Interview: Mukul Deva

Hiya! What have you been up to lately, guys? Me? I’ve been writing postcards. Postcards, you ask? Yes, postcards to all over the world. If you’ll look to the right sidebar, there is a banner to the Postcrossing website. The idea is simple. You’ll get 5 different addresses to snail-mail your postcards to and for every postcard received, you’ll receive one of your own! The addresses can be as far-flung as Iceland or even as near as your own home country if you so choose. What an interesting idea, right? I personally love writing postcards as it allows me to practise squeezing whole paragraphs of what makes Singapore interesting into the small space that the postcard affords. LOL. After a while, you’ll start to realise that there ARE fun things about your country to wax lyrical about. =)

And the replies you get from the people you sent postcards are fun too coz they’ll also share a little of their lives on the other side of the world. 😄

The “Liselle” postcards I bought from Lisa Lee seem to be pretty well-received by my Postcrossing recipients~! Hehe…maybe I should start creating my own Rainy Skies postcards myself. 😄

Okie, on to today’s awesome guest: Mukul Deva! I first saw him at a APSS meeting in 2011, and I really wanted to chat him up. Unfortunately my natural shyness took over and I didn’t manage to get to know him. As fate would have it, however, Karen Leong not only chatted him up…she also eventually formed a partnership with him! It’s like such a lucky break for me. @_@

Anyways, Karen introduced me to him and we hit it off immediately. You wouldn’t guess it from his authoritarian air, but he is really a witty man of vast knowledge. His no-nonsense stance comes from years of being in the Indian military, which naturally provided the fuel for his bestselling military action books like  “Salim must Die” and “Tanzeem”. Impressive, huh? But then again, I usually interview impressive people. HEHEHE. Alright, enough of my random musings and on to words of wisdom from this man!


Tell us something about yourself that doesn’t appear in your public profile.

Are you sure you have the space…:) because there is a lot. It doesn’t say that I quit school pretty early in life – on realizing that education (not learning) and me were mutually exclusive commodities. It doesn’t say that I’m a die-hard romantic. And lots more juicer stuff which I’m keeping for one of those barely concealed biographies…:)

You are able to write and publish 10 books over the course of your writing career on top of establishing a security company & establishing yourself as a trainer/mentor/coach, how do you manage to find all the time, energy and inspiration to do all these?

It’s pretty simple actually.

Time – doesn’t need to be found. It’s right there – in touching reach – all rhe time. we have to learn to respect it and manage it wisely. Energy is inherent when you find that which inspires you. So all I would say is that we need to dream a dream and have the passion to live it. Everything else happens pretty much on its own.

Would you say that it’s important to live first before writing? Will reading widely suffice as well?

Not really. There are no set rules for any creative process – which is what writing is. Each of us has a unique perspective – we simply need the courage and discipline to share it with others

Where do you get the material for your books?

I guess I have a rather fertile mind – and ‘naughty’ too – which really helps since I write lots of thrillers..:) And of course I am a keen observer – of life and people.

How do you get readers to pay attention to you out of so many other writers of your genre in the world?

I guess I tell my stories well…:)

How will you advise a writer who has been writing for a long time but has yet to find any commercial success?

Keep writing…:) Practice DOES make perfect. And understand that writing is as much a science as an art – there is a process – by following which we enhance quality, quantity and speed. Learn to separate the WHAT and the HOW – that will make your job easier and the book more interesting

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Mukul will be making his appearance at the Singapore Writers Festival 2012 in the following events:

  • Multi-Hyphenate Writing Talents | 4 November 2012 | 10:00 am – 11:00 am
  • How to Write a Best-selling Novel and Screenplay By Mukul Deva | 9 November 2012 | 9:30 am – 10:30 am
  • Plenary Session with Mukul Deva, Lynette Owen and Malcolm Neil | 9 November 2012 | 5:00 pm – 5:30 pm

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What I learnt from 7 authors & 1 publisher

Last night, I had the opportunity to attend a APSS meeting thanks to Karen Leong, who is a really brilliant speaker cum inspiring friend of mine. I wouldn’t normally be found at a meeting targeted at nurturing speakers but this particular one had several published authors who were there to give valuable insights on the art of writing and publishing so Karen asked me along. =3 If you guys get the opportunity to attend such events, you should really go for it. You don’t just learn, you also meet people who could help you on your way!

