In a world where videos have supplanted radio and literature has appeared to wane, a vibrant community centered around #BookTokMalaysia is rekindling conversations about books and writers, particularly those from the local scene.
As of press time, #BookTokMalaysia has acquired 775.9 million views on TikTok. This figure had grown by seven-fold within three months, based on a local report, which placed the hashtag’s following at 173.4 million, as of 9 May 2023.
Malaysian author Lilian Li, who hails from Penang, has embraced the movement to promote her recent novel, “Duet Me Not.” In an illuminating Eksentrika interview, she unveils her insights from this literary shift and her journey of publishing two books in Malaysia. Discover the essence of her experience in this concise listicle highlighting five ways local writers can amplify their voices through the platform.
#BookTokMalaysia thrives as a burgeoning hub for readers and writers in Malaysia, fostering a welcoming community that uplifts local voices. This platform is a beneficial arena for authors to engage with readers, and share their writing journey and the nuances of their craft.
“#BookTokMalaysia is a growing community of readers and writers in Malaysia. It’s a welcoming community with people who want to explore and uplift more local voices. I think it is beneficial for authors to join and share their journey and the behind-the-scenes of their writing. I was lucky enough that my story could resonate with readers. It’s been really great posting about books and inciting discussions and making lifelong friends,” says Lilian.
Collaborative efforts like sharing work on social media and beta-reading foster a vibrant community. Drawing from personal experience, Lilian recounts hosting IG Live sessions with fellow writers, sparking creativity through shared prompts, and rekindling readers’ love for the written word.
“I think writers can band together by sharing one another’s work on social media and beta-reading for each other. I used to host an IG Live series with local writers and hope to revive it again. My friends and I would use prompts and write short stories to read during the IG Live, which I think prompted readers to listen along and get inspired to write as well.
I also recommend starting a book or writing account to find a community and follow authors you admire to learn from their experience. For example, Hanna Alkaf is hosting a contest for a short story to be included in her anthology, so being part of the community leads to hearing more opportunities,” said Lilian.
Misconceptions often cloud Malaysia’s publishing landscape, including the notion that only internationally published books are valuable. Lilian dispels these myths, celebrating the ascent of local voices.
“The common misconceptions are that only books published internationally are good books. I’m really glad to see more local voices being heard, but it is still hard to be displayed in bookstores where we are usually automatically filed in Asian Fiction instead of our own genres like Young Adult or Romance,” said Lilian.
She also highlighted another misconception about publishing, the belief that it’s a lengthy and arduous process. In reality, with self-publishing or hybrid approaches, it can take as little as a year provided you invest effort and passion.
Lilian cautioned against contract pitfalls, emphasizing the importance of scrutinizing terms and recognizing one’s value.
‘Make sure to read the terms carefully and know your value.”
She also highlighted the emergence of numerous local publishers open to submissions as potential opportunities. Writers were encouraged to conduct thorough research to determine the most suitable publishing path, whether self-publishing, hybrid, or traditional.
Lilian’s journey of publishing two books in Malaysia presents a distinct perspective. Notably, her second book, “Duet Me Not,” has secured a prominent position on MPH’s bestselling list for the past six weeks since its release. Furthermore, it has achieved recognition on Eslite Bookstore’s list of bestselling young adult fiction.
On the topic of achieving a “sold-out” status, Lilian clarified that it indicates stock depletion, necessitating reprints. Her latest creation, “Duet Me Not,” an exclusive edition collaboration with Duality Box resulted in a sold-out status. Conversely, her debut novel, “House of Koi,” ceased reprints, rendering the remaining copies exclusively available on Amazon.
“The most positive is being able to share and add to the local community with more Malaysian representation.”
However, Lilian also emphasized a negative facet: the challenge of uncontrolled book distribution and the peril of online piracy. She expressed, “The negative aspect for me is being unable to control where readers can find the books or getting my books pirated online.”
Lilian’s book “Duet Me Not” can be found online with Gerakbudaya, Shopee, MPH Online, local bookstores, and more. The books are also available in indie bookstores around KL. Follow @lilianofli on Instagram to keep up with updates and learn more about the local publishing industry.
All images were supplied by Lilian Li.