Humans of the Agency: Will Chin
July 27, 2022
Will Chin, Senior Specialist
Joined: Since 2021
Stephen King once wrote: “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.”
The writing part is not difficult for Will Chin, Senior Specialist at Finn Partners Singapore, since it is part of his day job. From byline articles and case studies to e-books and whitepapers, Will is all about picking the right words to form sentences, and the right sentences to form stories.
As for the reading part, Will has turned it into more than just a hobby. In January 2021, he began sharing book reviews via his Instagram account, @thisotherbookaccount. Since then, he has amassed a small yet active community of fellow readers from across the world.
In this story, we find out where Will discovered his passion for reading, how his life has changed since joining the bookstagram community, as well as how he manages to read 100 books a year.
Q: Tell us about your bookstagram account. How did it begin?
I started the account in January 2021 at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. I needed to do something that was a clear break from my day job—a creative outlet, if you will. At the time, I was already (attempting) to read 100 books a year, so I thought it would be a good idea to post my reviews on Instagram and share my thoughts with other people.
The first thing I did was to set up a catchy handle. I tried various permutations that included my name, but all of them were taken. I landed on @thisotherbookaccount because I wanted to tell people that I had a personal Instagram account, and “this other book account”. It’s not the best handle in the world, but at least it’s available.
Q: What is the concept behind the pictures? How do you begin assembling the flat lays?
There are many existing ‘concepts’ on bookstagram. Some accounts are all about fun, snappy Instagram Reels, some are about book ‘hauls’, some are ‘mood accounts’, which are really photography accounts with book-adjacent subjects, such as bookshelves, notebooks, reading nooks—you get the idea. For me, I wanted to focus on reviews. I also wanted visual consistency on my Instagram feed, so I chose to present the books with a top-down flat lay.
As for the decorations, it’s a smorgasbord of everything. I usually start by raiding my wife’s wardrobe, because dresses and scarves make for great backgrounds. Over the years, she and I have amassed a small collection wine bottles, artworks, postcards, travel memorabilia, and other random knickknacks, such as rocks, seashells, insect specimens, and animal skulls. It’s really a matter of assembling these ‘ingredients’ in a visually pleasing way.
I also try to match the decorations to the theme of the book as much as possible. For example, if I am reading a book about World War I or the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, I might use a gas mask—and yes, I do have a baby-sized gas mask that I purchased from Lithuania. It’s one of the many oddities that we have at home.
Q: Where did the passion for reading begin? How do you manage to read 100 books a year?
I like to joke that my passion for reading began before I could even read. My mother told me that when she was nursing me, she would rock me to sleep with one hand and read Chinese wuxia books with the other. In all honesty, I started with picture books when I was two years old. My Instagram’s profile picture is me reading a picture book on top of a portable toilet. From then, I carried a book wherever I went. It never quite stopped.
As for reading 100 books a year, I don’t always hit that magical number! I started keeping track of my reading habits a few years ago and realised that I was comfortably reading about 70–80 books per year. So, in 2015, to challenge myself, I decided to aim for 100 books. I’ve only managed to do so three times (2016, 2017, and 2021). I know that it’s quality over quantity, but ‘100’ just has a nice ring to it.
Q: How has your experience been thus far?
It’s been largely good, though with a few caveats. On the positive side, there’s something about sharing the love for reading—and the love for specific books—with disparate people from all over the world. I now have friends from the UK, US, Canada, Norway, France, India, Malaysia, and the Philippines—and the list is growing every day.
Also, even though I currently only have a little more than 700 followers, which is nothing compared to some of my peers, it’s shocking that more than 700 people care enough to hear what I have to say. Reading has always been an activity done in solitude, so finding so many other readers has been a revelation.
With that said, the pitfalls of social media do apply. At one point, I became fixated on statistics, such as the number of followers, the number of engagements, etc. I researched online to find out how to extend my reach to even more users on Instagram and, at one time, even contemplated a paid marketing campaign. It became less about the books and book reviews and more about the followers.
Q: How has this informed your work in any way?
This ties in to my brief fixation on statistics. Learning about reach, impressions, engagements, and interactions has given me a new-found appreciation for the work that my colleagues do in real life. It taught me that, while content still forms the backbone of many things we do, there has to be a strategy behind everything as well, especially if you want the content to gain maximum exposure. It’s not an exact science most of the time, but there’s a method to it, and that’s something I’ve come to appreciate.