Here are the esteemed authors who made their appearance at the meeting:

  • David Goldwich: Author of Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road? Win-Win Negotiation Skills, and Getting into Singapore
  • Eric Feng: Author of Get to the Point!
  • Christian Chua: Author of How to be a Success Magnet, From Singlish to English, The Essential Teenage Handbook (and more)
  • Mukul Deva: One of the pioneers of the Indian thriller novel, and Author of three bestsellers in three years.
  • Shirley Taylor: Author of 8 books and Series Editor of 8 books in the STTS Success Skills Series
  • Tremaine Du Preez: Author of Think Smart, Work Smarter in the STTS Success Skills Series (Korean translation rights bought within 5 days of publishing!)
  • Michael Podolinsky CSP, Pearson Prentice Hall author of 13 books

Now, only 1 of the 7 authors present was a fiction writer. The rest were all motivational speakers/authors but hey, the tips are valuable nonetheless so I shall share what I learned here. All you aspiring mangaka and writers who want to get started on your Great Novel/Manga had better sit up and take notes! =3

1) It is possible to complete a book within 20 days: According to Michael Podolinsky, all you have to do is block out 90 minutes every day to write. It doesn’t matter when you do it as long as you devote 90 minutes to just pure writing. Tremaine Du Preez did it by switching off all internet access and her handphone.

2) There is no such thing as a writer’s block: If you know your subject, if you have a life full of personal stories, if you have an outline that details what goes into your book, you shouldn’t even be complaining about a writer’s block at all. If you don’t know enough about your subject, then research research and research!

3) Make a contract with yourself or your friends and family to complete your project: Many of us procrastinate. I know I do so I end up not completing my Rainy Skies project as I should. =x BUT! If you make a solemn promise to yourself or your friends/family to deliver by a certain date, you can do it! As Mukul Deva mentioned during his talk, “Any fool can have a dream, unless you put a date to it.”

4) Give your readers what they want: A few questions that publishers will frequently ask aspiring writers/mangaka: will your book sell? Will it appeal to your target audience? Does it fill in a lack in the current market? While you’re penning your great work, do it with these questions in mind because according to the statistics compiled by Bowker, publisher of Books in Print®, an average of 336,814 books were published worldwide each year from 2002 to 2008. So to sum it up…how can your book stand out as a drop in the ocean?

5) Books sell best in series: What does JK Rowling, Laurell K Hamilton, Tite Kudo and Masashi Kishimoto have in common? They’re all bestselling creators with wildly popular series.

6) Come up with a plan: Shirley Taylor, who is another great speaker, showed us a template she used for her books. Since she’s a communication specialist, her books are more of the how-to variety. She divided her chapters into manageable sections that people can easily digest in an instant. Of course, we can’t do the same for fiction books or manga but at least come up with a plan. It’ll get you going when you run out of juice while writing or drawing. =3

7) Social media is your best friend: We’re now living in an age of social media. Involve your readers in your creation. Get them to run votes on the type of product they’ll like to see. Like what Eric Feng would say, “don’t just bake a cake, ask people what type of cake they want to eat.” Sounds logical hoh. He also mentioned that readers who get involved in your product are more likely to buy your book. Makes sense, doesn’t it? =3

8 ) Self publishing vs published by a publisher? Both have their plus points: We had this really handsome dude from Marshall Cavendish International (Asia) come in to talk to us about being published by a publisher such as MC. Chris Newson, who is the GM of MC told us that being published by a published is vastly different from being self-published because the publisher takes on the unenviable task of marketing. They will put your books in the bookstores, arrange for book signings etc etc. Oh, one thing he mentioned: bookstores are the worst places to launch a book because the general public don’t really give a damn about your book unless you are James Lee or JK Rowling or Tite Kudo. Chris then went on to recall how heartrending it was to organise book signings but no one turned up. =x

And if your book is launched at the same time as MM Lee’s book? Good luck, pal. =x Hence, social medial such as blogs are very very important in pushing your book into the public awareness. =3

Christian Chua is a self-publisher, but then again he owns a printing company of his own. While publishers sell in bulk, he sells his books by first doing a small print run, then sending free samples to his target audience. For example, Christian first printed 450 copies of a book before sending them as free samples to ALL the primary schools in Singapore along with an order form. Only after receiving orders did Christian run another bigger print run. =3

Another self-publishing benefit that Christian mentioned was the ability to cut side deals, like sponsorships if you happen to mention a particular brand/company (several times) in your book. =3

9) Work with the publisher you’re most comfortable with: Someone asked how to choose a publisher during a meeting and the general consensus among the guest speakers was this: work with someone you can click with.So what if Publisher A can give you 10 times as much upfront as compared to Publisher B, which makes a more affable partner? A long-term working relationship is what gives you the best opportunities and least headaches. =3

10) A book is really judged by its cover: I’ve said this before and I will say it again. Books are judged by their covers so do invest in a good designer or artist to do your cover or you will regret it. =x Go to the bookstore and sit there for a few hours like Eric Feng to find out what are the type of covers that attract people. Or run votes on your Facebook page to garner opinions. Trust me, a cover can really make or break your book sales. It’s just like how a pretty girl will catch your eye first before the average one will, right? =3

AND SO! The top 10 gems that I managed to glean from the meeting. It has been a really wonderful experience because everyone is such a good speaker! NO ONE, and I repeat, NO ONE stumbles over their words (like moi). T.T

And everyone was so energised, I felt thoroughly exhausted after the session. LOL. But hey…you guys should really go for such sessions if you can coz it’s really galvanising and inspiring. =3

In fact, I’m going to wake up earlier every day to write for 90 minutes! Girl Guide Promise! >.<

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Image: domdeen / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

P or E? That is the question.

