U.S. population back then. Even if you got 100% of the Asian population to watch Kung Fung, it wouldn't bring enough business compared to having just 1% of the white population watch.

If the show flopped, it might adversely affect the careers of the producers, writers, and directors, all of whom were white. Hence, race was mainly a business decision for the show.

Today, 50 years later, race is clearly still a factor in business decisions. Let me explain with my own recent experience. Instead of visual, it has to do with audio.

Could Have Been A White Man But Remained Asian

After finishing the written production of the hard copy of my book, Buy This, Not That: How To Spend Your Way To Wealth And Freedom, it was time for me to do an audio version. Note, if purchasing a hard copy is the best version due to the charts and art.

I was contacted by a nice audio producer with the following message:

Hello! I’m the producer at Penguin Random House Audio working on BUY THIS, NOT THAT, and I am excited to create this audiobook with you. I think you have a wonderful and relaxed writing style, and I think it will come across well in audio.

We can also include the charts from the book in a PDF that listeners can download from their audiobook app/retailer of choice. We’ll publish BUY THIS, NOT THAT as an unabridged digital audiobook for both the retail and library markets on July 19, 2022.

The audiobook should run about 11 hours.

Concerning narrators, I’d like to recommend some narrators below:

Sean Patrick Hopkins (click to hear a sample of his voice)

Mike Carnes (click to hear a sample of his voice)

Sunil Malhotra (click to hear a sample of his voice)

Ultimately, I’m thinking of the voice of a young male, approachable and earnest, who can suggest that the advice in this book comes from someone who has been there themselves. If none of these specific voices is the one you imagine for your audiobook, I’m happy to suggest other options.

The Decision To Narrate Myself Or Not

As someone who has published a podcast for several years, I could definitely narrate the book myself. Therefore, I was initially a little dismayed he didn't first ask if I was interested in narrating. Me narrating would be the most authentic way to go. Besides, I feel like my voice sounds fine.

However, upon doing more research and surveying my newsletter subscribers, I changed my mind. Roughly 70% of my newsletter subscribers said I should narrate the book while 30% said I should get a professional narrator.

I had read 1-star complaints from listeners of other audiobooks who said the authors sounded terrible and were “unlistenable.” After all, we are professional writers, not speakers. It's kind of like when star sales people become managers and screw things up.

Even though I think my smooth jazz voice would do fine narrating my own book, I came up with a compromise. I would narrate the intro and the conclusion, and a professional would narrate the 15 chapters. A win-win!

Now it was off to find the right narrator.

More Narrator Options That Didn't Fit

While walking around the San Francisco Zoo with my daughter, I listened to Sean Patrick Hopkins, Mike Carnes, and Sunil Malhotra and for some reason, they just didn't sound quite right for my book.

I let my wife listen to their sample audios as well and she felt they weren't a good fit either. We both played voices on our phones without knowing their names.

Therefore, I asked the audio producer to send me more options when we got to the gorilla sanctuary. It's our daughter's favorite attraction.

The producer e-mailed me, Sean Runnette (click link to hear audio sample) as another potential. The producer said he didn't want the narrator to sound just like me, but rather someone that would be in the same ballpark.

He said, “We're not trying to fool the listeners. Instead, we're trying to find a voice that will sound natural saying your works.”

What the producer said totally made sense. So I gave Sean Runnette a listen and for some reason, he still didn't sound quite right to me either. I couldn't quite put my finger on it. I imagined him as a 64-year-old college professor in a wool sweater that didn't fit the bill.

Overcoming Awkwardness And A Realization

As I was playing back all the audio samples with my wife, it suddenly dawned on me. Not only did I have to get over the fact someone else would be narrating my words (felt strange), but it was also weird that I was given three white guys and one Indian guy as my possible choices.

Yes, I could have been an Indian guy too! I didn't think about the race of these narrators until after I listened to their audio samples three times each.

Maybe if a Taiwanese American guy from Hawaii narrated my words, I would feel more comfortable. Because in my mind, I want the narrator to be as closely representative of me as possible. But I suspected the number of professional narrators with my background was small.

Nevertheless, I asked the producer for more options, specifically Asian-American narrators and he delivered.

