featured in The Star with her first book Given Another Chance and one of my editing clients, happened to be in Kuching for a research-related workshop, so I had the chance to catch up with her. I first met Dr. Gan at last year’s Popular Bookfest Writing Workshop in Kuala Lumpur.
During my presentation, I gave participants a series of starter ideas to get them thinking about their own stories; then later, in the afternoon session, I made everyone write for about forty-five minutes (and went around the room to make sure they got their money’s worth!) Dr. Gan wrote a first person narrative about a near-drowning-out-of-body experience titled “Given Another Chance.”
After the workshop she approached me about editing her work. For the next several months, as she wrote story after story, I helped her with the editing and the crafting of her insightful first-person experiences, many inspiring and very courageous, to make them more effective. I knew she was onto something special and that this could lead to a book. I was hoping she would wait and add more stories to make the book longer, but like a lot of writers, she was in too much of a hurry (we’ve all been there), so I was doubly impressed that before the year was even out she had found a publisher!
For writers who are inspired by her story (from workshop to published book in ten months!), a word of caution. Please don’t rush to the first publisher that catches your attention or who approaches you via the internet – calling all writers! Sometimes writers are in for a rude awakening when they discover there are hidden costs that they hadn’t bargained on. Some publishers are traditional publishers and are more discerning about the quality of the books they publish, others are solely for self-publishing, often called vanity presses, whereby they publish anything (with little or no editing) since you’re paying for it and then you’re on your own! Others are hybrid and give you a range of options depending on your budget and includes distribution to leading bookstores where readers can find them.
Do take time to read the fine print and don’t be rushed into signing a contract without checking the publisher out, which is easy to do these days via the internet or looking at their final products in bookstores or even contacting some of their authors to see how satisfied they are. Make your first publishing experience a rewarding one!
One smart thing that Dr. Gan did, as many writers have done before her including those who had already published a book, she sought out a capable editor, one that she trusted, and it was an honor for me to work with her. I do know she has a lot more books inside of her! And, yes, she is coming back to this year’s Popular Bookfest Children’s Book Writing Workshop 4-5 July along with one of her daughters. I’ll be there, too, to help others to write and hopefully publish their book.
So if you think that someday you or someone you know wants to write, a good place to start is by attending a writing workshop – it’s not all work, plus you’ll pick up creative tips on getting started and inspiration from other writers.
—Borneo Expat Writer
—Here’s a link to a blog that I wrote about publishing in Malaysia/Singapore nearly a decade ago, with some updates and tips about promoting your book!