Heya guys…it’s been some time no? Regret to say I haven’t been blogging coz I was well…busy. =x

But anyways, just the other day, I blogged about a question people regularly like to ask me. Just why don’t I print my novel instead of putting them online? Well, I addressed that question in my Dreams of Luthiea blog and I shall copy/paste that very post here for your reading pleasure. Have fun~!

I’ve often been asked if I’ve considered publishing or printing my books in Singapore.

“Yes” would be the answer to both.

Which writer wouldn’t want to see their work in print or better yet, picked up by a reputable publisher? I’m no exception, except for the sad facts that I’m perpetually the recessionista (read: always broke) and local publishers don’t casually pick up fantasy writers like yours truly.

Why? Coz FANTASY, unless you’re J.K. Rowling or Stephanie Meyers (sparkly vamps, anyone?), don’t automatically send the cash registers ringing. And publishers, above all, are businessmen/women (read: profits rule).

So what’s a perpetually broke writer gotta do? Short of having a publishing sponsorship fall upon her head, this writer has to strike it out all by herself in…you got it…e-book publishing.

Just think, so what if you manage to get your Great (insert country of origin here) Novel printed using years of hard-earned savings? What next? Sit there and expect your books to fly off the shelves (or in my friend’s case, from under the table)? No such luck, pal.

You might sell off your entire print-run, you might not. Chances are, you are not going to get very far without some form of marketing strategy. Displaying your books at local bookstores? Not unless you’re prepared to pay a certain sum for the ‘privilege’ to be displayed. And large bookstores don’t accept anything from a single writer, save for a writer represented by a distributor. On top of the fee you have to pay the distributor, you have to pay a certain percentage to the bookstore as well. In other words, it costs money a poor little writer doesn’t have.

So what’s a impoverished writer gotta do to gain some publicity? Here are some ways:

  1. Sin Min approached a few local indie bookstores like Select Books Online and Cat Socrates personally and convinced them to take a few copies to sell.
  2. Sarahcoldheart joined Nanowrimo where she eventually formed a writing group with like-minded individuals (one of whom owns Two Trees, an editorial company in Singapore) and published a book with the help of said editorial company. (Read: networking is very important!)
  3. Mint Kang published her book (6 Years of Parrot) but has since bemoaned the feasibility of her decision coz the printing was more expensive than it should be and she felt horribly cheated. So she decided that enough was enough and plunked her subsequent novel (The Cousin from Dar Tower) on Scribe where it proceeded to earn 1000 plus (and increasing) views plus a feature on the Scribe website itself! Although Mint may have given away her first publishing rights and all that by publishing it as an e-book on Scribe, the satisfaction of having 1000 plus readers is more than achievement enough. (Read: sometimes money ain’t everything)
  4. Lee Ju-Lyn, who was featured in a 17 Febuary 2009 edition of Today’s paper, took to the streets and personally approached people to buy her book. (Read: DIY takes a whole new spin here)
  5. All of the above writers/artist made their appearance on my other blog (Aspiring Mangaka & Writers Club) as part of my Virtual Book Tour hosting program. I feature self-published authors who, despite all odds, managed to make their writing dreams come true. Of course this program extends to illustrators who have published their own work as well. If you’re interested, check out the Aspiring Mangaka & Writers Club’s guidelines. My blog is only one of many offering this service so be sure to do your research and find out which is the best option for your book.

One thing you might wanna take into account is: if you’re writing for fame and fortune, drop that idea FAST. It ain’t gonna happen. Being a writer means A LOT OF hard work, disappointments and despair. If you don’t happen to date Lady Luck…well, let’s just say that the writing life ain’t gonna be easy to tough it out.

There are just so many factors determining your success. Finishing your novel is just the first step. That’s why I chose to go the e-book route. Not only because it’s practically free to publish it online, you can customise it according to your preference and you can reach a wider audience across the world. It’s a cost-saving measure that is environmentally friendly too.

