Tuesday 28 January 2014

Alice On Self-publishing: The Chronicles of Oujo: Questalon

Alice Clark-Platts writes a monthly column on self-publishing. Here she speaks to an author and an illustrator who used a pre-orders platform to great success.

Joshua Chiang (illustrator) and Jeffrey Omar Lawrence (author), both based in Singapore, collaborated on the children's title The Chronicles of Oujo: Questalon, and used Publishizer to generate SG$5000 worth of pre-order funds before launching the book.

Lawrence describes Oujo as his and Chiang’s take on the fantasy genre: “It’s a fantasy world with all the fantasy staples - knights, dragons - but it’s also a world with our own twisted views on modern life. At its heart, Oujo is about overcoming adversity. That following what you believe in is often not an easy path and that the world often easily gives you reasons to quit, and part of overcoming that is overcoming your own doubts.

Talking of following what you believe in, I wondered whether Chiang and Lawrence had worked on Oujo full-time, or intended to go full-time? They both continued with other projects whilst working on the book, and have no plans to give up their day jobs yet - although Lawrence is constantly working on new concepts for television shows, films and books.

Why did they choose self-publishing?  Chiang said that in the case of Oujo, they wanted to produce something more interactive than might interest mainstream publishers, involving apps with narration and animation features, so choosing whether to self-publish or to do it through traditional routes was easy. Once they heard about Publishizer everything fell into place as there the interactive nature of the material could really take hold. Lawrence, however, admitted self-publishing was more work than he’d expected: “I don’t think new writers really know how much work needs to go into promoting a book. It’s a lot.

I could imagine that it would be. So how do you get people interested in your work when you don’t have a big publishing house behind you? “Begging.” Lawrence said. “Lots of begging! A lot of it was reaching out to the social network. Daily posts, continual reminders, reaching out to bloggers, parenting sites and then lots and lots of personal selling.”

Chiang and Lawrence said the most marketing support came from those who knew about the book long before it was published, and had seen early drafts. They recommend Freakonomics Radio's How to Raise Money without Killing a Kitten podcast as a guide on how to promote a crowd-funded campaign.  

Lawrence admits that the whole self-publishing process has put him on an emotional edge: "If you’re a natural introvert, it’s hard to put yourself out there." Chiang agrees, saying it was a relief and a huge surprise when sales shot through the roof during the last few days of the pre-order campaign: “Maybe there is a deity of on-line marketing that we can worship after all?

Chiang’s favourite novels are those which end on a hopeful note and which affirm the goodness in human nature. The publishing story of Oujo seems to have such an ending. Self-publishing it would seem, could be the beginning of an adventure for us all.

Alice’s next column on self-publishing will appear on Wednesday 26th February.  If you are involved in self-publishing in Asia, and you would like your work to be featured, please contact asianbooksblog@gmail.com.