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  • Christopher G. Moore

Writing and Selling the First Novel in Asia

Updated: Jun 3, 2019

New York, London and Toronto may be the first places where readers, authors and others in the publishing business think of as the place for publishing an English language novel. Obviously, in these cities you will find the major English language publishers. But they aren’t the only place where a book can be published. There are English language publishers in Southeast Asia who do take on English language fiction. This is a small but growing market.

One writer who has broken into the Asia market with this first novel, The Good Daughter, is Bjorn Turmann. Bjorn is a Canadian, born and raised in Vancovuer. His novel was published in 2005 by an independent publisher owned and run by an American living in Jakarta.

He was recently in North America looking for a literary agent. Bjorn’s background is in marketing and he is the master of the cold call. While in New York City he was able to arrange meetings with six literary agents by simply calling up their office and making an appointment.

His impression was the New York literary agents were less interested in new authors. Their interest in fiction from Asia was limited to China and India. The message repeated was that publishing was a business first and foremost and for agents the book business was a reflection of what was covered on the front page of the New York Times.

Bjorn also met with literary agents in Southern California and had a different impression. The LA agents were more receptive to new authors, new ideas, were willing to take on books that didn’t fit the existing standard of what publishers were talking about at the moment. He found them to be more willing to take a risk on an unknown author. Also, Bjorn felt the LA agents were more interested in and aware of fiction set in and about Asia than are New York literary agents.

Here is Bjorn’s checklist for a writer wishing to break in to the Asian English language fiction market.

  1. Take advantage of the incredible culture, history and people of the region in writing the book.

  2. Be willing to promote your book in and outside of Asia.

  3. Market yourself by seeking out venues to speak, whether book clubs, expat clubs, bookstores, etc.

  4. Read other authors and make that part of your job. Set aside one to two hours a day to read and study other writers. Learn from those who have achieved an audience.

  5. Have a third party who is willing to read and criticize your book before you submit it to an agent or publisher. No one will look at an unedited manuscript these days. Agents and publishers want professionals who give them a finished, polished book.

  6. Use the Internet to research small and medium sized publishers in Asia which publish English language fiction. Be prepared to travel to where they are doing business to meet them.

  7. Persistence is the key to success. Never give up or take no for an answer.

  8. Be willing to work with the publisher and provide cover design ideas.

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