I currently have two books under my belt: Anis the Unchosen & Rainy Skies: Lull before Storm, both of which are published online as e-books. Of course, you can opt to purchase Anis the Unchosen as a printed book. Hehs. Anyways with the introduction of gadgets such as iPhones, Kindle and iPads, you can always read e-books wherever you go. Even local celebrities like Joanne Peh downloads e-books to read on the go so just imagine the impact e-books have in recent times and the exciting millennium to come!

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Interview: From the other side of the publishing fence

I often feature interviews with writers and artists who are mostly on one side of the publishing fence. Today, I interview Rosemary who is both a writer (having recently co-written a book titled “Happiness at the end of the world” with her writing group) & a publisher in Singapore. Time to find out more about the other side of the publishing fence~!

Tell us a little about yourself and your company. What do you guys primarily work on?

Two Trees is a tiny company with great ideas. That’s our tagline. We earn
our money editing books for larger publishing companies, running writing
and editing workshops and also a literary tour of Singapore. That gives us
the financing to then do small print runs for our publishing.

You collaborated with the Happy Smiley group to publish a book and took up most of the costs involved in getting it to print, what made you decide to do that?

I’m actually a member of the Happy Smiley Writers Group. The simple answer
is that I could do it so I did. There was all this talent and no outlet. It was an easy decision.

How did “happiness at the end of the world” first originate? What spurred you on to suggest this theme to your writing group?

The title comes from a short story I wrote about eight years ago. It was
published in a literary magazine in Australia and I decided it was time it
had another airing. Since HSWG writers are all good with speculative
fiction we decided to follow on the theme of a post-armageddon world where
someone, somewhere is happy. It is a thumbing the nose at the plethora of
misery literature that seems to define Asian writing nowadays. We wanted
to say that there are happy stories in Asia too.

How well do you think Happiness will do in the bookstores?

Not well. Bookstores are surprisingly the worst place to sell books,
especially Singapore books in Singapore book stores. Just walk into a
Singapore bookstore and you’ll see why. We sell online and through friends
and at events.

What are some of your marketing plans for this book?

Blog, blog, blog! Well, more than that actually. We’ll be doing some
sci-fi writing events and selling it through those, also we’re sending out
review copies to magazines and newspapers as well as to publishers and
agents overseas. We don’t expect to have a bite the first time out with
this book but it at least it lets the rest of the world know that Asia
writing is not just about miserable childhoods.

There must have been some hiccups during the production of this book, were there any particularly nerve-wrecking ones?

Deadlines, of course. We had a lot of fun with cover but there was a
hiccup there because of a lack of the necessary programs. Other than that
it was a straightforward edit and layout. I think it’s important for
writers to learn as much as they can about the publishing process so this
book was a good learning tool for the rest of the HSWG.

You have a second book titled “Bubble G.U.M” in the works, how is this book different from your first anthology?

Bubble G.U.M. is actually a novel rather than short stories. We each
contributed a section at the beginning and by the end of the first round
we had the characters and the basis of a plot. So what we have is Prix
Zero Noir entering National Service in 2045 when Singapore is a Green
Underwater Metropolis protected by a dome made of bubblegum, hence the
title. It has a bit of everything, mystery, love story, action, and lots
of comedy. We always have the happiness somewhere!

How is the collaboration on the second book different from the first book?

I have to admint that I ruled over its creation with an iron rod, or pen,
but that was as an editor because it needed to come together as a coherent
piece of writing seemingly by one writer and not six. It has been an
interesting journey and the world that has come out of it is so different
from what any of the six of us expected individually. It morphed into
something much bigger and better because of the collaboration. There are
many more stories from the Bubble G.U.M. to come.

I understand that you publish new writing to encourage greater creativity from local talents. What are some of the things that will interest you to even consider their queries?

We only publish two or three titles a year but I do have contacts with
other publishers. I think the best thing that local writing talent can do
is learn about how to submit to publishers, how to make a book proposal
and how to lay out their manuscript. The talent is there so I don’t worry
about the novels or stories being any good.

Usually it takes no more than 30 seconds to spot the talent. The editor will always do the job of shaping up the final work so perfection isn’t necessary but a good grab-them-by-the-throat opening is essential. It doesn’t have to be action packed or anything like that, just extremely well written, the best part of the book to keep the editor reading. One rule that I have is that I
don’t deal with misery literature, other than that I’m open to queries.

What do you think differentiates Singaporean writers from their international counterparts? Do you think we’ll stand a chance against them?

Not enough time to write is the simple answer. Too busy with work and
study stresses. Singapore has just as much talent as anywhere else in the
world, not just in writing but in all spheres. It’s a statistical certainty. The problem is the pressure to make a living in a high-cost environment. Singaporean writers certainly do stand a chance in the international arena and it will happen at some point. The HSWG and Two Trees are doing their best!

Thanks to Rosemary from Two Trees for taking the time to join me for the interview~! Check out their website if you’re interested.

