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Amazon killing Asean writers

30 June 2017

From The Independent:

Zieda Nazri, a young enterprising writer from Malaysia, speaks to us about the pitfalls of self-publishing in the country where arts and literature is in the veins of many but where only the few gets published.

Zieda tried to sell her books on Amazon.com but she met with another pitfall: Amazon does not allow readers from Southeast Asia to buy books from the region on its portal.

This is killing budding writers from the region and nothing is being done by the internationally recognised publisher-vendor to rectify this censorship.

Facing this hurdle, Zieda says:

“I personally think that it is Amazon’s choice if they decide not to let the readers in South East Asia buy e-books from them but they should at least give a solution to that.”

. . . .

You sold on Amazon. How was the experience? What should Amazon do to make it easier for Asean writers to get a break on their platform? Create an Asean base Amazon platform?

I started selling my books on Amazon because I wanted to gauge reviews fro international readers.

At that point of time, I was actually surprised when I learnt that readers from the South East Asia could not buy e-books from Amazon.

Few reasons were given by Amazon for this and I have to say that this became one of my problems in publishing e-books.

How do I sell my e-books if the South East Asia readers could not buy them?

I had to promote my books in international universities and Facebook and that had taken a lot of my time.

I personally think that it is Amazon’s choice if they decide not to let the readers in South East Asia buy e-books from them but they should at least give a solution to that.

We want to read all the e-books too.

Creating a special platform for South East Asia readers would be a good start.

. . . .

Do you think the cost of publishing is high in Malaysia? Should there be some form of intervention to assist writers? What would be the modus-operandi of such an assistance, if there need be?

Yes, I think that the cost of publishing is quite high in Malaysia.

Even though I was told by my printers the printing cost in Malaysia is among the cheapest to compare with other countries.

I really wish that there is a channel for self-publishers to get some fund to start with.

At this moment, I learnt that the National Library can help with the funding by buying your books to be put in all the libraries in the country.

This is one way to support the writers but it did not help them to start the ball rolling.

Actually, before I started to print my own books, I went to a few agencies asking whether they offer any fund to self-publishers but none of them said they do.

They are grants offered by Kota Buku though, for translating your book to other languages.

. . . .

How has the experience publishing a book in Malaysia on your own, helped you understand the industry as a whole? Do you think the publishing industry is controlled by some? Should it be liberalised? How would that happen?

To sum up, I think the difficulties in dealing with writer blocks are not even close to the difficulties in dealing with marketing the books and distributing them.

Self-publishing is new in Malaysia so people are quite reserved when you tell them that your books are self-published. Sometimes they even think twice about buying your books.

From experience, I think that the publishing industry is not controlled just by someone and there is still hope to penetrate the publishing industry.

However, I cannot say the same for the books distributing industry.

It seems that larger books stores are monopolised by some and it is very difficult to get your books on their shelves.

The biggest problem would be in monetary terms because they take a big chunk from your costing.

I hope that in the future, there is an association maybe to help the self-publishers to promote their books and to penetrate the books distributing industry.

Link to the rest at The Independent

Non-US, Self-Publishing

10 Comments to “Amazon killing Asean writers”

  1. There’s more than Amazon …

    Smashwords allows worldwide sales (no geographic restrictions).

    I believe Gumroad and Payhip would work for most patrons as all you need is a major credit card (Visa, MC, Discover, Amex) or Paypal. They also do hosting.

    I would imagine that there are other solutions … but again, point readers to a service that will serve you instead of relying on Amazon.

  2. And Amazon is more than ebooks. I think that’s the bigger hurdle to selling in Southeast Asia. And apparently there have been some glitches in getting that going. https://techcrunch.com/2017/03/22/amazon-southeast-asia-launch-schedule-slips/

    • My first thought, too. Amazon has no problem selling in any market where they can make money. But in markets where the hand of censorship is heavy (which pretty much describes the ASEAN region) – the hassle is not worth it if they can only sell books there.

  3. “Killing”, really?

    • Sure, the same way the qig5 kills writers by sending them rejection slips (or even worse, signing them on and then pricing their ebooks out of the market so they won’t be bought.)

      You can make any action (or non-action) look ‘evil’ if you look at it from the right (wrong) angle. 😉

    • I expected something way more dramatic with a headline like that. As in, Amazon outing writers who wrote under pseudonyms to fight against repressive regimes, and in turn the writers get killed.

      Glad that’s not true at least.

  4. “I learnt that readers from the South East Asia could not buy e-books from Amazon.” That is utter and complete nonsense.

    I live in Bangkok, publish some of my titles on Amazon, and sell hundreds of ebooks through Amazon to people living in Southeast Asia every single month, sometimes thousands. In more than ten years of doing that, I have never heard a single person anywhere in the region complain that they had the slightest difficulty buying any title of mine from Amazon.

  5. An odd story. I live in Taiwan (okay, not really SE Asia) and am able to sell books in Taiwan, SE Asia and anywhere. Of course, it’s possible that Malaysia puts restrictions on sales, but I see no reason why Amazon would do it.

  6. Felix J. Torres

    A simple online search for “amazon ebooks Malaysia” surfaces this, which has been doable for at least seven years:


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