Please note, all this happened within an hour while we walked around the zoo with our daughter.

Final Narration Options: Vietnamese-American And Chinese-American Narrators

Finally, I was presented with the two following narrators: 

  • David Lee Huynh, a talented fellow who is relatively new to audio according to the producer.
  • Feodor Chin, a veteran to book narration and acting according to the producer.

I liked both narrators. David sounds like how I may have sounded when I was in my 20s or early 30s. I enjoyed his energy and wanted to go with him. Feodor, on the other hand, sounds like how I might sound in 10 years when I'm in my 50s. I enjoyed his gravity.

Once again, my wife quizzed each other on all the voices without revealing their names to try and remove bias. We just played different sections of each narration example as we walked around and ranked our top three choices.

In the end, I decided to go with Feodor because he sounded like the best fit. I'm only getting older, not younger. In my mind, Feodor provides a 10-year “voice runway” for Buy This, Not That. I'm hoping Feodor will read my book with more enthusiasm and freeness than he did in his sample book narration above, which has a more solemn topic.

At the end of the day, all the narrators would have been fine. I just went with one that felt and sounded the most natural to me.

After I chose Feodor, I looked up his background. It turns out Feodor Chin was born and raised in San Francisco, California, and is a graduate of the University of California, Los Angeles. He has also trained at the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco and the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater. As a 21-year resident of San Francisco, I guess my feeling about him was spot on!

Let's Change The Default Setting

When I initially got the narrator options, I thought nothing of race. This was my first merry-go-round narrating a book, so I just tried to understand the narration production process.

But by the end of the e-mail exchange, I realized several things.

1) The default setting for narrators weren't East Asian guys, even though I'm Taiwanese American.

I'm not sure if it occurred to the white audio producer that an Asian author may want to have an Asian narrator. It didn't even occur to me until the end what my preferences may be. In his defense, the producer didn't know what I looked like.

But after living overseas attending international schools and working in international equities, maybe my ears are more sensitive to identifying the races of different voices. I think I can tell if you're Korean American, Japanese American, Chinese American, Caucasian American, and Black American. There's got to be a fun test somewhere we can all do.

The audio producer did choose all males as potential narrators, which I assume is because I'm a male. It is obvious from my name and my podcast recordings.

Related: An Asian-American's View On Affirmative Action

2) You have to speak up, literally, if you want your preferences to be heard.

In no way was I forced to choose only from the narrators the producer had given me. He was very open to suggesting more narrators. I just had to keep on asking for more options until one felt right. This took me knowing what I wanted and self-advocating.

If you're in a situation that doesn't feel right, please find a way to speak up in a professional manner. Otherwise, it's going to forever bug you. To get ahead, you must self-advocate. And to be a better advocate of yourself, you must know thyself.

Once Buy This, Not That was released, every single person who purchased the audiobook version said they preferred it if I narrated the entire book.

3) Job opportunities are not equal.

If the default assumption is to go with white narrators, then that means non-white narrators will get less opportunity. If the audio producer was Taiwanese American, there may have been a higher chance he might have introduced me to more East Asian narrators. The same thing goes for if the audio producer was any other race.

I believe the audio producer just wanted to choose the best narrator for the book, which is a discovery process. However, many of us are naturally biased for those who look and sound like us. We're just not really aware of our biases, which is why some job opportunities and admissions are often not equal.

4) It's harder to speak up if your livelihood is at risk.

Pretend you are an Asian professional voice narrator looking for work in America. You're getting passed over for people with less experience because the affinity process works both ways.

It felt weird having a white guy narrate my book, so I went with an Asian guy. Again, this was based on doing a blind sound test without knowing their names. It also felt weird for Feodor Chin to narrate my entire book, so I felt I needed to at least narrate the intro and conclusion.

Given it felt weird for me, it probably feels equally as weird for some white authors to get narrated by an Asian person. Given the majority of authors and audio producers are white, if you are an Asian narrator, you've likely got fewer opportunities.

For more job opportunities, you may want to change your name so people think you're part of the majority. Depending on your genre, you may want to change your name to sound like a different sex.