Why am I not published yet?

This is the question we all ask ourselves at one point or another. Why is no one picking up our fabulous novel or manga? I’m pretty sure I can be as famous or EVEN MORE famous than J.K. Rowling or Stephanie Meyers!

Well folks…if your thinking is along this line…HOLD IT! You need to read THIS RIGHT NOW!

While publishing a book is something we all desire, sometimes poor publishing is worse than not publishing at all.

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The Future of Publishing

This is a guest post by Mint Kang, the author of 6 Years of Parrot. It was first published on her blog.


I’ve been meaning to write on this topic for a while, and I happened to get some stimuli today – in the papers and in this month’s issue of the Silverfish Books newsletter, which carried a thought-provoking article on the situation of the publishing industry (read it here).  Essentially, people are not buying books as much as they used to – not in print form.  They are turning to e-books and digital libraries of the sort Google is creating.  And, according to an article reproduced in today’s Straits Times, piracy of e-books is shooting up, just as it did when music and video became digitised.

I’ve long believed that the present model of the publishing industry is becoming increasingly less sustainable.  Lessons can be drawn from the experiences of the video and music industries, especially the music industry.  Experts will say that prices are inflated and consumers are paying more for packaging than for actual content; they will also say that the drive to create the next big hit (note create, not find – read: more packaging), similar to the publishing industry’s current drive to find the next bestseller, has led to innovation and new content being stifled.

If we look away from blaming the big record companies, as tempting as many people find it, we can also single out the attitude of the Internet generation: the deep-rooted belief that everything on the Internet should be free, regardless of how much it cost to produce.  Newspapers in America are already foundering because their readership is migrating to free-access portals owned by content aggregators.  In fact, studies have shown that while the digital age has brought about a massive boom in content aggregation, it has not led to a corresponding increase in content generation.  Those who carry out research via the Internet will be familiar with the phenomenon.  It involves finding the self-same article repeated across a dozen different sites, sometimes without even being attributed to the original creator.  Why?  Because it is so much easier to collect and re-host content than to create it.

What does this mean for content generators – in the specific context I address daily, small-time content generators such as freelance writers, artists and designers, people with limited access to the market?

I see four key challenges here.  The first is the challenge of exposure.  As so many people have already pointed out and will continue to point out, the Internet is the great saviour of freelancers.  It’s the place where you can sell yourself for free, with just a little ingenuity and careful management.  In an earlier post, I advised aspiring teenage writers to clean up their online profiles, and here I’ll share a brief example of why this is so important.

I maintain a profile on WritersNet, brushed up and worded to look like an online CV.  A few months ago, someone from the ACCA AB Magazine was looking for writers based in Singapore and the region, with experience in producing business/finance/accounting articles.  He found my profile, decided it was suitable, and contacted me.  Sounds simple?  But think of how easily it might NOT have happened.  If I had kept my WritersNet profile to the level that most aspiring writers do – focusing on the “creativity for its own sake” aspect and not selling anything of commercial value – the AB Magazine person wouldn’t have given it a second look, and I would be out one opportunity.

The challenge of exposure is therefore to make use of it.  The powerful publicity machines of the big companies are no longer necessary for up-and-coming artists, no matter of what stripe.  Technology long ago made it possible to create your own work without needing access to the expensive equipment used by professionals; now technology has made it possible for you to promote your own work without needing an entire team of spin doctors and media experts.

Exposure is two-edged, however.  The other side of the challenge is not to drown in other people’s exposure.  You are not and will never be the only person selling yourself out there.  Every mouse click brings up an entire directory of other writers and artists, good and bad, prolific and one-hit wonders.  You have to find a way to stay ahead of the pack and not just be another grain of sand among many, waiting on the vagaries of a search engine to throw up your work.

In response to the challenge of exposure, I believe that the publishing industry will, in time, no longer be dominated by large print publishing houses.  Instead we will see Internet content aggregators who collect the works of small independent writers and artists, moderate and edit them to meet certain standards, and release them – for free.

This is the second challenge: revenue.  Traditionally, content generators in the publishing industry derive the bulk of their revenue from selling their work: either one-off payments, royalties over a period of time, or percentages of sales.  This model runs into difficulties in several places, however.  Firstly, there is the issue of quality control becoming overly tight.  When people have to pay you for your work, they will naturally want to make sure they are getting their money’s worth.  The immediate result is a high entry barrier for newcomers, because publishers, producers and everyone else who is going to invest in a new release are wary of trying out anything that might potentially make a loss.  (Those who are not wary and charge idealistically ahead usually do end up making a loss; but that’s another story.)  They prefer to stick with tried-and-tested writers and artists, people who have already succeeded, and often they stick with these big names to the point where the name becomes more important than the quality of the product; quite the reverse of what new entrants face.

