Monday, August 28, 2006

MPH Writer's hi-tea

Sharon and Lydia have already blogged extensively about this, so I'm going to give my take on it.

It's my first MPH writer's hi-tea, and when Yvonne Lee whispered into my ear, "Every year got a lot of drama one," I didn't understand. Until I saw it for myself!

THE TOPIC: e-books. Not really appropriate because most people weren't that interested in it. They were more interested in getting published the traditional way.

THE TIMING: It started late...perhaps more time should have been allocated for Q and A.

THE MODERATORS: I thought they did a fine job with what they were given. This is what I said to Lydia, who's feeling a little down because someone sent an email around complaining about her moderation. "You did a fine job, Lydia. If anyone thinks they can do better, maybe they should give you pointers next time before the forum. After all, we didn't learn moderation techniques in school, did we?" And we all know there are personalities who cannot be told "Your time is up."

The highlight of the forum, for me, was Lillian Too! She's a little bit like Erin Brockovich in the way she tells it as it is, according to as she knows it. She doesn't mince her words! I think she deserves a forum all to herself. I know she stepped on many people's toes with what she said during the forum, but - like Lydia said - you can't please everyone all the time.

Among the things I gathered from her speech:

1. She says not to trust literary agents, esp UK and US ones (I have one myself, and so far, he hasn't given me any cause for doubt.)
2. She has sold 10 million copies since 1993 of all her books. Bravo! Despite that, she doesn't earn as much from royalties as she does from publishing and stocks and shares.
3. "Write a damned good book!"
4. She has personally pledged that if she thinks your book, dear author, is good, she will personally introduce you to Harper Collins et al and fight for you all the way.

I think she's a really good marketer and businesswoman, especially since she found a niche at that time not many people ventured into - feng shui - and took it all the way. And if she comes across as less than humble, well - remember, this is what makes the world go round, all types of personalities!! (I think she stepped on a few romance writers' toes when she said they follow a formula).

Then during the hi-tea, I circulated around with Lydia, Yvonne, Eric Forbes, Sharon and said hi to everyone I haven't met. I finally met Karen Ann Theseira. One of the Book Project writers (Vaneeta - hope I spelled it right) came up to me and said how much she enjoyed Dark City. I was so pleased. Also found out I sold 5 more books from 1 Utama since yesterday's talk.

I think May Zhee, the pretty 15 year old author of Vanity Bee, will go a long way. Apparently, she self-published and got a distributor all by herself, without any help from her father. Attagirl!


Ted Mahsun said...

Hehe... Tash Aw gives all sorts of praise for literary agents but Lillian Too says don't trust 'em...

Xeus said...

Ted, like author, lit agents come in all types and sizes! There's another writer who posts at Sharon's blog...Australian lady...who swears by them too.

I know you want to catch up on your sleep, but yesterday, real drama lah. Would have liked to know your take on whether a successful author has a right to be so publicly egoistical and disparaging to other people.

Ted Mahsun said...

Haiyah, I know, I know... feeling a little regret not going now. Nvm, I shall come next year... :D

bibliobibuli said...

it's nice to have your take on it too.

really the motivating factor about these do's is not to listen to long talks but to get to see the faces of people you've read about.

i loved lillian too too. what charisma! it trails after her. i am in awe!

the e-mail ... i understood the sender's frustration but felt it was bad grace

John Ling said...

I can see where Miss Lilian Too is coming from. Being a businesswoman through-and-through, her eye is on the bottom line. And the bottom line is doing away with any middlemen. Middlemen are bad, because they cut into your profit.

Oddly enough, I know someone whose character is exactly like Miss Too's. Because he has been highly successful in business, he insists that studying medicine is a stupid choice, because there's no money to be found in medicine. =)

But truth be told, it all depends on how you are approaching the issue of literary agents.

Are you approaching it from from the perspective of a true-blue writer or the perspective of a shrewd businessperson?

Lydia Teh said...

Hi Xeus, always enjoy reading about lit events. It's interesting to read all the different takes of different writers. I think a lot of us were simply awe-struck by Ms. Too, including me, haha.

Yep, you're prediction about May Zhee going far may be right (another Madam Zorra ah?). She's got the guts and the single-minded passion about it.

Hey, thanks for the support. I'm ok now and will learn from it.

Argus Lou said...

Geeses, I'm missing out on all this action. Where was it when I was still in town?!

My take on literary agents: Know who you're dealing with. Be upfront about costs, fees and percentages from the start.

