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Malaysian starts own publishing house, becomes bestselling author

Malaysian starts own publishing house, becomes bestselling author
on Oct 29, 2021
Malaysian starts own publishing house, becomes bestselling author
Charissa Ong is an example of a trailblazer in the local writing scene. After numerous rejections by publishers, she decided to take matters into her own hands and went down the self-publishing route. Her first book, “Midnight Monologues”, became a finalist in the 2017 International Book Awards. Her second, “Daylight Dialogues”, ended up on MPH’s Fiction Bestsellers list. Both are collections of poetry and short stories. Not content with letting her imagination sit idle, Ong recently released her third book, a poetry collection titled “What Does Your Name Mean?”. These are noteworthy accomplishments, given that Ong is only 29 and is balancing her literary work with her career as a digital designer.
“When I was 17, I actually hated reading and anything to do with words,” she tells FMT. “I only started seriously writing when I broke up with my boyfriend in college.” Ong delved into books of all genres to soothe her heartbreak and began writing to express herself. A few years later, she was running her own publishing house, Penwings, and has sold over 30,000 books. Before she got to where she is today, friends would read her stories and ask if she ever considered publishing them. Ong then approached a few publishers, who bluntly told her not to expect much success in Malaysia. She recalls some of them telling her, “Don’t get your hopes up too high. Malaysians don’t really read.”
Despite this, she continued to contact publishers hoping that one would see merit in her work. She was finally advised to consider self-publication, and – despite not knowing anything about the industry – decided to jump in feet first. Thus, Penwings was founded in 2016 – but not without a whole list of complications, not least of which being the question of finances. “Everything was from my own pocket,” Ong reveals. “Whatever I earned from my other job, I invested in Penwings.” To her credit, she broke even within the first year and, more importantly, her first release was a commercial success. She has since sold nearly 30,000 of her books. Readership and penmanship Remembering her own difficulty in breaking into the market, Ong is keen on supporting others by publishing the works of unproven but promising writers. “I really want to increase readership as well as the quality of work that comes out from Malaysia,” she says. “I hope to one day put Malaysia in the spotlight in the international literary scene.” She also believes that allowing people to share their views through writing will contribute to a better country. “If you write from the perspective of others, we will have more tolerance. With more tolerance, we will have peace.” That said, Ong does have criteria for what gets to be published. Grammar, language, plot and relatable characters are all a given. “Quality is my highest priority; I don’t publish just for the sake of money,” she says. “It has to have the ability to transform perspectives and challenge people’s ideas of right and wrong.” Malaysians, she says, are fond of fiction – particularly those with dystopian themes, as well as romance. She, too, remains enamoured with fantasy and sci-fi, naming Yuval Harari, author of “Sapiens”, as her favourite author. As for the future, she aims to publish more works next year and is looking to distribute her books to the international market. And, asked what advice she would give aspiring authors, she replies: “Just do it. Be fearless, try whatever you want to try. Who knows what will come out of it?” Source - freemalaysiatoday  

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