The other difficulty is what I mentioned above: the growing reluctance of consumers to pay for content.  They want it free.  If the consumer isn’t going to pay, the content generator isn’t going to be able to get money from selling the content.

Does this mean that we, the small-time content generators and newcomers, should hop on the piracy-smashing bandwagon and restrict the release of our work to only those companies big enough and with enough legal clout to protect it from freeloaders?  I think not.  That is sheer counterproductiveness.  When we restrict the release of our work, we restrict our own market.  We end up creating a little bubble of inflation where a select group of readers and viewers are paying more for the packaging and delivery of the content than they are for the content itself – and not only that, the bubble is vulnerable to anyone creative enough or disgruntled enough to crack the protection.

The solution, as I see it, is to go along with the freeloaders.  We have to create a new Internet business model where content generators need no longer rely purely on selling their content.  In fact, content sales should make up only a small proportion of their revenue.  The rest ought to come from value-added services.  These can take the form of advertising – simple endorsements, covert support – or expertise in the content generator’s own area, as consultancies do.  They could even be spinoff products.  Take a random novelist who self-publishes independently, through their own free-access website, and has a small readership of a few thousand a month.  They could offer advertising space to related products – cosmetics for the chick-lit genre?  Computer accessories for science fiction?  Dating services for romance?  And not just any advertisement that comes past – a little moderation of the kind of advertising would be very useful, because people do know how to tune out web ads and they will tune them out if they once perceive that there is no value in them.

The example above is really the most basic kind.  People have already come up with even more sophisticated concepts and will continue to do so.  In short, the bulk of publishing revenue in the future is not going to come from charging people for content that can be easily duplicated and distributed for free.  It will come from value-added services that are complementary to the content itself, and which people are willing to pay for.

This comes to the third challenge: intellectual property, that perennial hot potato topic.  There has been an enormous amount of debate on the value of patents and copyrights.  There is the undeniable argument that it helps newcomers establish themselves free of competition that would otherwise stamp them out.  But there is also the argument that it equally helps anti-competitive actions by large and established parties that do not even need the monopoly.  In today’s newspaper, in fact – the same paper that ran a story on e-book piracy – a reader’s letter was published, mentioning that farmers who grow GM crops are prevented by patent laws from using the seed for more than one harvest.  If this is indeed true, it ranks up with the withholding of HIV treatment drugs as a self-defeating abuse of intellectual property laws – but that is an argument for another place.  The point I prefer to make is that intellectual property laws, for small-timers, can very often end up as a legal headache – whether you are seeking their protection or trying to evade it.

Simply put, when it comes to content that can be released on the Internet, you have only two choices.  You can follow the example of the music industry and cling onto your intellectual property with all your might and main, going to great costs and extreme lengths, alienating many of your own customers, and finally drawing a little Berlin Wall around your part of the Internet and spending the rest of your shelf life defending it against anyone who tries to come in without buying a parking ticket.

Or, you can let it go to whoever wants it – make it freely available, put minimal restrictions on it (consider, for instance, a file uploaded under a Creative Commons license, for anyone to access and redistribute as they like) and trust that people will enjoy your work enough to keep coming back for more.

Or – you can strike a compromise between the two, as many game developers are doing by releasing preview versions of their games, risking cracks and duplications but also increasing the number of people who download and try it, and thereby increasing the chance that people will actually find the game good enough to buy the full version.  But even this compromise will eventually drift one way or another.

I think that the final version of intellectual property, at some time very far off in the future, will be exactly what the freeloaders want – the majority of creative content freely available, but packaged with other necessary or value-added service that people will have the choice to pay for or not, as they wish. Bestsellers and chart-toppers will be decided not by how many copies are sold in stores, but by how many copies are floating around the Internet on various hosts and how many hits they total in a month.  The cost of putting them up and hosting them in the first place will be borne not by publishing entities, but by the individual content generator.

(Note that I am not mentioning professional content such as research and statistics data.  That is a completely different sector altogether.)

All of the above put together adds up to the fourth challenge: mindset.  I strongly believe that all this is going to happen whether we like it or not.  In fact, it is already happening to one extent or another, to the point that I could write an entire research paper on it and still not cover the entire phenomenon.  (I’ve barely scratched the surface here as it is.)  Resisting it will simply put us inside self-built wells, like the proverbial frog.

Writers and other content generators need to accept that we will have to take full responsibility for the publication and production of our own work.  Going through publishing houses is becoming less and less viable, and this is so exaggeratedly the case in Singapore that it almost seems redundant to mention it here.  And full responsibility means not only creating it, but editing, moderating and polishing it to meet standards that are acceptable not just to ourselves but to people who possess higher levels of skill and discernment than we do.  (Yes, go and find people like that.  Make them read your work and give you genuine, critical feedback.  How else do you expect to advance?)  In other words, we need to take ownership of our work from inception to infinity.  Just throwing it out there and basking in satisfaction at its completion is not enough.

