Zieda Nazri, a young enterprising writer from Malaysia, speaks to us about the pitfalls of self-publishing in the country where arts and literature is in the veins of many but where only the few gets published.
Zieda tried to sell her books on Amazon.com but she met with another pitfall: Amazon does not allow readers from Southeast Asia to buy books from the region on its portal.
This is killing budding writers from the region and nothing is being done by the internationally recognised publisher-vendor to rectify this censorship.
Facing this hurdle, Zieda says:
“I personally think that it is Amazon’s choice if they decide not to let the readers in South East Asia buy e-books from them but they should at least give a solution to that.”
As a new entrepreneur-writer, what do you think you need to get going, to get your books selling?
I am very, very new in this industry. As a self-publisher, there are lots of things that I need to learn and I am learning it every day.
From writing to selling, they are not just two days works. As someone new, I think that the most difficult part is selling your name.
Not your books, but your name. People still do not recognise who you are and there are millions of writers out there with the same purpose.
Moreover, I do not have any background in marketing so promoting and marketing does not come naturally to me.
So to answer the question, I think that what I need to put more effort in is promoting my own books.
From our last conversation, tell me how you solved some of the issues faced by young, fresh entrepreneurs in Malaysia?
Besides solving the problems you faced as a budding writer.
There was numerous time that I thought I should give in to the challenges I had.
It seems that whenever I want to publish a new book, I am caught in some personal problems.
I guess, the only word that I hang onto is ‘perseverance’. I am a writer that writes motivational books, it would be ironic if I do not take my own advice.
Since learning is a process, all the hindrances are there to teach you how to face the next challenge.
Self-publishing is very new to me so I learn a lot through reading and talking to people who are already in the business.
You sold on Amazon. How was the experience? What should Amazon do to make it easier for Asean writers to get a break on their platform? Create an Asean base Amazon platform?
I started selling my books on Amazon because I wanted to gauge reviews fro international readers.
At that point of time, I was actually surprised when I learnt that readers from the South East Asia could not buy e-books from Amazon.
Few reasons were given by Amazon for this and I have to say that this became one of my problems in publishing e-books.
How do I sell my e-books if the South East Asia readers could not buy them?
I had to promote my books in international universities and Facebook and that had taken a lot of my time.
I personally think that it is Amazon’s choice if they decide not to let the readers in South East Asia buy e-books from them but they should at least give a solution to that.
We want to read all the e-books too.
Creating a special platform for South East Asia readers would be a good start.
What would be your advice to budding writers? There are many obstacles to get published even today.
My advice is to have a plan before you start.
Read a lot of other peoples’ experiences and talk to them. Being shy should not be in your dictionary.
In getting my books self-published, I think I had shot more than 10 emails to people I do not know.
Some of them are really helpful and that get the balls rolling.
Obviously you will be making mistakes, but learn from your mistakes and try again.
A good manuscript means nothing if you cannot promote it to the right channel and to do that, you need to promote your writing.
Do you think the cost of publishing is high in Malaysia? Should there be some form of intervention to assist writers? What would be the modus-operandi of such an assistance, if there need be?
Yes, I think that the cost of publishing is quite high in Malaysia.
Even though I was told by my printers the printing cost in Malaysia is among the cheapest to compare with other countries.
I really wish that there is a channel for self-publishers to get some fund to start with.
At this moment, I learnt that the National Library can help with the funding by buying your books to be put in all the libraries in the country.
This is one way to support the writers but it did not help them to start the ball rolling.
Actually, before I started to print my own books, I went to a few agencies asking whether they offer any fund to self-publishers but none of them said they do.
They are grants offered by Kota Buku though, for translating your book to other languages.
How has the experience publishing a book in Malaysia on your own, helped you understand the industry as a whole? Do you think the publishing industry is controlled by some? Should it be liberalised? How would that happen?
To sum up, I think the difficulties in dealing with writer blocks are not even close to the difficulties in dealing with marketing the books and distributing them.
Self-publishing is new in Malaysia so people are quite reserved when you tell them that your books are self-published. Sometimes they even think twice about buying your books.
From experience, I think that the publishing industry is not controlled just by someone and there is still hope to penetrate the publishing industry.
However, I cannot say the same for the books distributing industry.
It seems that larger books stores are monopolised by some and it is very difficult to get your books on their shelves.
The biggest problem would be in monetary terms because they take a big chunk from your costing.
I hope that in the future, there is an association maybe to help the self-publishers to promote their books and to penetrate the books distributing industry.
Whats the future for you, a writer-entrepreneur trying to do all by yourself?
I am not a full-time writer but I do want to get my books on sale. I believe that ‘Submitting to Allah‘ and ‘Candle in the Wind‘ can be a big help to students especially those studying in the universities as I had written these books from my experience as a lecturer.
If I send my manuscript to the publishers, they might want to amend it to add some commercial values and I cannot compromise that.
That is the reason why I chose to self-publish. It is difficult but not impossible.
At the end of the day, what matters most is my readers will get the message that I want to convey to them.
That alone can give me a warm feeling in my heart.
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