Monday, 21 October 2013

Self-publishing in the Asian market

Asia, with its 4.2 billion inhabitants, has more than 60% of the world population. That is a vast potential book-buying public, though one fragmented by language and culture.   

What does this mean for digital and self-publishing on the continent?  Alice Clark-Platts investigates:

At the recent Ubud Writers and Readers Festival, Nury Vittachi, author of the Feng Shui Detective series, mentioned, in conversation with Sebastian Faulks, the strength of the Asian book market. In terms of population, the size of the US, UK and European book markets pale in comparison to the mass of the Asian market. In India alone the book publishing industry is estimated to be growing at 30% per annum.

What does this mean for publishing and self-publishing in particular? Well, in small markets such as Hong Kong, traditionally considered an English-speaking market, due to economies of scale print copies of a book would need to exceed 2,000 copies to make any economic sense. This is equivalent to roughly 2,000,000 in the US[1]. Clearly, ebooks and self-publishing offer a way in to this valuable market for aspiring authors when publishing houses may refrain from taking on new authors due to economic concerns.

Or consider the emerging market of Indonesia, with its population of over 240 million. Here the market is especially fragmented[2] and so traditional publishing houses may flounder to reach readers, whereas more nimble self-publishers might be able to identify niches, and target them appropriately.

In China, self-publishing websites draw 40% of web user traffic to stories by Chinese writers[3]. Evidence such as this suggests that authors in China have been quicker than those in the West to grasp the importance of reaching out to readers via electronic means.

What about developments such as crowd funding for creative projects? The Asian market has been slow to adopt crowd funding - concerns over public failure and losing face may be at the heart of this reluctance? However it is surely only a matter of time before companies such as Singapore-based Crowdonomic catch on[4].

The diversity of the Asian markets means that conventional publishers cannot be attuned to the vagaries and nuances of each particular market. Here self-publishing can attack – spotting and targeting specific markets for particular genres and interests. For example, 25% of the Indonesian population is made up of children - writers of kids' and young adult fiction may be intrigued by the opportunities presented there. 

Self-publishing gives the author control – not only of the content, style and presentation of their book but, more importantly, with respect to the profits garnered from it. Under traditional publishing contracts, an author may sometimes only receive a 10% share of the spoils.

Companies such as Trafford Publishing in Singapore offer self-publishing services ranging from editorial to marketing. This may help to ease the where do I start? feeling that new authors might have. Equally, self-publishing gurus such as Joanna Penn at offer a wealth of articles and information to help an author navigate their path.

This is the first of what is intended to be a regular series of posts on digital and self-publishing in Asia. If you are in the process of self-publishing for Asian markets, or you have a recently self-published book of interest in Asia, or you run a self-publishing company, or you offer editorial services to digital and self-published authors please get in touch with me, either by posting a comment, or by e-mailing

Alice Clark-Platts


[1] Peter Gordon of Hong Kong Chameleon Press, cited in China’s Emerging English Language Book Market,, 8 May 2013
[2] Joy Hawley Indonesia’s Sea of Opportunities  11 October 2013
[4] Kurt Wagner CNN Money 8 July 2013