Home » Blog

Critique Groups: Workshopping your novel

You’ve finished your novel, and you’re at the stage where you don’t know whether it’s good or bad or… meh. What do you do next? You could send it off to a publisher and see whether they like it or not. Or you could workshop it with a group of fellow writers (whether online or off) in what’s sometimes called a critique group.

Critique

What’s a critique group?

A critique group is a place for writers to get and give feedback on their current work. Some of it can be guided, where the group has a list of things to check off or that needs to be addressed, or non-guided, where everything is quite free-flow. These groups can also be online via email or private groups, or in-person meetings, like the ones they have monthly at MYWriters Penang.

How does a critique work?

Each person submits a piece of their work, usually within a set word count, to the group. Then they read the pieces that other people in the group have submitted and give their opinions on it. Some of these can be very structured, but at the least, they should cover points like:

  • What’s your overall impression of the piece?
  • Was it confusing? If yes, why?
  • Did anything stick out to you (whether good or bad)?
  • What caught your attention?

The main things to remember in giving a critique are:

  • Be honest … but kind and tactful
  • Don’t bash people or genres
  • Don’t pick fights
  • Don’t forget to praise the good stuff
  • Remember, your opinion is just that: your opinion.

The main things to remember about receiving a critique are:

  • Listen, but remember that their opinion is just that: their opinion
  • Consider each suggestion at least briefly
  • Decide what’s best for your work

How does a critique really help me?

The reason critiques help is that they provide you with a fresh set of eyes on your work. The questions your peers ask or points they raise can help you figure out the problem areas in your story, highlight potential areas of confusion, or simply let you know where you did something well. Critiquing someone else’s work also helps you think more critically about the writing process and how your own writing may come across to readers.

Critiques shouldn’t be mean-spirited, but be an open way to share your work and grow together with fellow writers. You’ll find that both JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis came out of the same writing group known as the Inklings. Here’s a list of famous writing groups.

If you’re still looking for a writing community, we’ve found most of our writing friends mainly from MYWriters and NaNoWriMo, because there’s nothing like a unified goal to help bring people together.

Remember, you can always quote your MYWriters member ID to get 10% off all services at Teaspoon Publishing. Register today!

I’ve written a novel… now what?

The question most people ask after NaNoWriMo is: Now What? Sometimes that question means ‘what do I do with this 50K novel I’ve written?’ Sometimes it’s ‘I didn’t finish my novel, what do I do now?’

The answer to both is: keep writing.

I've written a novel... now what?

Just because you’ve finished one month of writing doesn’t mean that you just stop there. Because whilst the point of NaNoWriMo is to have written a novel, if you’re serious about writing, you can’t just only write for one month of the year. You’ve got to make it consistent—and that’s the real point.

You can think of it this way:

Isi Tersurat: write 50K in a month… win!

Isi Tersirat: create a writing schedule (daily/weekly/monthly) that works for you so that you’re on track to be a serious full-time novelist… win! Remember what we said in this post?

But practically…

  • If you haven’t finished your novel yet (whether or not you hit 50K), keep going. You’ve already started your novel, you might as well finish it.
  • If you’ve already finished your novel (whether or not it was 50K), now’s the time to take a step back and look at it with a critical editing eye.

The Easy Yes/No Questions:

  1. Does the story have a solid beginning, middle and ending?
  2. Does the plot make sense?
  3. Is this story worth telling/something you really want to share?
  4. Are you satisfied with it as it stands?

If you answered yes to all four, then you can start working on editing and polishing it into something for others to see.

If you answered no to ANY of the above, then it’s time for rewrites!

What’s rewriting?

Rewriting is when you pull your novel to pieces and then put it together again to make it better.

You’re addressing all the questions above, making sure that your story has a good plot that makes sense and is complete in itself. It may also mean you need to restructure the whole thing if you write anything like we do, haphazardly jumping from scene to scene, up and down the timeline.

When you’ve finally come to the point where you’re satisfied with your story, or where you don’t know how else you can make it better, that’s when you workshop it or bring it to a critique group.

And will be the next post.

For now, here’s a short article on rewriting:

MYWriters: The Writing Community for Malaysians

Our last post talked about NaNoWriMo and how having a group of writing friends can help spur on your writing—and make you a better writer. But if you’ve just started on your writing journey, how do you find such friends?

