It was incubating and growing for two and a half years before my story was ready for ink and paper. Now half a year old, what has been happening in life of this new book, Accidental Aid Worker? I had great expectations of my first-born book and whether they’ve been realistic or a flight of fancy, I have held on tight, white knuckled on the rollercoaster – the vertical learning curve, the dips and the climbs through the writing, production, delivery and distribution of this book. Hold on to your hats everyone – here’s the big update.

A relatively easy delivery

The actual delivery date of the book was 13 October, a significant time, being the day after the anniversary of my mother’s passing (yes, that was planned). I spent the two weeks prior to the launch writing personal notes in over 110 books, packaging and posting books to all those who had purchased in my pre-sale campaign. I had promised to do that, and 110 books went out all over Australia, US, Sri Lanka and Europe before the launch.

1 November was a launch day and it threatened to storm and chunder. This is not good for an outdoor event at your home, and thankfully the rain held off until after a beautiful gathering of friends, including Greg Fisher and Dr Rabbi Dovid Slavin, who graciously helped me bring this beautiful book into the world. You can read more about it here and also see photos.


A heart-warming reception from readers

Thank you – to everyone who has not only taken time to read the book, but also to tell me how they feel about my story. My book has been warmly welcomed. I am so thrilled to be connecting with my readers and have my very human story embraced. After sending a copy of the book to Professor Dame Marie Bashir, I received a delightful letter from her. Her comments begin the reader’s comments page, and I am truly  humbled by not only her feedback, but by the kindness shown by many others.

When I receive messages from readers, whether mid-read or at the completion of the journey – we share a particular sense of connectedness.  I am encouraged – no, honoured, that people have taken the time to not only read, but to let me know how they feel and relate to the book and my journey. Please DO keep those comments coming! You can email them to me here.


Getting AAW on the shelves of bookstores and libraries in the new year

After a quick break to dive the waters of Vanuatu between Christmas and New Year, I focused on the task of trying to get Accidental Aid Worker into more bookstores and into catalogues in public libraries. I set myself a goal for Easter to learn about it – and crack that nut. I would also be trying to get some speaking gigs – author talks at either library or bookstores.

Can I start by saying this – it’s NOT EASY – at all!!! It’s daunting. When you don’t know how any of that works and you’re an unknown, untested self-published author of a very  personal memoir – it’s terrifying and intimidating. Long story short – I had been encouraged that two of my local bookstores had taken the book in-store when I launched the book and, on my first day back to ‘work’ mid-January, I nervously and tentatively fronted up to my local library, book-in-hand, to ask how this all worked.  It was taken from my hands immediately with words of ‘yes, we’ll take it’. HOORAY!

This was the beginning of 5 weeks of cold calls and visits to book stores and libraries. With a fair number of knock-backs and non-answers – it was becoming a rather demoralising task. This effort resulted in get Accidental Aid Worker into 8 bookstores and 5 libraries. I had, however, reached a point where I needed to find a distributor. At the end of February, Accidental Aid Worker was accepted with independent distributor Dennis Jones and Associates . I continue to keep pushing on with my own marketing to libraries and bookstores as it does take this kind of collaboration to make it succeed.

This distribution relationship enables all trade distributors to easily order and receive Accidental Aid Worker.  The delightful team from Dennis Jones and Associates are (almost) always happy to answer my questions and work with me, and although it’s only early days, my book is now available at a growing list of bookstores and libraries around Australia – click here to see where AAW is on the shelf.

I am also really loving carving a Sue Liu/ Zulu-style niche in the self publishing and book world.  Because I know no other way – I’m learning, creating new pathways and engaging with industry professionals as I do. This could be a whole new area of focus for me that is very different from the usual business, strategy and marketing work that Zulu Communications is known for. 

Did you know: If you want a copy of Accidental Aid Worker from your bookstore or library – you can ask them to order a copy. PLEASE DO!

 Q: How many sold?

That’s the question on everyone’s lips. How does a self-funded, self supported author throw that answer out into the world without saying this first. Is it all about sales? Well, some of that success equation relates to unit sold – and you also have to consider: time, direct vs. distribution, consignment, production and related costs, profits (what are they), profile, reviews, readership, promotion, e-book distribution and credibility. Don’t forget sanity.

A: My first print run is more or less gone and I now have Edition 2 printed. In short – yes, I have done modestly well in the last 5 months.


