About this article

Publishing Dream: To Create Choices

(Continued from Part 1 – Writing Dream: To Burst Illusions

Three successful independent publishers came together to share their indie publishing passion in a candid panel discussion titled ‘Indie Publishing Heroes’ – Malaysian publishers Amir Muhammad of Buku Fixi and Matahari Books, and Mutalib Uthman of DuBook Press, as well as Singaporean publisher Kenny Leck of BooksActually and Math Paper Press.

Publishing Dreams(From left) Mutalib Uthman, Amir Muhammad and Kenny Leck at the panel discussion “Indie Publishing Heroes”

“I went into publishing when my documentary The Last Communist (Lelaki Komunis Terakhir) was banned in Malaysia, and the reason given was odd. That’s when I compiled a book Malaysian Politicians Say the Darndest Things, and approached one of the biggest publishers in Malaysia who suggested that I should publish the book myself,” Amir Muhammad said. Known as the godfather of indie publishers in Malaysia, Amir believes in the importance of a diverse range of books. Though the market in Malaysia is small, Buku Fixi is publishing English books, as well as translating Malay editions of bestsellers from renowned international authors like Stephen King and Haruki Murakami.

Mutalib Uthman’s DuBook Press, which publishes solely Malay books, does not give the readers in Malaysia any excuse for having no time to read. Making their books thin and convenient to carry around, the titles provocative and the covers interesting, DuBook Press wants to generate a demand for books-on-the-go.

As the only publisher on the panel to have a physical bookstore, Kenny Leck’s BooksActually in Singapore balances between selling bestsellers and supporting the local writers well. “Debut writer or not, we still want to take note if the work itself is good. The idealist part in me wants the literary book scene to be well-represented, no matter how uncomfortable the book is,” said Kenny emphatically. Math Paper Press has published books that touch on sensitive topics like politics, gender and race – writers are not the only ones who need moral courage; publishers need it too.

While writers carefully cultivate the seeds of words in their hearts and create a land of dreams, publishers are the gatekeepers. Indeed, not only can the publishers influence the kind of publications the public has access to, they can educate the public on the choices of books – not bureaucratic decisions, but intellectual choices that challenge the public to rethink the invisible boundaries in publishing.

Publishing dreams 2Eight writers and academics in a battle of words and wits at the intensely exciting Closing Debate

*All images courtesy of Singapore Writers Festival