Introducing MYWriters

MYWriters banner

One resource you can look at is the Malaysian Writers Society, fondly known as MYWriters, which was established in September 2016. An inclusive and non-profit initiative, MYWriters facilitates activities and programmes related to Malaysian writing and publishing that transcends genre, language, function, medium, and experience levels.

MYWriters runs on two levels:

The online community

The Facebook group, founded by Tina Isaacs in October 2014, provides a place for interaction amongst writers of all stripes in Malaysia. This is a closed group, with posts only visible to approved members, so that writers can have a safe place to discuss writing and publishing matters in private. The only criteria to be a member of the online group is an interest in writing!

Members regularly post calls for submissions, writing and publishing articles, and have discussions about their work. Write-in sessions and chit chat sessions are also organised on a regular basis.

Join the MYWriters Community here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/malaysianwriters/

Members located in Penang also have a MYWriters Penang group to discuss Penang-related matters. Join here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/MyWritersPenang/

The Society

Official membership in the society provides benefits that aren’t available to the members of the facebook group. This includes discounts on society events, book sales and publication opportunities.

Some of the additional benefits to come include publishing advice, mentorship programmes, an industry rate card, and representation at international book fairs. See the full list here: http://malaysianwriterssociety.org/member-application/members-benefits/

Did you know that as a member of the Malaysian Writers Society, you get 10% off all services and publishing hub packages here at Teaspoon Publishing?

Sign up for Malaysian Writers Society here: http://malaysianwriterssociety.org/member-application/

And follow them on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/malaysianwriterssociety/

Write-ins

If you’re looking for company as you write, check out the following venues:

KL:

CBTL NuSentral: Saturdays, 8.30am to 1pm (weekly; check Facebook for updates).

Old Town Bandar Kinrara, Puchong: Sundays, 3pm – 5pm (check Facebook for updates).

Penang:

LUMA, Hin Bus Depot, George Town: Mondays, 7pm – 11pm (weekly).

 

MYWriters AGM

The Malaysian Writers Society is holding their second AGM on 10 November 2018 (Saturday) at the GerakBudaya Hall, Petaling Jaya. If you’re already a member and are interested to find out more about the society or would like to get involved in this young vibrant society, do attend the AGM.

For more details: https://www.facebook.com/events/695054964201548/permalink/695056687534709/

Malaysian writers, are you geared up for NaNoWriMo?

It’s the middle of October and we’re gearing up for NaNoWriMo. Are you?

What’s NaNoWriMo?

NaNoWriMo logo
Image courtesy of National Novel Writing Month

NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. Participants are challenged to finish a 50,000-word novel in the 30 days of November, writing 1,667 words a day. Founded in 1999 by Chris Baty, it started off as a tiny group of writers in the San Francisco Bay Area who challenged themselves to write a novel in a month. 19 years later, NaNoWriMo now boasts more than 400,000 participants worldwide and hosts a Young Writers Programme in November to encourage creative writing in schools.

Whilst it may sound like ridiculous hype, great things have come out of NaNoWriMo, including Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants, Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus, Hugh Howey’s Wool, Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl, Jason Hough’s The Darwin Elevator, Marissa Meyer’s Cinder and Anna Tan’s Dongeng. Why not add your novel to that list?

 

50,000 words? In one month? That’s crazy!

Sometimes the problem with writing is… actually writing. Life gets in the way. School gets in the way. Work gets in the way. And then a new year rolls around and you’re still on page one of your novel. (At least, we hope you’ve started page one.) What NaNoWriMo does is add a little bit of challenge (and discipline) to your writing life.

Setting yourself an achievable goal of 1,667 words a day helps you to pace yourself—and before you know it, you’ll have completed the first draft of your novel! This kind of sustained, target-based writing exercise doesn’t work for everyone, so if you don’t hit the target, don’t worry. What you’ll have gained from attempting it is an achievement in itself, including:

  • Discovering that you are capable of writing more than you think.
  • Building more confidence in your writing and your writing process.
  • Gaining a new community of supportive writing friends.
  • Finding out if you’re a plotter (you need detailed outlines before writing) or a pantster (you write as the story comes to you without outlines or plots).
  • Working out if you prefer to word-vomit and edit later or if you need to scrutinise every word, sentence and paragraph as you write.
  • Writing more words than you had at the beginning of the month.

It’s a win-win situation!