You could write an op-ed piece during Asian heritage month elucidating the struggles you face as a minority narrator. However, you run the risk of getting blackballed from people in the industry who don't give a damn.

Do you dare speak out if you are not financially independent yet? Most people do not, hence why things are very slow to change. Change needs to also come from those in power. However, when you're in control, it's hard to give up opportunities you have for your people.

If there is one thing I love about being financially independent is that you can always speak your mind without fear of financial ruin. You don't have to put up with BS if you don't want to.

Personal Finance Is Relevant For Everyone

I highlight this voice narration example to share what some minorities have to contend with in order to advance. This example and others you might hear may sound trivial. But I assure you, they add up over time.

If the examples get to be too many, you might start questioning your own abilities and whether you should bother even trying. However, a large part about succeeding is believing you deserve to be there and can succeed.

I don't think people are inherently racist. We just have default settings and are taught a certain way growing up. It's easy for stereotypes to perpetuate, especially if we continue to mainly associate with people like us. The path of least resistance is to do that thing we've always been comfortable doing.

Below is a great chart that shows the racial makeup of published authors. If people who work at publishing companies are majority white and book reviewers at major publications are mostly white, then of course there will be more biased for white authors. Even the book blurbs are all quite homogenous.

Only about 1% of all writers land literary agents. And only about 10% of literary agents will successfully ink you a book deal with a top publisher. Hence, if you're a minority author, give yourself a big pat on the back! You beat the odds and then some!

Want your book published? White authors dominate

Facing Hard Truths But Trying Anyway

I know it will be harder for Buy This, Not That to hit the mainstream due to demographics and embedded biases. I won't get the same type of coverage or support and that's just the way it is.

Regardless, I've tried my best to add as much value as possible in the book. Hopefully, my words will transcend all types of people, as they have on Financial Samurai where more than 90 million people have visited so far since 2009.

Buy This Not That Book Reviews

But I also LOVE being the underdog. Trying to defy the odds is so much fun! Because if you succeed when the odds are highly stacked against you, you then eradicate any doubt as to whether you succeeded because of you or because of an advantage. Your courage to take action grows exponentially. If you fail, you were expected to fail anyway, so no big deal.

Imagine if you grew up rich and had well-connected parents. Throughout your entire life, they strategically donated ahead to the right privates schools where you always ended up. You might wonder whether you really got in based on merit.

When you graduate college, you end up at Goldman Sachs where your parents also so happen to be private clients. Did you get the job due to your stellar interviewing skills and academics? Or did your parents shoot an email to their wealth advisor to get you in front of the line? You'll never know because your parents are too smart to tell you.

There may be no more satisfying feeling professionally than making it on your own. It's why being an entrepreneur can be so addicting. Without you, there would be no product. The same cannot be said if you join a big organization that has already built a brand. And the worse your odds of succeeding, the greater the satisfaction!

Financial Education Is For Everyone

No matter who you are or what you look like, my goal is to help you get your money right so you can do more of what you want. I've got the experience and the results to show you how. Finance is not just the language of the elite.

Thanks for reading and listening. I'm confident Buy This, Not That is one of the best personal finance books today. It became an instant Wall Street Journal bestseller and now has over 330 5-start reviews on Amazon.

Finally, for this post, I looked up what all my potential narrators look like. It's fun to imagine what people look like only based off their voices and to finally see their faces. Only Mike Carnes was a little different than what I had imagined because I didn't expect the beard.

If you buy a hard copy of BTNT, you'll see my Asian face on the back cover. Will I look like what you imagine? And by the way, Buy This Not That became an instant Wall Street Journal bestseller. Not bad!

I Could Have Been A White Man But I Remained Asian - Potential narrators for Buy This, Not That. Top L to R: Sean Patrick Hopkins, Mike Carnes, Sunil Malhotra, Bottom L To R: Sean Runnette, David Lee Huynh, Feodor Chin
Top L to R: Sean Patrick Hopkins, Mike Carnes, Sunil Malhotra, Bottom L To R: Sean Runnette, David Lee Huynh, Feodor Chin

Readers, have you ever had the opportunity to be another race? Have you ever considered changing your name, the way you sound, or the way you look to gain an advantage? Do you think my decision to be true to myself will hurt book sales?