If you're the kind who likes to wheel and deal, go ahead and do your own selling to publishers. But if you don't have a business bone in your body and would like to be left alone to write, engage a trustworthy one whom you personally like (bad for your soul to deal with an agent who's good in his/her job but you cringe every time you need to talk to or email him/her).

Argus Lou said...

Sorry. Correction (to the above): Know whom you're dealing with. Heh.

Yvonne Lee said...

Hi Xeus! It was enlightening listening to you at your book talk. So much to learn too. Nice meeting your agent Jerry.

Thanks for posting about the MPH event and's the flavour of the month for now, isn't it?

Please allow me to share my views since this is the third consecutive time I attended. Believe me, every year has been a full house affair.
My first was in 2004. No forum but all local authors were asked to each give a short intro and share experiences in getting a book published. Very interesting mix of personalities and everyone had their share with the mic.
The last one, ahem, believe me was one who brought on much drama, as usual.
It ended with the hi-tea session. Also, there was a main table with the display of books by the local authors and people had the time to get them autographed too.

Last year's was different as they did away with the individual authors' intro speech ( but all local authors were introduced to the audience) and went straight on with a forum entitled "Challenges of local Authors" where the panelists comprised MPH's Mr Lu, Ms Chong Seau Ching, Rajen Devadason, Oon Yeoh, one lady from the government body, myself and the esteemed presence of our sasterawan negara Dato A Samad Said.( Picture in: Gallery,

It was a good discussion and the audience responded well too during the Q & A. Hehehe, no mic hogging laa. Everyone was really professional. Unfortunately, there was no more display of local authors' books inside unlike previous year's.

This year's crowd is simply astounding. Very good publicity and I believe the panel did their best despite that e-book topic. It's unfortunate that some people were unhappy about certain things ( i.e. keluar tajuk) and perhaps, more time should be allocated for people to ask questions.

As a new author myself, I must say that I always enjoy meeting experienced authors and listen to their nuggets of wisdom. Many have been interesting, insightful and some, colourful. But those who really bowled me over are authors like Shirley Lim Geok Lin, Tash Aw, Kee Thuan Chye and Dato A Samad Said, not just for their great literary work but for their amazing humility despite their international standing.

Having personally spoken to them, I feel in awe that they carry themselves with nary an ounce of arrogance, their words and deeds filled with humility.

From then, I promised that if I EVER made it as an author, I must emulate their mannerism. It pays to remember that no matter how celebrated an author is, she was once raw and unheard of.

Xeus, I'm sure that you agree with me that MPH must be highly-praised for taking such great initiative to organise this popular event year after year. Or there'll be no sharing here ( and no drama to watch too.....)
We sure look forward to a bigger such event next year.

God bless MPH, especially Datuk Ng, Rodney and his team for making the event possible.


Xeus said...

Sharon, I'm actually a little intimidated by her :) but in a good way.

John, she has been a CEO of a bank so I guess it's in her blood. The rest of us are doing this because we love it and are compelled to write. I didn't even think about the bottonline :)

Actually, medicine does net you quite a lot of money. I know a gastroenterologist who earns $300,000 a month. And an Oncologist who bought a Pantai Hills mansion within 4 years of private sector work.

Having been a Dr myself, I no longer do it because I have no passion for it, rather than because there's no money in it.

Xeus said...

Lydia, never mind. You can moderate again next year!

Argus Lou, see? Everything happens the moment you go away. You would have enjoyed the drama!

Yvonne, glad you got your computer problems sorted out! Well, we can learn from your example. You are a bestselling author and are still so humble. But not everyone can be like that. I wonder if JK Rowling is still humble?

Argus Lou said...

Xeus, what did you mean by "see"? Did you tell me everything would happen the moment I went away? ^_^ Actually I'm a peace-loving sort - often find people "too drama".

Dear folks, do have a look at Argus World now if you have time. It's slightly improved with more entries and a couple of stories. Thanks much.

Xeus said...

Argus Lou, I will feature your new blog soon.

bibliobibuli said...

am i sooo scary? actually i'm a softie. just big and opinionated and a bit bossy.

Xeus said...

Not you Sharon! I was referring to your post about Lillian Too! Lillian intimidates me, not you. You are absolutely huggable!

Argus Lou said...

Heheheheh! You two crack me up, Sharon and Xeus. (Actually I did wonder if Xeus was intimidated by Sharon or Lillian.)