3 Do’s for November:

  • DO enjoy yourself! Whilst it’s a competition (sorta?) the most you’ll win is a certificate, discounts, and bragging rights. If your participation is affecting your mental health, relationships, or life/work/school, take a step back and chill.
  • DO attempt to write every day. The point of NaNoWriMo is to help you get into a habit of writing regularly.
  • DO get involved in community. Writing is usually a very lonely endeavour. With a bunch of other crazy writers working towards the same goal in November, it’s the perfect time to find new writing friends (online and offline) for encouragement and solace.

How do I sign up?

Sign up at the website here: https://nanowrimo.org

If you’re looking for a community of Malaysian writers to join you on this crazy writing journey, join the NaNo Malaysia facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/257264007651665/ or join the regional forum: https://nanowrimo.org/regions/asia-malaysia. More participants are active on the FB group than on the forum, but you never know. Things may change year by year, depending on who’s signed up for the year.

Also look out for the occasional write-in posts—the KL group normally meets on Saturday evenings at various malls. If you’re based in Penang, the MYWriters Penang group has a weekly write-in at Luma every Monday evening from 7pm – 11pm. It’s not directly related to NaNoWriMo, but you’ll be in writing company!

Now I’ve signed up, how can I prepare?

  • Join a writing group in your area (whether face-to-face or virtual) for encouragement, writing tips, and to convince at least one of them to join you on this crazy journey!
  • Look out for any pre-NaNoWriMo meetups in your area (see above) or create one!
  • Prep your friends, writerly or not, to cheer you on (and provide tea, chocolate, and tissue paper).
  • If you’re a plotter, start outlining and collecting miscellaneous information so you’re ready to dive right in on Nov 1!
  • If you’re a pantster, clear up your writing space and remove distractions from your desk so you’re ready to dive right in on Nov 1!
  • Check out the NaNo Prep page for webcasts, tweet chats, events, and all the other stuff we’ve missed out.

See you in November!

Creating an EPUB via Scrivener

One of the downsides of publishing on E-Sentral and Google Play is the fact that you have to create and upload your own epub file. Other platforms, including Amazon and Smashwords, allow you to upload a Word file (.doc or .docx) and does the conversion for you.

What’s an epub?

EPUB is an e-book file format which is used on most platforms, including smartphones, tablets, computers and e-readers. It’s HTML based so even if you don’t have a specific e-reader on your computer, you should be able to open it in most browsers.

How do I create an epub?

We don’t know the specifics of how exactly you’d code an epub, but here’s the easy version using Scrivener.

Organise your chapters into folders.

Create Folders

Organising your chapters into folders will tell Scrivener where your actual chapter breaks are. In the screenshot, you’ll see that sometimes we put in several text files into the same folder. These are in-chapter breaks.

Update your front matter files.

This includes adding your cover picture (which can be done by dragging the picture file into the folder, creating a title page (as above) and a copyright page (per below).

 

Add your back matter.

add back matter

We usually add this to the end of the Manuscript itself, as there aren’t any pre-formatted folders for Back Matter. Back matter, as said previously, would include information about your other works or how to contact you via email or social media.

 

Compile your file.

Under “File”, you’ll find the compile function. There are several steps to this:

a) Select e-book format (with or without parts). This will tell Scrivener that you want to create an epub.

b) Select the cover file you previously added to the front matter folder.

c) Update your metadata.

d) Click compile!

 

Check your final files.

Now that everything is done, open your brand-new epub file to test that everything looks like it’s supposed to. You can also run it through this checker to make sure there are no errors.

And you have an epub file to upload to E-Sentral and Google Play!

 


 

If you have problems creating an epub file, or you don’t own a copy of Scrivener, check out our publishing hub. We’ll be able to create an epub file for you for as low as RM120.

New book release: A Still, Small Voice

A Still Small Voice cover

On her eighteenth birthday, Hono is to be crowned Queen of the City of Winter but the Dragon disrupts the coronation ceremony with a peculiar cry:

Listen. Listen. Listen!

There is one more task to free the City of Winter of all enchantment—and Hono must listen carefully for it.


Anna Tan’s new short story A Still, Small Voice released today! Head over to the Books page to purchase your copy.

Want it directly on your e-reader? Links to direct retailers are available on Anna’s website.

 

 

Applying for an ISBN from PNM

Applying for an ISBN from PNMGetting an ISBN from Perpustakaan Negara Malaysia (PNM) is really easy—and it’s free! Whilst many ebook distributors/aggregators provide free ISBNs and/or have their own tracking system (eg: ASIN on Amazon and GGKey on Google Play), E-Sentral does not. They require you to apply for one from PNM, as we mentioned in our post on publishing on E-Sentral.