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53 thoughts on “I Could Have Been A White Man But I Remained Asian”

  1. Thanks Sam. The fact that you are a successful blogger of Asian heritage is heartwarming to me. There seems to be a mountain of personal finance websites written by mostly white Americans.

    I recently learned about a Canadian study that found job applications were 28% less likely to go to interview if the person had an Asian sounding last name. The pressure on minorities to anglicize their names/aliases because economic gains/losses are on the table is sad. So good for you for choosing a voice actor that you vibe with!

    I actually think putting your true yourself out there (on the book cover) will appeal to not just Asian-looking folks, but anyone who identifies as under-represented. If being true to yourself works anything like it did for me with high school friendship groups, my bet is it will reward you with a more loyal, quality audience :)

  2. Great article! Being half Asian and half white I have had to deal with the discrimination in our society my whole life. I could never understand why some peoples attitudes to me changed after they knew that I was half Asian. I work in IT for high tech companies, and my last role I was up for manger as I had been the team lead for a number of years. We had a shakeup of directors above our group and I got a new Director who rated me 1 his first year over me. I’ll never forget the day we had a 1×1 and I told him I was half Asian and the face he made was ridiculous. It went down hill from there and a year later I resigned ans he was leaving my input out of important meetings etc…

    I’m glad my I had the wonderful parents I have that they always taught us to treat everyone the same as we are all brothers and sisters…God’s children …

    Racism is still an issue in this country for a lot ethnic groups.

  3. I am Chinese American, South American to be specific. I tell my kid and other Asian kids who wonder what “American” means that the very first ones in this continent were Asians (by way of the Bering Land Bridge). This continent in essence was settled by East Asians who ended up becoming “Native American” over time. Just a little detail that doesn’t get much attention in school but one that every young person of Asian descent should be aware of. I don’t want the young generation to feel like they are foreign or that we are guests here, especially with all the anti-China stuff going on (where it ultimately leads to anti-Asian in general).

  4. Thanks for sharing your experiences. I went to request for my library to pre order the book only to find out it already pre-ordered 5! Exciting!

    Also a note on the racism and being able to choose race. My maiden name is white sounding even though I am Filipina American. My married name is Filipino / Hispanic sounding. I used to taut my maiden name around when I was younger as I did feel it gave me an advantage. Now I feel so guilty doing so because I realize now the colonialism of the Philippines runs so deep. I’m almost ashamed of my Lithuanian missionary ancestors and the name (and actions?) they brought with them to indigenous Philippines. But it is what it is. I’m happy and proud to use my married Filipino name now, even if it causes racial biases.

  5. Feodor is also an actor in Investmeing Banking show “Bulge Bracket” as an Asian Managing Director.


  6. This was so interesting to read since I am currently narrating my own audiobook for Financial Fives! Though self-narration is more the norm when you are self-published and not working with the big publishing houses.

    Being an Indian-American author, I never really felt I was overlooked or dismissed in any way when promoting or gathering feedback on the book. Also, your chart on authors of colors goes back to 2018. You’d be surprised in the last several years how many authors of color have gotten opportunities now since many are focused on diversity and inclusion.

    I get you may not want someone who is not reflective of you to narrate your book, and at the same time, if we seek out specific races to allow them more opportunity, isn’t that also unfair to someone who may not be a person of color but does a great job?

    Overall, I hope we can appreciate the various qualities each person brings, and agree with more peace among us all.

    1. Wonderful! What percentage do you think is the percentage of minority authors now compared to the overall minority population of the U.S.? I’ll then compare your percentage with the folks at Penguin Random House if they have the data. The latest data might be hard to ascertain.

      I’m glad you’ve had a ton of support. And it sounds like your book is going to be a great success! Have you considered using a white professional narrator to narrate your book? The narrator might feel perfect for you. And you won’t know until you try.

      For me, it’s been much harder to gain support as I’m not a public figure and I’m not part of any popular finance groups. Since 2017, I’ve been really focused on fatherhood first and then writing. Regardless, I’m still going to try my best.

      If you have any specific tips on how I can write better and market better, I’m always open to hearing advice.