Publicity and my NSW speaking tour 

I was  honoured to be interviewed by Kel Richards from 2GB quite soon after the launch. Honoured because he had read the book and the interview was my very first! It was a wonderful first experience in the limelight – and you can listen to it right here!

This is the big one – the author talks, book tour, speaking schedule. It’s all those things. My first public talk was at Woollahra Council – a little teaser if you like as I was invited as a guest speaker for a volunteers’ meeting. Coming up in June – I have my very first – official round of public talks at libraries in NSW. 9 talks in 7 days in fact – click here to see the full schedule which starts at my local library on 2 June – Leichhardt  and travels through NSW Riverina region – ending at Albury… 2-9 June. 

I am certainly interested more speaking, interview and collaboration opportunities and would be happy to discuss your ideas!

To infinity and beyond?

So, what does the future hold for me as a)self employed person b) new author c) self published author d) community worker?

Your guess is as good as mine. I’ll be busy continuing with marketing Accidental Aid Worker, embracing community work and speaking opportunities while I develop my skills and techniques and try to earn a living in business and marketing world too. Somewhere in between – I will continue with writing…the sequel to AAW.



launchIMG_0869Part of the massive (and worthwhile) effort over the last few months has been to approach libraries about giving an author talk. This is not such an easy thing to do! Even some of the most well-known, well regarded writers struggle to gain a coveted invitation and more than a handful of people at their talks. Taking a punt on my book and me, is quite a huge deal – for all involved.

I thank the team at Woollahra Council for giving me my first opportunity as their guest speaker for a their quarterly volunteer meeting. I am now thrilled and excited to announce a speaking tour in NSW in June.



  • 2 June – Leichhardt Library -Travellers’ Tales Author Talk – 6:30pm
  • 6-9 June – Riverina Regional Libraries: Wagga, Coolamon, Cootamundra, Temora, Bland, Corowa and Mulwala
  • 9 June – Albury Library Museum – 6:00pm

Can you guess how many kms Sue will drive on this speaking tour?

NSW Road trip map

Competition details will be announced on the Accidental Aid Worker Facebook page

If your community group, library or bookstore is interested in hearing first-hand what compelled me to put 12 years into voluntary community and aid work – please contact me – I’d be thrilled discuss the opportunities further.


Media Releases:

Yes – you know that late last year I (Sue Liu via Zulu Communications) successfully self published and launched my adventure travel memoir Accidental Aid Worker.

Yes – the process of writing and producing my own story and work took enormous time, commitment, focus, creativity, trips to the Chiropractor, learning a new craft and industry and tenacity AND money. It was a mighty effort to push through without completely burning out (again) and I made it through with sanity intact. JUST!

People ask me (constantly) how many books I’ve sold, because in terms of the perception of success in authoring and publishing – the measure is the number of units sold. I always baulk at this question because I wonder if it’s giving away too much and quite honestly – it makes me feel like a failure. WHY? Because I’m being measured by a scale that does not really exist for first time authors and self publishers and doesn’t equate at all in the world of traditional publishing. This is not just new for me – it’s new for everybody.

I have to create my own context and terms. That’s not so easy. Having run my own consultancy ( Zulu) for over 14 years, you’d think that I could more easily work this out. No – this is not the same and if you think being a self employed consultant is easy (no one does) – then try entering a new field and writing a book! It’s a completely different kettle of balls.

Do I care what people think IS success when it comes to units sold or ROI? Isn’t it more important for me to consider the impact of my story and how it feels, helps and resonates with those who’ve taken a punt on me and have bought my book? When exactly will I be able to say to myself “Sue, you can relax. You have been successful” ?

Sure – all of that – but what about my dreams? When you do this – aren’t you supposed to shoot for the moon? Am I expecting too much to dream big – to be snapped up by a publisher, be widely supported, have a marketing and PR machine behind me, be on the best seller list, have  a movie made from my book (who would play me?) and have my book sitting next to Elizabeth Gilbert, Frank Lowy or Sophia Loren on the shelf?

It’s ok to dream you know – and to have lofty aspirations and goals, but how deeply grounded in reality are those dreams and expectations when one is:

  • A first time, unknown author, self published, self employed, single person;
  • Between contracts and seeking connections – to pay the mortgage and feed the cat;
  • On the way to writing a sequel to the first book and juggling;
  • Considering if this is a post-mid life crisis thing or a real chance and a career transition;
  • Trying….really HARD to stay balance and grounded.