What’s an ISBN?

ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number and is a unique number associated with your book. An ISBN is assigned to each edition (except reprintings) of a book, which means that your e-book, paperback and hardcover would all need a different ISBN. If you want a quick reference, pick up the nearest book, turn to the back and look at the barcode. There will be a 13-digit number (or 10, if the book is super old)—that’s the ISBN!

Why do I need one?

The quick and easy answer is that it’s the simplest way to track and catalogue your books. For print, it’s how the cashier can ring up your sale quickly, by scanning the barcode. Like we mentioned earlier, some online retailers have their own tracking system and do not require an ISBN, but you can also link an ISBN to books sold on those platforms if you wish to. They (meaning Amazon and Google Play) can get away with is mainly because they’re big enough.

If you’re going through a distributor or aggregator such as Smashwords or D2D, you will need an ISBN because it’s a requirement to distribute to sales channels such as Kobo, Apple, and Overdrive.

Do I need a different ISBN for each of my different ebook formats?

According to best practices, each sellable format of your book should have a unique ISBN. Which means that your ISBN on E-Sentral should be different from the one on Smashwords (but this would be the same for all platforms that Smashwords distributes to since they only distribute the epub version).

Confused?

Don’t worry. Just take it that each place you upload to BY YOURSELF probably needs a different ISBN. If you’re not the one uploading it personally, then the distributor or aggregator you use will kau tim that for you.

Okay, so how do I get an ISBN from PNM?

You need two things: a printer and a scanner. (Well, and a laptop, and internet access, and paper, but who’s counting?)

First of all, go to this page on PNM: http://www.pnm.gov.my/index.php/pages/view/18

That’s where you’ll get all the technical info we’re skipping over and the forms you need.

Download and fill Borang 1

Screenshot of Borang 1

Borang 1 is the application to be a publisher.

  • If you’re applying as an individual, you’ll need to scan your IC for them.
  • If you’ve opened a company/sole proprietorship, you’ll need to scan your Borang D plus the Pemilik printout from SSM that shows you are the owner.

The most difficult questions to answer (hah) are these:

Screenshot of Borang 1, section 2

Don’t worry. You can totally guess for #3. It’s “expectation”, after all.

Next, download and fill Borang 2

Screenshot of Borang 2Borang 2 is the actual application for the ISBN. For this one, you need to state the print shop (if you’re printing the book) or the website (if it’s an ebook).

You’ll need to send them the copyright page and the cover of the book with your form.

For first time applicants, leave the Publisher Identity section blank—the officer processing your form will fill it up for you. If you’ve applied before, you’ll need to fill this in based on the Publisher ID PNM gave you on your first application.

Screenshot of Borang 2, section B

If you’re printing your book, you’ll need to add in the printer’s name. If you’re publishing it as an ebook, you fill in the website, e.g. E-Sentral.com.my, Amazon.com, etc.

You’ll need to provide an estimated publishing date. Please do yourself a favour and don’t put it too soon—just in case anything goes wrong. You can also just fill in the month you target to publish it, instead of an exact date. Why? Because you have to submit your published book/ebook within 30 days of that date… and if something goes wrong and it’s terribly delayed, you can be fined up to RM3K!

Email everything to PNM

Once you have everything ready, email them to isbn@pnm.gov.my.

Well, you can go old-school and fax it over, but we’re guessing most of you don’t have a fax machine anymore (we don’t!). OR if you live near to the library, you can also walk/drive over and hand deliver your forms.

And you’re done!

Other things to note:

  • Only apply for a publisher ID and your ISBN when you’re almost ready to publish your book. We tried registering as a publisher without registering for any ISBNs yet (because we hadn’t yet compiled the info) but the officer asked us for the Borang 2 at the same time in order to process the Borang 1.
  • After the first application and registration as a publisher, you only need to submit Borang 2 for subsequent ISBN applications.
  • Processing usually takes about 3 – 5 working days.
  • Once you have your ISBN, you can proceed to upload to E-Sentral or print your books!
  • Remember that you’ll have to submit 5 copies of your print book or 2 CDs of your e-book to PNM within 30 days of publication. (Yes, CDs. THAT IS CORRECT.)

Let us know if you have more questions on applying for an ISBN with PNM!

