Patrick Tomasso

Publishing in Malaysia

Publishing books can be daunting for new writers.

With statistics of only one book read per Malaysian per year (2018), the publishing scene may seem a little depressing. However, in those years Penwings Publishing broke through and sold more than 30,000 non-fiction books nationwide in Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines and online, with 3 out of 4 titles reaching the best-seller’s list! How did we do it?

Writing books that people actually want to buy  📕

Sure, you have thousands of followers on Instagram. But how many of those followers would actually BUY your work? Will your quality content urge your readers to promote your book via word of mouth?  Putting a book out there and expecting people to buy it because they ‘support the art scene in Malaysia’ is a weak excuse. Survey the international market, and see what makes good writing sell and put your own unique spin to it. Creating work that is too abstract and too controversial might not work when you’re just starting out because all you’re doing is limiting your audience reach. Once your brand is big enough, feel free to publish whatever you like, however you like!

I’ll elaborate more in this blog post.

The process of finding a publisher 🔎

Many of you might have struggled (as I did) to find the right publisher that would represent your title and do justice to your work. Publishers in Malaysia are mostly educational book publishers because that is what the market ‘needs’ and sales are easier to forecast every year. As for fictional books, educational publishers would not take the risk because they do not understand the market for those books well. These books are ‘wants’ and it’s your job to make it feel like a ‘need’ for readers. I’ve had my fair share of rejections, but it’s all part of the process. Creating your own publishing company should always be your last resort. It’s tough maintaining a company. Don’t lose heart, there are many publishing companies like mine that would review and read your manuscripts! Send your manuscript to [email protected]. I approve manuscripts that:- Are proofread and have no grammatical or punctuation errors.

  • Are unique enough but relevant to my target segment. (Young Adults)
  • Have exceptional storytelling and have a certain amount of sophistication. (not those, ‘I want to die or so help me’ manuscripts, I suggest that you visit a psychiatrist instead. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for mental health.)
  • Safe to be given to families with different beliefs as a gift.
  • Challenges the readers’ perspectives on life.

Marketing your book 📣

Although you may have found the right publisher who will run ads to sell your book, it is still your responsibility on how you brand your persona to the public. 

  • Be active on social media and interact with your readers regularly.
  • Live talks, appearances, readings, and workshops increase trust in your brand. 
  • Unique book covers that are capable of expanding to a series are a plus.
  • Submitting your work to competitions and awards
  • Running your own sponsored ads on social media
  • Collaborating with other writers and artists

Turn your books into digital content that is easily shareable (ie. snippets, ebooks, audiobooks or videos) I may have over-simplified the entire process by just summarizing it into three points, but I should remind you that hard work goes into every single thing that you do. My costs at the beginning were super minimal because I was practically doing everything on my own. The design, the writing, and the printing costs were from my savings over the years. I graduated with a degree in Interactive Media Design and formatted my first book with Adobe Illustrator because that was the only software I knew how to use at the time (Thank god for Youtube tutorials Adobe Indesign). I knew nothing about print, Marketing, PR or Business but I dove right in like a typical naive but courageous 24 year old millennial anyway.

 My family had no background in the publishing industry; my mom being a HR Manager in a logistics company and me being in multimedia design. (She currently helps me out with the logistics and accounting) We failed numerous times but we made sure we’ve learned well after each failure. You might not see the returns right away, but the impact is marvelous. 

Good luck.

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