Gauging and measuring success (in no particular order)

1. Resonance and response: My story is unique, yet resonates with many in so many ways (I don’t want to give the story away – so let’s just say many ways).  People tell me that I’ve helped them experience many different aspects to life and raise burning questions that no-one else dare to verbalise. Yes -I went there. Maybe that I’ve helped a few people come to terms with their own struggles is in itself a measure of success.  You can read comments from readers here.

2. Attention: Maybe getting myself onto the shelves of two of my local book stores and in my local library is a win too. I didn’t realise how much it may be a win until others told me that is a victory.  Perhaps being interviewed by fellow author and master broadcaster Kel Richards on radio 2GB ( yes he did read the book) should be a time to celebrate. I did – that was nerve wracking and exciting.  You can listen to the interview here.

3. ROI and sales: So back to that questions about how am I doing with book sales and does it matter? Yes, it matters to me, because as a self funded, self publisher and a business woman. I want to see my investment in putting myself on the line and also my financial investment bare fruit. Based on this (modest) success, I have to evaluate if, how and when I will publish again.  Since launching on November 1, 2015, purely on my own steam via hard slog, marketing and direct sales, I have over 200 hardcopies of the memento edition of Accidental Aid Worker out in the world throughout Australia, USA, Sri Lanka, UK, Canada and Europe. Buy a copy of Accidental Aid Worker – signed copy and ebook or look for me on if you’re outside of Australia.

4. How I feel: Being human and learning about all of this as I go, understanding how to keep my ego in check and balance out all of these complex variables is probably THE most important thing.  Sometimes I get a bit hyped up and excited, other times it’s just dull and hard slog. I can’t afford really to go too NUTS about anything – one way or the other.

I am constantly reminded by friends when I get a bit blue or impatient about the pace of things, that this creation – a book of my life (that took me a year and half to incubate and year to write and two months to deliver) is only two months old.  They tell me, to have achieved Accidental Aid Worker at ALL is a big deal and to compare my version of success to anyone else or have reached those levels of success is stuff of dreams. I need to be real –  I’ll give it another few months 🙂

And, on my bookshelf, I’m already next to Elizabeth Gilbert and in a book store, I’m right next to Sophia Loren – so I should be happy with that. 

AAW on shelf with Liz at home

I hereby declare that from today, Monday 16 November through to Christmas Day 2015 – the more YOU BUY, the more I GIVE. 

Part of the pledge of Zulu’s Community and Candles for Community is that we help you give back to communities while you’re also buying gifts for friends, colleagues and loved ones for Christmas.


While you give generously to your friends this Christmas, help me to support people in need.

Now, go forth, share this post and shop, shop, SHOP!

Visit the Accidental Aid Worker shop and see the full range of candles and gift packs at Candles for Community.

Tuesday 7 October

It’s a post on Tuesday night this time folks because I have to work on my traditional Writing Wednesday! Boy did I need that long weekend, because I busted my brain and wrote my heart last week up in the Blue Mountains on writing retreat No. 2.

Mike matsuI did a house and kitty swap with my friend Jo, so I traded my enormous and adorable Burmese brown boy for two delicate, aged British blue girls. I was glad of the company, the smooches and head bonking from the girls because it was a very emotional few days of writing.

I wrote some very tricky chapters last week, relating to the death of my friend Michael Matsushita in the London Bombings of 2005.  Going back to that time and dredging through the tide of emotions was so draining. It was the hardest chapter I’ve had to write and you know what? I needed to be in the mountains and alone to go there. Tis done now. Mike’s friendship, amazing life and tragic death is central to my life today.

I only really realised how much through the process of delving deep and paying homage to my friend. I can’t wait to introduce him to you when the time is right.

Since I have been writing in earnest – since early August, I have completed drafting 17 chapters…. that’s about 45,000 words. I’m just over half way. I still have a lot of work to do and I’m determined to stick to my deadline of June next year to publish and launch this book. And now… the drum roll…………….

I have an EDITOR!!

Shelley Kenigsberg and I shook hands virtually over Skype this afternoon. We have agreed to work together to bring this book to you. Shelley is an editor, teacher and writer and has over 20 years experience in editing. She has worked for publishers in Australia, Indonesia, South Africa and the UK. She currently lives in Bali, so I may have to factor in a trip there at some stage (any excuse).

My editor (I can say that now)  was actually recommended to me, and then we found we had three of four quirky connections. Being the superstitious person that I am, I took these serendipitous happenings as signs.

