Saturday, August 19, 2006

MPH Writer's Circle yesterday

Ted has blogged about this, so I'm going by a different angle and what I took from it.

Dato' Ng, CEO of the MPH Publishing Group, said that the 'in' genres now for fiction are Malay romances (and Malay books in general) and Children's books. I am in the midst of writing the latter (and having Dark City translated into the former), so I asked if he was interested. He said, "Of course, let's have a look at it."

(Actually, my agent is hoping to get this children's book published in the UK because I have actually met the UK publishing contact - blogged about earlier - but you never know how these UK publishing deals turn out. So I better arm myself with a whole lot of options.)

The most interesting part of the morning for me (other than meeting Ted) was the way Dato' Ng suggests and rejects books on the spot. Being 15 years in the business, he has an uncanny knack of knowing what sells and what doesn't. This is the gist of it.

Q: "Should I write an autobiography about a movie star?"
A: "Nope. Definitely not. It won't sell."
Q: "What about Siti Nurhaliza's wedding?"
A: "It's already been written about. Besides, if you don't have her permission, she might sue you."
Q: "I'm in HR. I want to write about how young people can find careers."
A: "Is there a market for this? Everyone just goes on the Internet and downloads this nowadays. The trick is to keep your book short and simple. People don't like to read long wordy books."

And I've learnt something about children's books. Apparently, the writer shares copyright with the illustrator, and the illustrator also gets part of the royalties. The illustrator's pictures might turn out to be more popular than the text itself!

As for non fiction, political figures always sell, and cookbooks are evergreen.

Dat' Ng also espouses self-publishing whenever able, especially for non-fic. But the con is finding a distributor for your book, because bookstores won't deal with single authors. ("Too much fuss creating a separate account and invoice just for your book, which might sell only 5 copies.") Naturally, fiction writers don't like to self-publish because it is horribly tabboo.

The other session was from Shoba Mano, who had success getting published the e-publishing way (these US publishers also do softcover) in the romance genre. Great going, Shoba!! Apparently, one can also attend writers' workshops on the net and google for a whole lot of publishers. Some of these publishers accept query letters and your first 3 chapters by email.

Although it is not my genre, I do know a little bit about Romance. I'm talking about pure romance (with its subtypes of historical romance, adventure romance etc), not chick lit, the latter of which I infinitely prefer.

According to the 'how to' books, Romance is one genre where it is easiest to get published. BUT you have to follow a certain plot pattern. There always MUST be a happy ending, when the lovers unite after many obstacles. If you don't follow this pattern, you will NOT be published in this genre.

So all in all, interesting morning.


Lydia Teh said...

Xeus, thanks for posting this. At least we fellas who couldn't make it know what's going on.

Xeus said...

Can't wait to see you next week, Lydia. I'm sure you will be a good moderator :)

BTW, I was at Bangsar Village MPH, and your book was displayed prominently on the Malaysiana shelf.

Syafique said...

now i know what's "in" and what's "out"

Xeus said...

It might change next year, Syafique.

Lydia Teh said...

Thanks Xeus for the vote of confidence, I'm not so sure about that. I've put up your talk on my blog.

Argus Lou said...

Congratulations, Xeus! It looks like you're well on your way to your next book. I'm working on a children's novel, five chapters in.
Thanks for the tips.

The Eternal Wanderer said...

Thanks so much for this write-up! Like Lydia mentioned, it's great to keep those of us who couldn't make it informed about whats happening at the meetings. It's a shame I couldn't make it but I did have fun at the camp I went.

It's definitely encouraging to hear that children's book is selling well, but how often do children do read them on their own or ask mommy or dady buy for them? Most often than not, I think it could be parents buying the books in hope of getting the children to read but sadly, the book might be gathering dust in the shelves.

But hey, I'm sure the writers aren't complaining! :D Then again, a part of me wished I am equally in love with the Malay language as I am with English so I could write some cool, less sappy romance novels in Malay! :D

Xeus said...

Thanks, Lydia.

Argus Lou, MPH Bangsar Village has sold out Dark City, thanks to you :)

Eternal Wanderer, Dato Ng said parents buy those books for their young children. So I guess if you're writing for the younger set, you have to take that in account. But if you are writing to the older set like teens and young adults, they determine their own books.