Whilst most self-publishing companies in Malaysia focus on print services, Teaspoon Publishing focuses on the e-book and online print-on-demand (POD) market. There’s nothing inherently wrong with choosing one or the other—or deciding to do both.
Here are a couple of questions to consider when choosing your publishing strategy:
1. What is your intended market?
Where and to whom you intend to sell your book is a major factor in what your publishing strategy should look like.
The Malaysian book market is still heavily reliant on print. As much as e-book sales have started to take off amongst avid readers in Malaysia, the general market mostly prefers to buy tangible goods. Most casual readers still like browsing before buying, so if you’re trying to convert casual readers into customers, this is the best way to drive interest. Having something physical to sell also helps you get in the door at sales and meet-and-greet events such as Art for Grabs, Hin Bus Pop Up Market, and the Malaysian Writers Fest.
Pricing is also a deciding factor. Local portals such as MPH and GerakBudaya have attempted to sell e-books, but pricing an e-book at almost the same price (or even higher) than a print book defeats the purpose of offering an alternate digital version. Look at e-book prices on e-Sentral to figure out what’s the best price for your e-book.
Reminder to readers: purchases of ebooks are also eligible for tax deductions so don’t forget to save those receipts!
Suggested strategy: A mix of online and print.
Obviously, if you’re trying to penetrate the international market, e-book is the way to go. However, if print is important to your readership, providing online print options via POD (through Amazon/Createspace, Lulu, or Ingramspark) would be a cheaper and hassle-free option as compared to printing the books physically in Malaysia and shipping them out to your customers.
Suggested strategy: 100% online with POD options.
Other considerations: Age group/readership
The way your intended market prefers to read is also a factor in whether your book sells or not.
Children’s books—especially those targeted for young/beginning readers—still need to be in print. MG and YA books can go either way. Whilst teen readers are digital natives, access and funds to purchase e-books are often controlled by their parents, even if they own an e-reader. General fiction aimed for adult readers (whatever the genre) sells well either in print or e-book—though the market seems to prefer e-books for new/indie authors and print for established/traditionally published authors. Various genres also lend themselves to better e-book sales than print. Non-fiction and textbooks still sell better in print.
Suggested strategy: Study sales trends for your genre to decide what’s best for your book.
2. How much can you afford to spend?
Traditional publishers still dominate publishing because they have the funds. Printing isn’t cheap—and it’s much cheaper to print in bulk than in the small quantities that a self-publisher can afford. Let’s not even talk about where and how you can store the thousands (or hopefully only hundreds) of books you’ve just printed—or how to get it distributed.
Focusing on the e-book market first helps you to minimise upfront costs and hopefully earn back what you’ve paid for covers and editing before you splurge on a print run that may or may not succeed. And if you’re able to tell people that your book is popular online (look at all these reviews!) that might even be an additional selling point when you promote your book to live audiences.
Crowdfunding for a print run might also be a good option to explore.
Suggested strategy: Plan a small print run if you have funds, then use that to direct buyers to your online store/e-book retailer of choice.
These two questions are the very basics to ask when deciding when and how to self-publish your book. What else have you considered when choosing your publishing strategy? Do you have any other important considerations that might help other new authors?