I’ve been asked this question more and more recently, after publishing The New Millionaires and Jutawan Era Baru. While I am in no way a publishing expert, let me help you by telling you how I did it, and maybe that will come in handy.
Firstly, there are many book publishers in Malaysia, each with their own strength. So you really have to determine a few things before you even start with your book:
- Malaysia or International? – Unfortunately, if you plan to get your book sold worldwide, not many local publishers are capable of this. Look instead for local office of International publishers and approach them that way. Even if an international publisher signs you up, it’s no guarantee that your book will be available in bookstores all over the world. You may also want to try publishing it directly on Amazon.
- What language? – Publishing your book in English (at least in Malaysia) in hindsight is not the best route to do it. The English speaking market has a wide range of choices, including the thousands of books from international authors you may find in MPH or Kinokiniya.
- What niche market? – Is your book about finance, politics, personal development, parenting or a romance novel? By defining your target audience earlier on it will become clear which publisher to approach.
- How many pages? – Sadly to say, the value of a physical book is determined by its weight. If you have too little content, you may want to widen your scope to get more pages and fetch a decent price for your book.
I went with True Wealth, a publishing company by Azizi Ali, simply because my target language, distribution and topic clearly matched their portfolio. If you plan to publish an book in both English and BM, on the topic of money, personal development and related stuff, I recommend True Wealth.
If you plan to focus on only the Malay-speaking market, you may want to try PTS Publishing who I believe have a stronger hold on the Malay market. Same goes for publishing books in Mandarin, etc.
If you’re writing a political book (from a jail cell), you probably need to find smaller publishers or angel investors who have the know how and capital to help you, as most larger publishers avoid politics altogether.
In my case, I look upon Azizi as a publishing mentor so there’s an added reason to choose them. True Wealth is a great publisher, and they have been nothing but helpful to me even though I make them wait all the time 🙂
Anyways, here’s how my deal with them goes:
- Prepare a complete manuscript – No publisher would entertain you unless you can show them the finished manuscript of the book you want to publish. In many cases, getting the manuscript done is the most difficult part of publishing a book. It took me eight months.
- Approach the publisher – In my case they approached me, but as long as your book is commercially viable it should be no problem. Do not publish a biography of yourself unless you’re a politician, celebrity or famous figure. “Coffee table” books filled with pictures and stuff is also harder to produce and sell, so that’s probably not a smart choice either. Make sure you have built a name for yourself in your industry – it is not required but it helps your case.
- Sign the agreement – Never get anything started before having a black and white agreement which clearly states the Book Title, author name and publisher name, and other important details. You cannot afford to move ahead without knowing if your book maybe be dropped without notice.
- Proofread and edit your manuscript – No matter what kind of hero you think you are, your manuscript is going to be full of errors. In my case, the publisher assumes the cost of editing and proofreading, and in fact they do it for me. That’s one of the good things about True Wealth – they do everything beyond the completed manuscript.
- Apply for an ISBN number – It’s like your IC number, and identifies your book globally. You may already know what an ISBN is if you bought a book from Amazon before. Go to the Perpustakaan Negara (National Library) in Malaysia (National Bibliography Center) and you can get one for free (or a few ringgit), provided you contribute copies of your published book back to the library collection. Again if you have a publisher they will do this for you.
- Create a stunning cover – Your publisher may have designers who can do it for you, but give them proper instructions. The best way to decide on a cover is to take a look at other books in your niche topic. One of the mistakes I made with The New Millionaires is having too many things going on that the book “disappears” in a shelf filled with books featuring glaring fonts and colors. So I had to redesign it for the next reprint, which makes it identical to Jutawan Era Baru except for the colors, and which costs me more.
- Publish it! – Find a publishing house in Malaysia, get a quote from them. However, you need to make sure your layout and typesetting is all taken care of, otherwise they probably won’t print anything but a bill for you. Again of course, having a good publisher removes this step.
There’s really nothing you need to do once everything is in progress, except assist the publisher by giving feedback and suggestions until you get what you want. Remember that the publisher is an expert in publishing, so don’t argue with them on publishing matters. But you are an expert in your industry, so make sure when it comes to industry-related choices you get your voice heard.
Another popular question is how much do you earn?
While I cannot disclose that kind of confidential agreement, lets say you will probably earn royalty of 6% – 12% depending on the publisher. In most cases, there will be a tiered royalty rate – which means the more copies of your book sold, the higher your royalty will be.
If that’s too low for you, you can always try self-publishing, with which you can get more than 40% of the book sales for yourself. It also means you have to do all the work and spend all the money.
I’ve met a few people a few years ago who wanted to self-publish their book, and they haven’t succeeded yet.
Don’t underestimate the time and resources it takes to publish a book, and the important contacts you need to make just to get your book on an MPH shelf. Self-publishing is just not worth it, especially in Malaysia where your market is limited.
Lastly, most book publishers will agree that you will not get rich publishing a book.
That’s reality. So why do people publish books anyway?
Credibility, exposure and contacts. That’s the real reason.
I was shocked (and delighted) when I found a copy of The New Millionaires in the LCCT terminal bookstore in KLIA.
Most publishers – especially in the self development or financial niche – have an existing business. It could be consultation, coaching, ebooks, whatever. A physical book helps them boost their existing businesses, and that’s what they publish it.
So if you have nothing going on, publish children’s stories or science fiction novels and hope it gets turned into a billion dollar movie industry 🙂