Publishing on E-Sentral: A Step-by-Step Guide

Publishing on E-SentralNow that you know how to publish on Amazon, it’s time to learn how to publish on E-Sentral.

In our last post, we talked briefly about self-publishing strategies between KU (Amazon-exclusive) and Wide (primarily for the International market)—so what better way to put that into practice than to figure out how E-Sentral, the biggest e-book retailer in Malaysia, works?

We figured this also would be the best time to walk you through how to publish on E-Sentral since we’re in the midst of uploading A Still, Small Voice.

 

What is E-sentral?

E-Sentral is the largest e-book repository in Southeast Asia, founded by our very own Malaysians in 2011! Granted, the main market seems to be Malay and Indonesian books, including school books. Still, it doesn’t hurt to test it out since even the big international e-book distributors/aggregators tout that “we distribute to E-Sentral!” (Be proud of Malaysia, kan?)

It has 3 main bases: Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia. The platform itself offers a “studio” for you to craft your ebooks, but since we’re already using Scrivener to create our epubs, we didn’t take up the extra option.

Several things to note about publishing on E-Sentral before we walk you through the (very) simple steps:

  1. It doesn’t have great category options for fiction, unlike Amazon or Smashwords.
  2. It only sells books in epub format—no PDF, no html—and uses DRM so it can only be read on their dedicated e-reader (which you can download for free). This basically means you’re publishing into a closed market. That’s alright since they don’t require exclusive rights.
  3. It only accepts payment via debit or credit card—and only Malaysian cards at that, at least on the Malaysian portal. We’re assuming the Singaporean and Indonesian portals will accept credit cards from their respective countries.
  4. It has its own e-library system, similar to Overdrive.

What you need to publish on E-Sentral:

  1. Epub file
  2. Cover file
  3. ISBN

How to publish on E-Sentral

Publishing on E-Sentral is actually really, really easy. You probably don’t even need this step-by-step guide, but it’s here just in case you want to have a look before deciding if you’d like to create a publisher account. They’ve also just upgraded their interface so everything looks pretty snazzy right now!

Basic book details

Basic Book Details

1. Fill in the title of your book.

2. Fill in your author name.

3. Fill in your selling price in RM. The system will use this price to set prices in other currencies. If you don’t like the price they’ve converted it to (or you want to price differently in different markets) you can manually change it. You’ll note here that most of the currencies offered are for Southeast Asian countries. (Currency not shown in print screen: Vietnam Dong.)

4. Enter your e-ISBN. Unlike other publishing platforms, E-Sentral does not offer free ISBNs. Instead, you have to obtain your own ISBN from Perpustakaan Negara Malaysia.

5. Fill in your book synopsis/blurb.

6. Stare at the categories and laugh. Pick what best fits your book. As mentioned earlier, there aren’t many categories for fiction, unless you’re writing in “major” categories like Romance or Chick-Lit… or maybe Children.

7. Next you can choose a release date. If you don’t choose one, it will release once it’s been processed.

8. We don’t really know why they have “Language” and “Content type”, which seem to refer to the same thing, but as you can tell, E-Sentral does BM and Mandarin, which aren’t always options in, say, Amazon. We’re also not sure why “Music” is a content type, but ok.

9. The “Tag” option works, as far as we can tell, like what Amazon’s “keyword” section. Enter in all the words you’d like related to your book here. In this case, we figured it’s a great place to note that A Still, Small Voice is a short story, fairy tale, and fantasy.

10. Imprint is the “who’s publishing this” section, so we put Teaspoon Publishing in this space. If you don’t have a publishing house or if you’re self-publishing it under your own name, you can leave it blank.

Library Purchase Programme

You’ll actually need to sign an extra agreement to participate in this programme, so don’t worry if it doesn’t appear on your upload page! It’s not set to appear unless you’ve already subscribed to the library programme. This works something like Overdrive, where if you subscribe to it, the library can purchase a copy of your book to lend to their patrons. As you can see, you can set a special price for libraries, whether higher or lower than your normal selling price.

Uploading your books

The final step is to upload your epub file and your cover file. It’s a drag and drop function, so that’s fairly easy.

Several things to note about uploading:

  1. Although the upload e-book box says it accepts files up to 100 MB, it often hangs if the file is more than 2MB. So try to get the smallest sized file possible!
  2. If this doesn’t work, try using the bulk upload option.
  3. All the other platforms I’ve seen will provide an automatic preview file (usually 10% – 20% of the ebook). E-Sentral doesn’t. If you want to provide a preview (or Look Inside as Amazon puts it), you’ll have to create a separate epub with the exact amount of content that you want your potential readers to see.

