Local authors are doing it for themselves

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Simple SLR caters to photographers at all levels, and it was started by a wedding photographer who also hosts hands-on photography workshops.Simple SLR caters to photographers at all levels, and it was started by a wedding photographer who also hosts hands-on photography workshops.Simple SLR caters to photographers at all levels, and it was started by a wedding photographer who also hosts hands-on photography workshops.

oon yeohoon yeohBy Oon Yeoh

You can’t really say the e-book revolution has reached Malaysian shores yet. Many consumers still prefer reading print books and the situation here isn’t anywhere like in the US where Kindle e-book sales outstrip print book sales.

But that hasn’t stopped some enterprising subject specialists from selling e-books direct from their own websites. These are usually no-frills productions rendered in simple PDF format, with no copy protection or anything complex like that.

Many of them do not have experience in e-publishing. They just managed to figure things out on their own.

One such person is Andy Lim, a wedding photographer who happens to be a very capable designer and who writes quite well. He set up Simple SLR to sell his photography e-books, which deals specifically with the topic of lighting.

Currently there are six e-books on sale through his website. “They cater to photographers at all levels, from beginners who are just starting out in photography, to more advanced photographers, who are looking to add finesse to their portrait lighting.”

The idea of e-books sprung out of his hands-on photography workshops, which he began doing in 2006.

“My workshops are known to be straightforward, no fluff, and easy to understand. So I came up with the name SimpleSLR, which was catchy yet descriptive enough, and had a domain name available at the time,” he said.

He started by selling just one e-book, which was a concise version of his beginner’s workshop. Since he had no experience in e-book publishing, he had to learn by trial and error. “I tried selling that e-book at various price points, with varying degrees of success.”

Lim estimates that it took about a year before his e-book site gained traction. Now, with six books on offer, he gets regular downloads and he’s looking at developing more books.

He’s not, however, looking at other formats or platforms (his books are delivered in PDF format and sold directly from his site). “My beginners’ e-book is available on Kindle but it’s not had much success,” he said, adding that he thinks many of Kindle’s readers are interested in fiction more than technical guides. He doesn’t plan to put more of his books on Kindle.

Another subject specialist who has done her own e-books is Amy Ng, an illustrator whose website, Pikaland, has its own e-book shop (pic).

Her e-books grew out of digital magazines she created called “Good to Know”, where she interviewed illustrators and artists from around the world about various topics relating to their industry.

Like Lim of SimpleSLR, Ng didn’t have e-book publishing experience (not many people do). “There was a lot of testing, experimenting and a lot of failures. I figured things out through trial and error. When it comes to selling online, there isn’t just one magic formula,” she says.

It also took Ng about a year before her e-books started getting regular downloads. To market her e-books, she taps on various channels including Facebook, Twitter and most recently, Medium, a new social journalism website founded by the same folks who created Twitter.

Ng has just made one e-book available on Kindle and is waiting to see how well it does before putting more e-books on that platform. In the meantime, her own platform is doing just fine, generating regular downloads from customers all over the world.

Neither she nor Lim are overly concerned about the potential of people sharing their e-books. “Piracy is everywhere. If people are going to pirate my book, they aren’t my customers to begin with, so I’m not worried about them,” says Ng.

Lim has a very practical philosophical outlook about piracy. “Anything digital can be stolen. So why not be the early bird and make some money before it happens?”

 

Oon Yeoh is a new media consultant.

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