I didn’t know what the term meant when I started about 11 years ago. I wrote two Learning Mathematics with the Abacus books that were used in Malaysian schools, originally published by the company that I worked for as their Publishing Manager. When I left the company, I secured the rights to the books and started my own company, to market and manage the sales of these books. Working alone, I started selling them online to tap the global market. By 2008, I had online buyers from more than 30 countries. That gave me the confidence to participate in the Bologna Children’s Book Fair for the first time. By 2009, I managed to sell the rights to India, and later, to Turkey. Because of my 15 years’ experience in the publishing industry, some friends had started to ask me for advice and help them publish books for special projects. That was how everything began.
Yes, for the past 3-4 years I have been getting word-of-mouth referrals from friends and past clients. I foresee a greater demand in self-publishing will come from small business owners and other entrepreneurs, especially in the training industry who are exceptional at what they do and just wanted an extra push to get ahead. A book is definitely a great marketing tool for them, if they know how to do it right.
One of the challenges was distribution. I had always marketed and sold my books online to overseas market, never even entered local bookstores. Once I started offering publishing services to my clients, they needed more local visibility. That means POD would not be an option as there would not be enough margin selling books at local bookstores. I have found several local partners to help distribute the books I publish for my clients. Storage is another problem once you start printing thousands of copies per title, especially for my clients.
What are some of the successful self-published titles you have published?
I have always set the success of my Learning Mathematics with the Abacus as my benchmark for my clients. As self-publishers, they need not reinvent the wheel. I always try to offer services that add value to my clients. I not only publish the books for them, I also ensure that the books are of high standard acceptable by international markets. Some of the titles have been picked up by the National Library of Malaysia to distribute over their local library network. Many titles I published have made it to the top list of selected local books for international market, like the 50 Best Malaysian Titles for International Rights list, where I have 3 titles listed this year, after the 2 titles that made the cut last year. The hardcover version of the cookbook Nostalgia Medan Selera was sold out within 6 weeks before it entered the bookstores. It got to the 50 Best Malaysian Titles list in 2013. The English version of the book, titled 'Medan Selera Odyssey: The Al-Johori Culinary Legacy' was just published last yearand made it to this year’s list. I have just sold the rights for 'You Are Not My Mother' to Korea. It is abeautiful story written by a self-published teacher who is also a stepmom, about a young girl adapting
herself with her dad’s new wife after the loss of her mother. There are two other sequels to this book. Some of the mainstream local publishers and self-publishers who had started on their own have also begun to engage me as their agent due to the success that I’ve had so far with my books.
Yes, definitely. Participating in book fairs like the Frankfurt Book Fair has given me the opportunity to network with publishers from other countries. I am currently working with a few partners to ensure that I have a proper system to extend my self-publishing services to overseas authors, complete with global distribution starting in 2016.