Once you click submit, it will tell you that your submission has been uploaded, or it will give you a warning if there’s anything missing or wrong.

If you’re the kin cheong type, you can check on the status under the “submission status” tab.

That’s basically it!

We’re pretty sure you have two questions now:

  1. How do I create an epub?
  2. How do I get an e-ISBN?

We’ll cover that soon!

 

KU or Wide? Considerations for Malaysian Self-Publishers

KU or Wide?

One of the first dilemmas most self-publishers face is whether to go KU or Wide, or rather, should they sell exclusively on Amazon or try to sell on every publishing platform? There are pros and cons to both—as well as successful authors on both divides—so it’s not so much a debate on the right way to sell, but rather a question of what your personal preferences and goals are.

Still, when we started this post, we began to wonder if it’s really relevant because we’re Malaysians. OBVIOUSLY, if we want to sell ebooks to Malaysians, we need to go wide—otherwise, how would Malaysians get their hands on our ebooks? Then we figured that we might as well explain what KU or Wide is and how it impacts you so that you can make an informed decision.

 

So, first of all, what is KU?

Or, what do we mean when we say KU or Wide?

The term, as used here, is actually a misnomer. KU stands for Kindle Unlimited, which is the end user’s (i.e. reader) subscription service. What you, as the author, sign up for is KDP Select.

 

KDP Select? What’s that?

Remember #14 in our Step-by-step Guide to Publishing on Amazon?

Yeah, this whole post is about whether you should tick that button or not.

When you sign up for KDP Select, you’re basically going exclusive at Amazon for a minimum block of 90 days, which is automatically renewed until you opt out of the renewal. “Exclusive” here means that you cannot sell your ebook anywhere else, even your own website. This doesn’t affect print though, so you can still print your book and sell that on your website.

 

Why would I want to do that?

First of all, signing up for Select automatically enrols your book into Kindle Unlimited (KU) and Kindle Owners’ Lending Library (KOLL). This means that thousands of subscribers (maybe more) have access to your books for a flat rate whilst you get PAID for what they read. (More on that at the end of the post.)

Secondly, you get to choose between free days or countdown promotions, which are pretty nifty promotional tools that non-select publishers don’t get.

You’ll also get 70% royalties in some markets (Japan, India, Brazil, Mexico) which normally only pays 35% royalties.

 

Why is KU a good thing?

The good thing about KU is that borrowers can read your entire catalogue for cheap to them, whilst paying you. Bigger plus point: you also get paid for however much the borrowers read of your book—even if they hated it and stopped after like page 20. The rate per page may seem small, but if you’re great at marketing, it may add up to a lot.

By locking yourself in to the Amazon ecosystem, you also get to take advantage of all the special selling tools Amazon has (as mentioned above), which helps with visibility, ranking, and ultimately sales.

 

So why the whole KU or Wide debate?

The problem here is the “Amazon exclusive” clause. Because Amazon does not have a Malaysian (or international, bar a select few) market presence*, this creates an additional barrier to making sales in Malaysia (or internationally, in general). Those who really want to buy your ebook internationally in places without an Amazon market* will have to jump through the usual hoops (VPN, gift cards, etc) to get it—and they’ll only do it if they’re already diehard fans. The casual reader or potential readers will just see “not available in your region” (if they even look at the Amazon page) and move on.

And let me reiterate, you can’t sell your ebook anywhere else, even on your own webpage, if you’re on KDP Select. Doing that will get all your books pulled from Amazon and your account might be banned/blacklisted.

 

Should I just go wide then?

Personally, we think you should. But that depends on your goals too. If you’re trying to tap into the American market and/or you write in genres with very avid readers, it might work to your benefit to go KU. If you’re hoping to sell internationally, or you write in a genre that doesn’t do so well with borrows, you should probably plan on going wide.

We found these questions on this KU board very helpful.

Questions to ask when deciding between going KU or Wide

The questions (and answers) are:

  • Do you want to quickly earn back the cost of the production of the book? Yes = try KU
  • Do you live in the US and/or is your book geared towards US readers? Yes = go in KU
  • Do you want to build a loyal reader base who will buy all your books? Yes = go wide
  • Do you expect your books will have international appeal? Yes = go wide

Other advice on the web:

Susan Kaye Quinn, who’s this really amazing and generous author (we learnt a lot about self-publishing from her), suggests an all-in approach. Whichever way you choose, commit all your books to it so that you can work the advantages of either approach. Don’t try to go half-half, because you might end up frustrating readers.