We need to accept that we are not necessarily going to get paid for our work.  If it was commissioned by an external party, that is a different matter; but creative work that we do without commission has to be treated like a cold call for a job application.  We are not guaranteed payment.  We are not guaranteed a good reception.  We are not even guaranteed readership.  The dream of fame and riches is just that – a dream.  For that matter, it was always a dream.

And we need to accept that we cannot hold onto our work.  Once it is uploaded to the Internet, we no longer have any control over who sees it, who downloads it, who copies and redistributes it.  All we can do is ensure that we are properly recognized as the creator.  (For this, tools such as Copyscape and the Creative Commons licenses exist; how far you want to take them depends on you.)  We need to accept the old saw about imitation and even outright theft being the sincerest form of flattery; we need to stop thinking of it as theft, full stop.

This is not a freeloader’s point of view.  It is a content generator’s point of view.  The industry is going to change, because its current model is not viable.  We’d better change along with it.

On self-publishing for manga

I was looking around for people who self-published their own manga online when I came across PandaBuddha Manga that has published Project Blue Rose, a manga that seems to have some yaoi elements if I’m not wrong. =3

If you like this type of manga, head on over to their site and have a look.

What I’m more interested in is their advice on self-publishing which you can take a look. I’ve been looking around for self-published illustrators, mangaka, comic artists to feature on the AMWC Book Tour Series but somehow, they all seem to be missing in action. =x

Where have all these talented people gone? There are no lack of people who declare they want to be a mangaka but where are the ones who have taken a concrete step towards realising their dream of being published?

If you know anyone who is published, do let me know. Even my legendary googling skills have failed to turn up anyone. LOL.

Aspiring mangakas, PandaBuddha Manga also has useful tutorials on topics like page bleeding, inking and how to sell art at conventions.

Also found an interview on Madeleine Rosca who self-published her manga  “Hollow Fields” online and got discovered by Seven Seas Entertainment.

moon

Self-Published = Not Easy.

When I started writing The Basics Of Flight, I actually wanted to send the story to local publishers, because let’s face it: it’s by a local (Singaporean) writer, right? Wrong. When I started sending queries, I got told – bluntly – that my story was not publishable. Just like that. I felt taken aback by the curt tone of the editor (well, I assumed it was an editor, not just a paid monkey to read email submissions).

When I combined The Basics Of Flight with Phoenix With A Purpose and tried the local traditional publishing route again, the same happened. Local publishers are just not interested in science fiction, simply because science fiction is so low-key it is not commercially viable or profitable. The local book market is replete with self-help books, memoirs, recipe books, children’s books and ghost/horror stories. No science fiction or speculative fiction. The only local science fiction novel I know is The Star Sapphire by Han May, but even then, it was not a popular book and was not well-received by the mainstream reading crowd.

I am sure that there are science fiction readers out there in Singapore and I am also sure that there are science fiction writers. We are seriously facing a problem: science fiction writers are not recognized.

So I decided to self-publish and to tell the truth, it felt like I was thrown into the deep end and asked to dog-paddle. I was suddenly the writer, the publisher, the type-setter, the designer, the marketer, the speaker and the printer all rolled into one. I ended up doing all the leg work and I sometime wonder if it was all worth it. It is not an easy route to take and you have to be really shrewd, to know your audience well. I turned to Lulu and Createspace to publish my book. I spoke to people. I advertised on my Livejournal blog.

There are days when I want to give up and throw up my hands in despair. Why is self-publishing so difficult? Why does it feel so solitary, lonely? Yet the lessons I have learned from this experience are invaluable: resilience, a thick skin, a never-say-die attitude and – yes! – creativity. I learned that I could come up with covers by myself and I ended up falling in love with photography again. I learned that self-publishing is publishing: you take on the role of the publisher. I did research. I read. It was a steep learning curve.

I have to repeat this: self-publishing is not easy. More so if you are an emerging author or a new writer fresh on the scene. I ask myself this question all the time: Will people take me seriously?

So, if you want to self-publish, remember to

1. P – Publish: Work on your publishing skills. That means being more particular when it comes to writing and editing. Get someone to proofread for you. Get someone to critique your work.
2. L – Love: Love your own work and let it go to editor or proofreader. Your attention to detail (your love and passion) will come through and people see that straightaway.
3. A – Audience: Know who your audience is. If you are writing for a genre market, be aware of the demographics.
4. N – Network: Writing might be a solitary activity. But it has a social aspect. These days, social media is the new buzzword. Network, get to know people, talk to them.