      1. No idea! I haven’t occupied myself with that thought, but my guess is any talented author with a story to tell has a more equal chance than ever to get their book out, especially with direct publishing.

        I’m not sure why I would use a white narrator? As I mentioned being self-published, you don’t exactly have tons of resources to have various people knocking to narrate your book for you and have a publishing house pay for it. That’s why I’m doing it myself, and learning along the way. This book was an experiment for me, and yes I do hope it becomes a success :)

        Can’t tell why you’d think it would be harder for you not being a part of any “popular finance groups” or if you’re just being sarcastic, but your book should do incredibly well just because of FS and you’re involvement in the space. Who in FI doesn’t know who you are? The money you make on this speaks for itself!

        At the end of the day, we just have to be thoughtful and support each other, not tear each other down. I’m sure it’ll be a great success, Sam. Let us know if you want any pre-release review.

  7. I use to love watching Kung Fu! Like when he would catch a shot arrow between his hands! Anyway, if I picked someone to read my hypothetical book it would be Patrick Stewart. lol

      1. Should have had James Earl Jones do it….I could listen to him read the dictionary and be entertained.

          1. Wayne Overman

            Morgan Freeman was 1st on my mind and I find your post… Haha!

            Love Morgan Freeman!!

            I’m sure your pick will be great!! It was very interesting to deep dive into this selection process. I am a white guy and love everyone that aspires to do well and loves everyone :) I though we moved beyond being racist in the mid 60’s… seems to have resurrected during the Obama years and clearly gained a lot of traction over the last two years… Very sad!

        1. He came to mind for me, too! He offered to do Howard Stern’s “Miss America” for free, because he’s a fan of the show (JEJ still clocking at 91!). Back then, his fee was $5,000. That’s front-pocket money for Sam!:-)

        2. George Ertel

          Interesting comment. It reminded me that there’s an audio version of the bible, and it’s narrated by James Earl Jones. No doubt there was a time when white audiences would not have bought a black narrator, but it seems like the producers of this bible believe that time has passed.

  8. Thanks for sharing.

    If I followed your article correctly, Sunil Malhotra was one of the first three recommended. Based on his name, I would have guessed he was South Asian. Looking him up, my guess was right.

    So, he didn’t just give you guys with a European ancestry.

    I’m not familiar with the last name Dogen. So I’m forced to lean on your first name which doesn’t scream East Asian. Although, I know a lot of Asian Americans take on traditional European first names. So, using first name as a guide is not the best approach.

    I agree with the general message of your article though and the issues with bias against minority populations. But the person may not have known you were East Asian.

    1. Indeed. As I bolded in my post, “Yes, I could have been an Indian guy too!

      I also assumed the audio producer went with the best possible choices in his mind that would fit with my book. And then it’s up to me, the author, to decide based on a blind hearing test, whether his choices would fit.

      So one has to keep on sampling until there is the right fit.

      At the end of the day, you must get to know your clients if you want to have a great business. In this case, an audio producer could get to know me by listening to my podcasts, reading my About page and other posts, and asking about my background. I was contacted out of the blue.

      But in the end, it all worked out!

  9. I was born and raised overseas, but I have been living in America for almost three decades. Personally, I did go through hardships and difficulties in my life.

    I have learned that by focusing on ourselves, our issues, and problems, it can never solve the problem. I am a strong believer that the ultimate solution for us is to learn and walk in the truth of the Gospel (the good news) of Christ and grace. True Christianity is not about religion but God’s love, forgiveness, and approval and acceptance.

    We will never find our true selves and internal peace and joy by focusing on ourselves, seeking worldly approval and acceptance, getting good jobs, attending top universities, trying hard to improve ourselves and social status…

  10. Thanks for sharing your story. I grew up watching Kung Fu, but I also lost interest. I did follow Brandon Lee for a bit and then Jackie Chan. It was tough finding Asian role models or to root for their successes in the 70s and early 80s. When my wife grew up in Oregon, she was the only Asian student in the class, possibly in the entire school. You can’t wrong with either one of the narrators. Both pleasant to listen to. Wishing you the best of luck and success with your book.

