TAN MOOI YEAN
Past Program / 2020 Program / TAN MOOI YEAN
|TAN MOOI YEAN
|Odonata Publishing Sdn. Bhd.
|Odonata is a private publishing house established in 1999, by Mr Khor Ewe Pin, who is also a YA novel author. He has written and published 36 titles and sold more than 1.4 million copies of his works. Odonata has been publishing Chinese books for children and young adults, from picture books, government school textbooks, comics, illustrated novels to young adult novels. In recent years, we had published adult fiction and non-fiction as well. More than 400 titles have been published in the local book market.
Our titles were in the Malaysia Bestsellers’ Book List for nearly 690 weeks and had hit the 1st spot for 260 weeks since 2006. Among the 159 titles of YA and illustrated novels which we had published, we managed to sell the Simplified Chinese copyright of 85 titles to China, and more than 3.2 million copies have been sold in China since 2010. Some YA titles have even been adapted into TV series.
Impact of COVID-19 on the publishing business in my country, Malaysia
Because of the increasing COVID-19 cases in our country, the Malaysian government had announced a nation-wide lock-down from 18 March, 2020. Under the Movement Control Order (MCO), all industries and sectors had to be closed, except essential services. Following the MCO guidelines, we started to work from home since then till June. During that period of time, not only public health, the economy also took a big hit.
All book stores and schools were closed. A 114-year-old bookstore chain had closed several of its outlets. They decided to move their resources to e-commerce and digital business. After the closure, the bookstore chain held pop-up book fairs in shopping mall atriums to increase its short term sales.Publishers who mainly published workbooks for the primary and secondary schools faced severe test due to the closure of schools. Some publishers started to lay-off employees and even decided to stop their publishing business, began to sell local products to gain side income.
As a publisher that relies mainly on incomes from bookstores and schools, it was also a hard time for us. Online bookstores have become our one and only way out. Some of our authors immediately started to share and promote their books on Facebook and YouTube live during the MCO period.
Besides that, the bookstores and authors also make progress together by sharing their books with audiences through live streaming. Take my publisher for example, initially the number of viewers was below a thousand, but after a few trials and errors using different methods, the viewers of our regular live streaming sessions started to increase. We even held post-mortem meetings after each live session to analyse and evaluate the performance of everyone (from the speakers to the backstage crew) to bring improvements to our next session.
E-commerce and on-demand delivery services became very essential during the long stay-at-home period. According to the local media, we saw a significant spike in online sales as a result of changing of consumer behaviour during the MCO period. We hope that in the near future, other than food, cosmetics, clothings and household products, books would also become a necessity in our daily lives.
Fortunately, although our offline sales have declined over 100% during the MCO, our online sales have increased by 250% compared to normal.
According to the analysis and statistics from the media, e-books have now become more acceptable by readers. E-book, was once a threat to printed book publisher, now it has become a way of survival for us. Throughout the whole lockdown period, printers from the publishing industry encountered full closure and could not operate as well. Since the publication of printed books was suspended, our publisher made an immediate decision to publish e-books at the beginning of the MCO period. Luckily, we were still able to apply for eISBN for e-books from our ISBN National Center, the centre even treated all applications for eISBN as a top priority. Our first e-book was published in April, now we have about 10 books on Google Play Bookstore. The pandemic has speeded up publication of e-books for my publisher.
Perspectives on the publishing business after COVID-19 in my country, Malaysia
It is obvious that my country, Malaysia, is facing the knock-on effect of COVID-19 on most sectors. The recovery will take longer than expected. As long as new positive cases are reported, our economy will continue to be affected. Although the Malaysian government has announced a number of economic stimulus packages for individuals and companies affected by the COVID-19 crisis, we should not fully depend on the government.
Due to the economic downturn, our publisher has taken various measures to enhance our online sales. As a result, our editors have to participate actively in these projects. At this very critical time, besides book publishing, editors are taking on tasks outside of our roles and experiencing new responsibilities for the first time.
We have been inviting authors to hold live book sharing events every Wednesday, by using “StreamYard” streaming platform. Those live events can be watched through our official Facebook and YouTube page, as well as our authors’ official pages. Our editorial department plays a main role in organizing those live events, from planning topics to monitoring the progress from the backstage. It is definitely a new challenge for us!
At this moment, crowded events or mass gathering are still not allowed in schools and bookstores. All book fairs have been cancelled. So, our marketing department is no longer focusing just on offline markets. At the moment, they are doing online book presentations as well. Besides using our official Facebook and YouTube page as live streaming platforms, we conduct live sessions at an online shopping mall, “Shopee”, mainly targeting parents and school teachers by promoting our preschool readers.
Other projects that our editors are planning lately are online “mini book fair” and foreign copyrights promotion.
Since there will be no offline book fairs in the foreseeable future, we have decided to plan online book fair instead to develop a reading culture in the society, and also hoping that people will still keep up their reading habit. A team formed by 3 editors (myself included) have discussed the theme of the book fair and the design of the mini web page, decided on the book list and also promotion prices for each package. The whole planning and organizing task was given to the editorial team who knows all the titles very well which might bring different results to the publisher.
Copyright trading is another section which is worth manpower input. Another team which consists of 3 editors (myself included) and a PR executive, are working together to promote our copyrights internationally. We have discussed and came up with a potential book list, now we are writing the editor’s review for each title. We will be sending out the contents after some necessary designs are done.
Our publisher is constantly looking for other possibilities to connect with more readers or consumers.To widen our target market, we have been seeking collaborations with different business sectors.
For example, we collaborate with a local coffee brand, and came up with a special package consisting of a book we published and a pack of freshly-roasted coffee beans. Another joint effort is a package consisting of a book, a pack of coffee beans and a tube of preserved flowers. The preserved flowers are designed by another local brand.
Face shields for kids, enamel pins, stickers – these are some of the products which were produced or had been produced by our publisher, mostly designed by using the characters from our books. Book publishing will always be our primary concern, but we want our business to be more varied and competitive in these tough times.
As we can foresee that the impact of COVID-19 on the global economy will last for a long time, the demand of books would decline over time. However, we strongly believe that the compensating force in human needs to consume books, as an effect of limited free mobility, provides a possibility for increased book consumption among book lovers.
BOOK INTRODUCTION VIDEO
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Khor Ewe Pin / Odonata Publishing Cheng