Most of all, if you are set on the self-publishing route (journey, as I always tell myself), PLAN. What is your long term plan before you launch your book. What is your targeted print run? Who do you want to distribute your book for you?

Reproduced with Jolantru’s permission from her blog at A Wolf’s Tale

If you have something to say on writing or mangaka-ing on AMWC, do check out the guest blogger details~! We welcome all constructive posts. =3

Story 2.0

Logging onto the Internet should be like opening the door of Aladdin’s cave for writers. So why do so many of them treat it like a trip to the grocery store? I only want to do two things with this post. I want you to be excited about the possibilities that exist for different, exciting, experimental kinds of writing. And I want you to be excited about giving your work away for free. Because for me those are the two things that really matter about the Internet.

Most writers (OK, some writers!) accept that they need a blog. A few writers tweet. Unpublished writers seek sites where they can display parts of their work for critiquing, or upload their books to sites like smashwords ebcause they think e-books are “the future”. But how 99.99% of them treat the Internet is as another way to do the same old thing. It’s a marketing tool for selling their books (be they in paper or electronic form). And if they see any innovation in writing substance, it’s the emergence of the blog.

It amazes me how little imagination writers often show. Think what happened when artists got hold of film. They didn’t think “here’s somthing else we can make pictures on!” Andy Warhol, The Wilson Twins, Steve McQueen, Sam Taylor Wood, even back to the days of Dali and his collaboration with Bunuel on Un Chien Andalou, all of them saw a new and exciting medium and stretched and prodded and pushed and poked it to see what they could make it do – with no real idea what the answer might be! And the result was a whole new form of art.

What I want writers to do is stop worrying and start experimenting! And to get you going, I want to give you a couple of examples.

One of the most exciting things about writing for new tech is the way you can disperse information in order to give readers a different kind of experience (it’s arguable that the lines between some forms of novel and traditional online gaming will blur more and more, but that’s not what I’m looking at here).

Dispersal

Book crossing is something that grew out of the flashmob movement in art. It’s not really anything to do with writing at all. But you can easily tie it in with the way you write. Book crossers leave books in particular locations, then upload the details of those locations so people can find the books, and leave online comments as they do so. It’s a fun way of enhancing the reading experience and building community (more on this later). You can also disperse your content across the web, giving readers a number of different experiences depending how deep they want to go in investigating the various plotlines. Jeffrey Deaver did this by combining book and blog in his most recent venture. The best example I’ve come across, though, is Thomas Stolperer. Search for him on Facebook, and ask him to be your friend. As you get to know his fellow Facebook friends, many of whom are fictitious, slowly their story will emerge.

Collaboration

The Internet is great for collaborative fiction. You can do this through your blog, by opening your work up for comments and input, as Jessica R Brown will be doing with her latest book, Rain, inspired by Japanese horror. There are also full-scale collaborations such as dual author novels written on twitter. And if you want to go the whole nine yards, there are fantastic possibilities using online wiki software.

Serialisation

Serials are a very old form of writing, but they’re an art form many writers have lost. Blogs have helped, but it’s the introduction of subscription novels delivered to your phone by sites like textnovel that have really brought serials back to life. The thing about writing serial fiction is you have to make your prose incredibly tight; and you have to end every chapter with a hook. You can’t afford any slack or your readers are lost. Not only can you play with the form of the serial, youcan use it as a great writing boot camp!

FREE

I’m a great believer in making my work available for free on the Internet. This has become a real hot potato of a topic since the release of Chris Anderson’s book “Free”, and I don’t want to go into all the issues or start justifying “free”. I wrote a long post for one of my favourite blogs recently where you can find the nitty-gritty.

What I really want you to go away and think about as new writers is this. Before we can sell our work, we need people to have any interest at all in buying it. At the moment, no one has a clue who we are. If you give your work away for free, they might take a look. And if what you’ve got to offer is really good, a look is all you need.

That was the rationale behind organizing the Free-e-day Festival, an online event on December 1st where any independent writer, musician, artist or filmmaker could give something away as a free download for one day.

This is barely a whistlestop tour, but I hope it’s given you some ideas. Feel free to ask me anything. I’m happy to expand or digress or help in any way I can!

Dan Holloway is a founder member of the Year Zero Writers collective, and organizer of the Free-e-day Festival. He is currently writing The Man Who Painted Agnieszka’s Shoes online and interactively in a Facebook group of the same name. His novel Songs from the Other Side of the Wall is available as a paperback or as a free download. He writes a regular column on UK Indie music for The Indie Handbook.

Want to be a guest blogger on AMWC? Check out our simple guidelines and we look forward to hearing from you! =3