  11. Hey Sam!

    Congrats on the book and the audiobook.

    I think you made the exact right call in every way. By starting and ending the book with your voice you welcome your listeners with your authentic presence and thank them for taking the time. By having a veteran voice actor narrate the other 13+ hours you can rest easy knowing that someone who’s given their life to diction, pace, and nuance will make sure your message is clear.

    I’m an actor who’s volunteered with the Canadian National Institute for the Blind narrating audiobooks for 3 years, so this post really resonated with me.

    I’ve been offered voice roles in AAA video games to play Japanese and Egyptian men (I’m white). I turned down both roles (I wish I could say I was financially secure enough to not need the money) because it simply wasn’t right. If the default to play a Japanese character was a white actor then what chance does a Japanese actor have of success. I’m so glad you trusted your gut and asked the producer to find someone who would better represent you. Actions like that keep our industry moving in the right direction :)

    1. So good to hear about your experience, work, and volunteer activity. So great!

      And thanks for being thoughtful about the opportunity differences in your field. Although the people who ultimately got the Japanese and Egyptian rolls won’t know you helped them, feel good knowing you did a good thing.

      Good karma comes around!

  12. As a young white girl growing up in a primarily white SoCal suburban neighborhood, I used to watch the Kung Fu series all the time when it first came out.

    I had no idea Asian people only accounted for 0.75% of the U.S. population at that time. I never realized how unique it was for us to be next door neighbors with an Asian family of Japanese heritage. Our other next door neighbors were an olive skinned family of Italian heritage. My family were the lily white people of German / Polish / French (?) heritage in the middle. All three families were the original owners of the houses built in 1963. Two of the three families lived in those houses for almost half a century.

    Looking back on my youth now, I suppose I was spoiled growing up in a multicultural bubble without even realizing it. Perhaps that is why I am so shocked and saddened to see so much racism in the world?

  13. Since you brought up race it should be mentioned that almost all of corporate America is currently actively discriminating against white males. The term is Diversity and Inclusion and many large companies have targets for minority hiring and even employ D&I managers to execute. It’s a major focus today for most large corporations. I mention this not to get sympathy (as a white male) but as education since you haven’t been in the corporate workplace in quite a while. Again not whining since it is what it is but looking to share.

    1. Thanks for sharing! And sorry if you feel discriminated against in the workplace. Just have to keep on trucking. And if you aren’t seeing progress, it’s absolutely worth joining a firm that recognizes your talents in full.

  14. Sam, I have heard some of your podcasting voice work and it is very listenable. You can do it, if you want to do it. If you still have doubts, you can invest in two or three voice lessons which would be great to get a pro’s opinion while leaving you with residual skill for your podcast.
    And, is it too late for me to toss ‘Harsh Strongman’ into the mix? The way he rolls his ‘r’s is CRAAAYZEE! Almost like he is trolling us! I could listen to him all day.
    Also kind of a fan of BowtiedBull autotune voice, maybe try the gimmick yourself (with their permission).
    Last wild card, a Frisco-based podcaster, Chiaki. He does ‘Metal Moment’ half in Japanese and half in English. Both languages flawless, listening to him is like being hypnotized.

    1. Glad to hear my voice is listenable. Thanks for the suggestions! Alas, what’s done is done and the audio version is getting edited and optimized right now.

      I just find this whole experience interesting and I’m glad to have gone through with it.

  15. Oh my what a fascinating experience. I imagine it must be weird to choose someone else’s voice to narrate your book. And then how stranger it must be when the options are racially different.

    I’m glad to hear you decided on a hybrid approach to narrate the intro and end on your own and use a pro for the chapters. I can’t imagine how much work it would be to do the entire book. My throat hurts just thinking about that.

    I’ve learned so much about the publishing industry following along your book journey. Really excited it’s coming out this summer! Feodor sounds like a great choice. Looking forward to it. Congrats!

    1. 14.5 hours of narration is a lot! That means maybe 16-17 hours of recording as mistakes and throat-clearing and do-overs will be made. But it can certainly be done over a course of a week, and then last forever.