What we understand from this is that if you have half your books in KU and half not (you need to opt in by book), your KU readers can’t read all your books and they might be stopped from continuing because they’d have to spend more to buy non-KU books above their monthly subscription fee. On the converse side, international readers who have purchased your book, say on Kobo or Smashwords, might be trying to find another book of yours to read—and if it’s in KU, they might not be able to get it at all.

She also says this in defence of KU:

‘KU readers are often people with limited incomes and a voracious love of reading. These people would normally go to the library or used bookstores to feed their habit, but often those things aren’t even available. KU allows them to have the bright spot of reading in their lives, even though they can’t afford to buy all those books. … the indie market has a lot of bargain shoppers in it, not just because they’re “cheap” but because they legit just don’t have the money.’

So, in this case, KU works in your favour if you write in a very popular genre with a lot of avid/binge readers.

Susan’s articles: KU Vs Wide and KU vs Wide Benefits for Readers

 

Another big name in self-publishing, David Gaughran also espouses the all-in approach, with the point that success in either approach is mainly due to differences in marketing styles and systems:

‘…as soon as you contrast the authors who have been successful in KU with those who have been successful wide: they are two very different approaches. … Some people are succeeding though—both those who are in KU, and those who are wide, and what I’m seeing is that it’s usually people who are all in with whatever distribution model they have decided upon.’

Based on his analysis, because the Kindle store is algorithm-driven, big monthly blasts and advertising works well to boost sales. However, most of the other online platforms are often curated, or human-driven, which works better with a slow and steady, drip approach. There isn’t one answer (we agree) and he suggests that you’ll need to experiment to find out what’s best for you and your books.

David Gaughran’s article: A Tale of Two Marketing Systems

 

Bringing it back to the Malaysian context, Teaspoon Publishing’s founder, Anna Tan, wrote back in 2016:

Going Amazon Exclusive is not for everyone

There are a lot of tips on how to use KDP Select to your best advantage and head up the Amazon bestsellers list by keeping everything exclusive to the Amazon ecosystem. Which is good, if your audience is primarily in America, but not so good if you want to reach the international market.

In my case, since my primary fanbase (aka family and friends) generally do not have access to buying on Amazon, keeping it exclusive to Amazon, whilst it might help sales a little due to the free days and internal Amazon algorithms, will only hurt me in the long run. Because it’s friends who recommend to friends and word-of-mouth that counts, yes? Even with my international appeal (at least according to blogger’s stats), cutting out 25% – 50% of my audience by not selling it in a place they can access is just bad business sense. But well, this really depends on your audience or intended audience.

Anna Tan’s article: Things I Have Learnt About Self-Publishing As A Non-American (aka Amazon Hates Me)

 

So should I go KU or Wide?

We really can’t decide this for you, but here are some simple steps to use to decide.

  1. Think about your goals and your books (genre, market). Also look back at the questions above!
  2. Figure out what marketing strategy you can cope with. Do you like complex marketing plans and frenetic energy or do you need something simpler?
  3. Choose whether to go KU or Wide based on #1 and #2
  4. Draw out a marketing and selling plan and stick with it!
  5. If it doesn’t work, start from #1 again.**

* This might seem confusing because you can shop on Amazon and get things shipped to Malaysia. But you’re purchasing as a Malaysian on the American website. They allow that for goods which require physical shipping but usually not for digital products, especially ebooks.

** “Doesn’t work” needs an evaluation period of at least six months to a year. Don’t try something for one month, get frustrated and give up.

 


More info on KU and KOLL

Kindle Unlimited (KU) is a subscription program for readers that allows them to read as many books as they want. It’s like Netflix, for ebooks! With Kindle Unlimited, customers can read as many books as they like and keep them as long as they want for a monthly subscription fee (up to 10 titles at a time). They don’t need to be Amazon Prime members. This is available for users in US, UK, Germany, Italy, Spain, France, Brazil, Mexico, Canada, India, Japan, and Australia.

The Kindle Owners’ Lending Library (KOLL) allows Amazon Prime members to borrow one book per month for free from the collection or “library”. They can only keep one book at a time for a long as they want. This is available to Prime members in US, UK, Germany, France and Japan.

