So, last week I attended the MPH Writer’s Circle (held on a weekend for once!) at Nu Sentral. The topic was fairly interesting, but I went there mainly because they apparently had a pitching session, which I did not join in the end. Everyone on the panel were published authors, with different backgrounds and specialities.
They were, in no particular order:
- Oon Yeoh – Senior Consulting Editor of MPH Group Publishing
- Marina Mustafa – Cookbook author
- Jojo Struys – Health book author and guided relaxation advocate
- Khaw Choon Ean aka Teoh Choon Ean – novelist and illustrator, former gymnast and coach
- Anuar Shah – Fixi Novelist, property lawyer and speaker
- Umie Nadzimah – Bestselling author (Dia Isteri Luar Biasa, Cinta Paling Agung, & Kerana Terpaksa Aku Relakan which have been turned into TV Dramas)
Information provided by MPH’s FB page when I asked nicely, heh
For most part, I kind of expected the questions and responses they would give. What I did not expect was the brutal honesty. Some takeaways:
- Science Fiction doesn’t sell in Malaysia
Sad, but honest. There’s not much of a market for sci-fi in Malaysia. Same with fantasy. If you’re a Malaysian English writer in these genres, chances are you’d never be able to sell, if only because we already have international authors in the market. You may have a chance with the Malay market, but for English, best to go overseas first.
Just do it!
Have an idea? Pitch it to the publishers. If you’re writing non-fiction at least. Anuar’s 40 Questions to ask your lawyer before purchasing a residential property was pitched at a general book event like the one I attended, and he was asked to write it. People like Umie started writing and building their audiences slowly on places like Karyaseni (think Wattpad but specific to a publisher) before getting picked up.
Most surprising thing learnt about publishing?
That the money they make is tiny (yes, this is something I’ve heard as well). Which leads to my next point:
Don’t expect to make (much) money as a writer in Malaysia
All of them are still holding day jobs. This is where I say it’s half and half. You CAN make money writing (copywriting ahoy!) but don’t expect it to be like the States where you can make money writing books full time. Most people everywhere don’t anyway. ^^l
Books are good to advertise your skills
From what I understood, writing a book both sort of paints you as an expert in the Malaysian market. In terms of writing language, local non-fiction English books do well, but for fiction the Malay market is more lucrative. Most, like Anuar, use their written books to support their main businesses.
And that’s about it. For me, it was both depressing and yet reassuring to hear about the issues in publishing. I was glad I went though, met up with a few other writers. Now back to the grindstone for me!