      I thought about pushing to do the entire book… but I decide the hybrid approach checked all the boxes based off the feedback. I’m actually more excited to listen to the book with Feodor reading it than me. Maybe he’ll add some pizazz to the book I wouldn’t have.

      Now if Penguin Random House said here’s $10,000 to narrate my book, I probably would have. Maybe that’s what they paid Feodor, I’m not privy to such info.

      But I know I would have regretted it if I didn’t narrate at least some of the book. 1+ hour is a nice length.

      The main reason why I continue to publish podcast episodes is not for the money, as there is none. It’s so our kids can have an archive of episodes to listen to after I’m gone.

          1. I hadn’t watched that speech but just did as well as read the WSJ write up here: wsj.com/articles/SB120951287174854465

            Wow, that is inspirational and anyone on here would benefit from checking it out.

            Like my grandfather always told me, if you have your health you’re already a millionaire. So true.

  16. As I’m reading your article, it dawned on me I was listening to Bob Dylan…..Imagine if you will, that all the songs Dylan wrote were sung my a “cleaned up” voice. Would he be as successful? Cutting to the chase, I’ll take you as the narrator. Who’s going to know the content better and be more enthusiastic? I’ve listened to your podcasts and you do a great job.

    1. Thanks. I would think I know my content and stories best as well, which is why I was initially dismayed as to why I wasn’t the default first option. I can totally change my voice to be more “professional sounding” as well.

      But I see both sides. The producers are used to working with professionals. And professional voice actors are highly trained in what they do, unlike me. They went to acting and voice school, where is I’m just blabbing into my phone :).

      So the compromise is we go hybrid, and I like the result. Actually makes me want to listen to my book more bc I’m curious how Feodor will sound like.

      Good example on Dylan.

  17. I still wish you had done the narration for your book. I listen to your Podcast, and I think you’ve got a great voice and you come across as very genuine and honest. (Same for your wife when she is on the Podcast. :-)

    I listen to a lot of books via Audible. I always like it when the author does the narration, but it does seem kind of rare. I also kind of like that actors with theater training can do audiobook narration as a side gig.

    1. Danka for listening to my podcast. It’s fun to get my wife on, on occasion. We want to do more, but we always seem to have our hands full with the little ones.

      As someone who writes about side gigs and has done many side gigs before, I do think it’s fascinating actors can do professional voice narration for extra money. And then they can build a great portfolio of audio books to earn more money doing voice narrations.

      My “Director” was also directing me as a side gig as well. The world has changed. Plenty of opportunity to make all sorts of money online! Maybe I’ll interview Feodor about his voice narrating work!

      I do plan to write more posts about making money as an author too, in addition to this post on traditional publishing. It’s fascinating stuff that provides more opportunities to more people with different interests.

      I got to experience things to write about them!

  18. This is so spot on. I grew up in Hawaii and the prejudice there is different from on the continent. Funny thing when people call someone a race… I am like no that is not what they are and they grew up in the US not China. They might be Chinese but they are local not continent. When people ask me if I am black or white… I say spotted as I have freckles. They do not know what to say to that. LOL I am a big mix and have freckles…

    Thanks for writing another great piece. I would be upset if I bought your audio book and it did not sound “local”, I hate it when I go to a restaurant and they claim to have Hawaiian food and they do not have real food!!! UGH. I think the same is true with authors…. You have to be YOU! Thank you for always doing that.

    1. You’re welcome! And thanks for sharing. I’m glad to have narrated the bookends, the intro and conclusion. And I do like the way Feodor speaks, so I’m excited to listen to his voice actually.

      Ah, how I miss Hawaii.

  19. I try and picture your story if you were white in Taiwan or China or Japan. Would it be harder there for a white guy to succeed as for an Asian guy here? The same or better? It’s hard anywhere being a minority but is this the best place to be despite the universal tendency of humans to seek comfort in the familiar because it’s easier safer or serves our self interest
    All of my grandparents immigrated here and faced tough challenges but what a country!

    1. Hard to say. But I will share you this story. When I was studying abroad in China in 1997 for 6 months, I was looking for part-time work teaching English.