So the work now takes another turn and I should get back to it now….Part 4 -C is waiting to be written.

S x

Just putting it out there – I’m looking for an Editor.

I need the help of someone to help me craft and weave this first book  and do the stories and the people in them justice. I say FIRST book – because I have ideas and inspiration for about 3 more titles if I do well with this first one.

I’m thinking big people! Dreaming large! I know I’m capable of achieving it, I just need to find the right person or people to work with me on the crafting and fine tuning.

If you know someone who is a master story teller themselves, and may be interested in assisting me on this writing journey – please contact me

26 June 2013

I am leaving in 2 days for what is a business trip shrouded in a holiday atmosphere. Firstly I’m going to Cambodia to spend some time with “my kids” at Sunrise Children’s Villages and deliver 30kgs of collected cosmetic items to the kids and staff. I’ll be with abouuuuuut 260 excited kids and adults on their annual trip to the beach!  I have also to deliver on a promised to bake with the kids at Phonm Penh – and THAT is going to involve 32 cups of cornflakes and 1KG of butter……………

Following that sojourn – I’ll be heading to Sri Lanka for the first time in 6 years to meet up with my friend Bruno – who has organised all the travel and accommodation for my 8 day visit. I have NO idea about the details,  which does make an organised control-freak like me slightly nervous. MY lesson here – is yet again – TRUST and letting go of control (a recurring theme in my book).

We will be travelling about 7 hours by road – across the country to reunite with our priest friend Fr Jeevanadas in the town of Trincomalee. I have been told by Fr J that we have dinners here and meetings there ….. judging from past experience, it’s going to be huge and very hilarous!

As I’ve been drawing nearer to this trip, people have been cagey about asking me how I’m going with the book. My standard response is “AUUUURGHHHHH”

Alright. It has been a few months now since my BIG public annoucement about becoming a book writer and WHAT exactly have I been doing about achieving it? Well for a start – you KNOW I had that arm thing ( read back a few posts for the gory details) AND also, I have been kind of busy………. too busy to write…. unfortunately.

Having said that – I think for a few days I DID have a bit of a RUSH of inspiration and VOOOM – pulled together  a substantial slab of information. As a result – I DO have 27,000 words on page! Whether they are GOOD quality words and not words to confuse and befuddle is a different story.

The business side of publishing has also been an important aspect of my research these last few months. I’ve attended workshops on crowdfunding, digital and online publishing, the process and business of writing and have joined a memoir writer’s  Meetup group in Sydney. What I’ve been learning is that the publishing  and distribution side of things is of course, mighty important. Perhaps, just as important as the act of writing the book .

Each time I talk about this project with others on a similar journey, and we talk about our experiences with the process and craft I do feel more and more connected to them, and reinspired to tell this story of mine. So I thank everyone for their excitement and now the task is – to write it and go about the process of bringing it to life by producing it (no small thing).

SO today  – in order to prepare myself for flight time  – uninterupted writing time on the way to Cambodia and Sri Lanka – I printed it out, HERE – I DO Have the bones of a book – FOR REAL!!

I am also please to say that my friend Alina Bendeli designed my cover for me, and I have this blog up and going – so I really am further on the way to acheiving my goal than I thought!

One of the best ways to keep in touch with this evolving project is to LIKE my Facebook page . I mean, you don’t have to – but that particular source will be updated more frequently. By all means, please do continue to stop by this blog for updates too.

THanks again for the encouragement and excitement, and I’ll see you on the other side of my trips to Cambodia and Sri Lanka!

Sue x


This village scene represents the heart and soul of a community. Industrious, busy, colourful and communal.

Villagepainting-hojaI bought this original oil painting in 1999 in the town of Zanzibar in Tanzania. It’s in the “Tinga tinga” style which is special to this part of Tanzania. The artist’s signature is Hoja. I have searched the internet for Hoja and this style of art to no avail!

The painting has been framed and graced the walls of Zulu’s office and has been a backdrop for Zulu’s Community for some years now.  It now takes pride of place in my home and brings my heart joy and cheer every time I see it. I never tire of looking into the faces and watching the busyness, colour and cameraderie of the village.

People ARE truly happy in the village. I have experienced this time and time again and often think that balance and equilibrium is achieved in this version of community.

It only seems appropriate to use this for the Accidental aid worker project.

I credit Hoja for its inspiration and creation.