KDP Select authors get paid for KU and KOLL based on page reads, to a maximum of 3,000 pages per title per customer. Every time a unique customer reads pages in your book for the first time, you will be eligible for royalties. If the same customer re-reads pages of your book, this won’t earn you any additional royalties.

Formula: Monthly KDP Select Global Fund / total pages read for the month * pages read of YOUR BOOK.

 

Further Reading:

https://www.thebookdesigner.com/2018/05/selling-out-going-wide-or-going-exclusive-to-amazon/
https://selfpublishingadvice.org/going-wide-ebook-distribution/
https://www.thecreativepenn.com/2014/08/30/exclusivity/
https://www.standoutbooks.com/amazon-kdp-select/
https://justpublishingadvice.com/whats-the-difference-between-kdp-and-kdp-select/
https://justpublishingadvice.com/should-i-enroll-in-amazon-kindle-kdp-select/

Publishing on Amazon: Other Important Matters

Publishing on Amazon: Other Important MattersWe covered how to publish your ebook on Amazon KDP in detail in our last post. But the big question everyone wants to know is this: HOW DO I GET PAID?

You gotta have several things first before you start seeing any money:

  1. Sales
  2. A US bank account
  3. A W-8BEN

Amazon pays royalties “approximately 60 days following the end of the calendar month during which the sales were made.” This means two months after the month in which you sold your books, so if you made any sales in January, you’ll probably receive your money at the end of March/beginning of April.

Yay, money! Right? Unfortunately, as a Malaysian, it’s not that easy. You’d wish that you could just enter your bank account number and see the money roll in. Nope.

The first we can’t help you with. Sorry. For the other two, here are some general tips on how to get set up.

 

Update your Author/Publisher Information

Go to your account (the link on the top right-hand corner) and fill up your publisher information.

 

Amazon Account: Author Info Screenshot

Full name here is your official name, according to your IC. This is NOT your pen name. This information will not be shown to the public anywhere—it’s only for finance use.

I’m pretty sure you know how to fill in your own address so…

Getting Paid

If you’re a super patient person (or you don’t have a bank account with any of the recognised marketplaces), you’ll have to wait for a cheque. Which will only be paid AFTER you reach $100 in the respective marketplace. Note that this is AFTER applicable tax withholding too. Meaning, you’ll need to get about $143.00 in royalties in the US Kindle Store before you’ll get a cheque ($143.00 – 30% = $100.10).

Amazon payment thresholds (screenshot)
Screenshot from https://kdp.amazon.com/en_US/help/topic/G200641050

And no, Amazon does not pay out through Paypal, so that’s not an option.

What IS an option (and the one we’re currently using) is Payoneer (referral link). What Payoneer does is it sets you up with a US bank account (and others, but you mainly only need US) so that you can opt for payment via direct debit/EFT. Enter the bank details given by your Payoneer account into Amazon and voila, you’re getting monthly royalty payments*!

Tax Information

Malaysia does NOT have a tax treaty with USA, so all your royalties is subject to a 30% withholding tax. What you need to do is fill up the W-8BEN, which is a very simple document.

W-8BEN screenshot
This is what it looks like.

Some websites will ask you to download the form, fill and upload, others (like Amazon) allows you to fill it directly on the site. Most of the stuff is self-evident, but here are the parts you’ll probably have questions about:

W-8BEN extract

#5 – Leave this blank. The SSN (Social Security Number) is only applicable if you live and work in the US (which, if you’re reading this, you’re probably not) and the ITIN (Individual Taxpayer Identification Number) is only applicable if you’re paying taxes in the US (which, if you’re based in Malaysia, you’re probably not). You CAN apply for an ITIN, but we can’t give you any advise you on that.

#6 – Fill in your Malaysian tax number here (usually SGxxxxxxxxx). If you don’t have a tax number because you’re not taxable yet, you should write “not legally required.”

#7 – Leave this blank. This is usually if you have some funky tax arrangements, which if you’re just trying to self-publish an ebook, you likely don’t.

W-8BEN extract

Leave this whole section blank because Malaysia doesn’t have a tax treaty or any special rates to claim. 🙁 You have to pay that 30% withholding, okay? (Not happy? Take it up with the gomen.)

Right! So now this is filled up, sit back, relax, and wait for your money to roll in*!

More questions? Ask away! We’ll dig up some answers for you.

 

*Assuming you’re making some sales la har. 😉