      There was a lot of demand for English teachers. However, when I applied, they said they wanted a Caucasian person, not an Asian person to teach English. As a 20-year-old, that always stuck with me that even in China, as someone wanting to learn Mandarin, I may be at a disadvantage.

  20. Owen Lipsett

    Thank you Sam! This was a really important read for me as a white guy married to a Taiwanese woman. I’ve shared many of your financial insights (and your blog!) with my students here at TAS, where I’m the Upper School English Department Chair. I’m looking forward to having them discuss this post during our unit on Asian American representation in literature. If you’re interested, I’d love to try to arrange a virtual visit for you to our community. Please reach out to me if you’re interested and thank you again!

    1. Thanks for reading. Cool you’re from TAS! I used to attend the Shi Lin old campus as an elementary school student, but have been to the Tian Mu campus many many times before. I wish I went to high school at TAS. My Mandarin would have been so much better! Food and fruit in Taiwan are the best!

      Let me know what your students and fellow faculty members discuss after reading this post. And if they have interest, I’d be happy to chat with them over video.

      I can provide insights into becoming an author, signing a book deal, writing your own e-book, launching a blog, building a brand, making money online, and anything else. Lots of opportunity, no matter who you are!

  21. Steven Brogden

    Why stop at just the intro and conclusion?!

    David Goggins’ audio book has a bonus feature where he and the narrator talk about the chapter just read and further insights and details from that chapter. It was a really good way to humanize David more and better understand his perspective. Anyone who doesn’t want to hear it can skip, but was a nice bonus for others who wanted more. This requires a narrator with good questions and insights and can do the back and forth, but that likely comes naturally after spending so much time with you and your book. Think about it!

    1. That’s what the producer and what my newsletter readers wanted. I could have pushed to narrate the entire book myself (~14.5 hours), but I decided to compromise.

      70% of newsletters said to narrate everything myself, while 30% said to get a professional narrator, hence the compromise.

      And if you really want to hear my voice, I’ll keep publishing podcasts, so not to worry!

      What I realized long ago is that you can’t please everyone, even though we all like to try. Hence, you just got to go with what feels right.

  22. Great post. Another thing to consider. What if you were a white person or a white person who comes from a rich family and you amount to nothing or nothing special.

    You were told by society that you supposedly have all the advantages in America and the data and simple math back it up. Get 10% of your population to buy the book beats out an Asian person getting 100% of the Asian population (6%) to buy your book.

    But what if you can’t even get an agent, let alone a book deal as a white author? And what if nobody buys your book despite the huge demographic advantage?

    This is the angst many white people face, which is why there was such a political climate shipped in 2016.

    1. For sure angst and anxiety is created in such a situation as well. I try to encapsulate this feeling in the post, What If You Go To Harvard And End Up A Nobody?

      The higher the expectations people have of you and the more privilege you are born with, the more pressure you have to be somebody and do something more than the ordinary.

      Personally, I really like being the underdog where nobody expects a thing. It’s much easier to surprise on the upside.

  23. Eric Sullano

    Easier said than done, but be yourself. Sometimes that means not conforming to the perceptions others want you to fit nicely into.

    1. Yes, easier said than done indeed. One of the important reasons to build wealth, so you can do more of what you want to do and what you feel most true to yourself. You don’t have to alter yourself as much to fit in when you are financially secure.

      Doing what you want and being yourself create a priceless feeling!

  24. Such a fascinating example! Thanks for sharing. What you say is so true about opportunities for minorities. I have to imagine that white authors would feel weird if the person narrating their book was not white as well. So it definitely works both ways.

    It’s actually the perfect example how why it’s harder for many minorities to get ahead without having to do something different, or hustle extra hard, or simply get a really lucky break and never giving up.

    Opportunity is a numbers game. But few people are magnanimous enough to give up their opportunities for someone else or someone else’s children.

    1. It’s always going to feel weird if someone is voicing your work. Hopefully, this compromise of me and Feodor narrating will be a win win. B/c if I truly suck and saying what I’ve written, at least they’ve got a professional for the remaining 13+ hours of narration!

      And if Feodor is no good, well then the listener at least has me for the intro and conclusion and can read the book. Whoo hoo!

      But I trust Feodor did a great job and I know I read my sections well.

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