December 26

How (and how much) to publish a book in Singapore

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You want to be an author. You’re working desperately on your manuscript. You’re writing everyday.

Writing a book can feel a little like this. But take a deep breath. It doesn’t have to be.
Writing a book can feel a little like this. But take a deep breath. It doesn’t have to be.

Yet you’re staring at your email, and wondering why you’re not hearing back from publishers. You start to lose hope. You wonder if this is just a stupid venture that is a waste of time.

You wonder if you should just shelf your manuscript.

You laugh at it.

You’re afraid to tell people that you’re writing a book, for fear that they would ask you who’s going to publish it, and then you’re caught and thinking,

umm, no one.

True story

In February 2022, 4 months after leaving my full-time job in October 2021, I committed $10,000 towards publishing a book.

It might have been the most stupid thing I’d done. There was no certainty of income, and I was investing a big part of my savings into this venture.

This was a hybrid publishing arrangement with Candid Creations.

If you’re not familiar in the differences between the various arrangements, here’s a table.

I would personally attest towards trying all of them.

  Self-publishing Hybrid publishing Traditional Publisher
Cost You bear all the costs, but expect it to start at around $6000.
$3000 for laying it out, and another $3000 for printing at least 500 copies of it.
Candid Creation starts from $10,000 for 500 copies, with editorial support Varies, but expect it to start at around $3000 for smaller publishers like Armour Publishing, Write Editions, Ethos Books (not Penguin Random House) who might want you to cover some of their costs
Layout and design You support yourself and the easiest way is to find a publisher Candid Creation will give you a layout artist, an editor, and a graphic artist to design your cover and internal graphics The publisher will be responsible for layouts and graphics
Writing You could write it yourself
Or you could pay a ghostwriter like me to write it at $13,000 (no joke!)
Do it yourself (DIY)
Pay a ghostwriter
Do it yourself (DIY)
Pay a ghostwriter, but publishers prefer that you tell them upfront that you will be using a ghostwriter
Take delivery of your first books, and you would finally realise how your dreams smell like - like fresh print, on rustling paper.
Take delivery of your first books, and you would finally realise how your dreams smell like – like fresh print, on rustling paper.

Why do you want to write and get published?

If you think you can get rich from writing, you may die trying.

Writing, at least for me, hasn’t been the most profitable way to get rich.

Knowing your reasons would help. Kok Hwa, of Candid Creation, once shared a few reasons why you might want to write:

  1. To raise your credibility on the subject
  2. To become a subject matter expert
  3. To build your own credibility as a writer
  4. To make money.

The last point might not be the most feasible, especially when you’re first starting out. Knowing this would help you to be less disappointed upon publishing your book.

Don’t delete your manuscript, at least not yet.
Don’t delete your manuscript, at least not yet.

The process

If you look at the book writing process, it may look like a huge task. But break it down, and you would find that it’s a lot simpler.

Relax, it’s not that hard. Just kidding.
Relax, it’s not that hard. Just kidding.

How much money are you willing to invest?

If you want to write a book, have the money to invest in the process. It’s not going to come cheap.

Of course we all wish that we could be published by Penguin, but if they don’t want you, do you then drop your dream of being an author?

No.

You can spend on a hybrid publisher like Candid Creation, that will bring your book from idea to print.

Just be prepared to spend $10000 though.

Here, I will share the 3 books I’ve written, and how much they have cost me.

Book Format Costs
One Day at a Time (2020) Printed cards Totalled $2550, which included $1500 to print 500 copies with a Singaporean printer like Win-Win Printers, and then $1050 for the graphic designer
Becoming Better (2021) Ebook

$5850 for the graphic designer (Valerie Chua) and layout

I didn’t eventually print it because I ran out of a budget.

Vault! (2023) Book

Candid Creation Publishing quoted me $11,500 for printing 500 copies of 192 pages, and included editing, design, and layout

I would say that you should set aside at least $10,000.

Having gone through the hybrid publishing process, I realised that was the most important point for me in my career as a writer. I needed an editor to refine my work, to tell me what was good, what was not as good, and to grow me as a writer.

But you might wonder, is it worth paying that much money? After all you could manage it yourself, getting the

  1. Designer
  2. Layout artist
  3. Editor
  4. Printer
Would you want to spend time working with designers about whether their graphics look good?
Would you want to spend time working with designers about whether their graphics look good?

I liked the fact that there was also a publisher like Kok Hwa that connected me with reputable media outlets, to help me to raise awareness of my book.

He also managed the timeline well, pushing me all the way to the finish, especially when I was close to giving up.

You might think that you can manage yourself well on your own, but wait till you look at your 46,000 word manuscript, and suddenly get struck by self-doubt about whether anyone (including your mother) would even want to read it.

Wait till you come to the end of work, and just want to sleep, before realising that having a publisher chasing you can just be the best thing you pay for.
Wait till you come to the end of work, and just want to sleep, before realising that having a publisher chasing you can just be the best thing you pay for.

The hybrid publishing way might be the way to go, if you’re not experienced in writing

Writing a book is not the same as writing your university essays. It calls for a far more diverse skillset in terms of:

  1. Product
    1. Your book is your product, and you need to know just what makes a good book.
  2. Market awareness
    1. You need to learn what the market wants to buy in terms of books.
  3. Communication
    1. Telling a good story, making good arguments, and recognising what brings the reader from problem to solution, is vital.
  4. Sales and marketing
    1. Writing is not enough. Selling is necessary.
  5. Work capacity
    1. Without a doubt, you need to work very hard to write a book.
  6. Systemisation
    1. Having a system where you write daily, whether you like it or not, is necessary.
Credit: Shane Melaugh, the founder of Thrive Themes
Credit: Shane Melaugh, the founder of Thrive Themes

If you can’t write (or don’t have the time to), hire a ghost writer

Ever heard of the book “Spare“, by Prince Harry?

That bestseller was written by J. R. Moehringer, an American journalist.

Hiring a ghostwriter might not be the easiest thing to do.

Especially if you think that only you can adequately capture what you want to say.

Nope.

Not true.

Good ghostwriters spend loads of time with their subjects.

They become a fly on the wall as they observe their daily lives.

I’m one example.

Recently, I was asked to ghostwrite the book for a CEO of a Singaporean company.

Its not been the easiest project.

It’s meant that I’ve had to observe him talking to his staff, and partners.

I’ve also had multiple interviews with him.

You might think that you can’t afford it.

That may be true, especially when it can start from about $13,000 for a good ghostwriter.

So why use a ghostwriter?

Because unless you’re a writer writer, you will find it terribly hard to insert time to write a book in the middle of your full-time job.

Make no mistake.

Writing a book can be a part-time hobby.

But you will see it languishing in the doldrums, hardly ever moving.

A professional ghost writer can move it from start to finish much better.

Moehringer ghost wrote Spare for Prince Harry
Moehringer ghost wrote the bestseller Spare for Prince Harry – another reason to get a ghostwriter. (Picture credit: The New Yorker)

Publishing a book may not be for you, but for the reader

Ultimately, if you believe you have a story to share, it’s worth going the distance to share it.

Writing a book isn’t just for you. It’s for the readers you eventually write it for.

 


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  • Your advice on book publishing is helpful except for the costings. You can get layouts done through sites like Fiverr or freelancer.com for a few hundred. There’s also POD – print on demand afterwards for getting the physical copy out versus the more expensive, larger print runs needed by offset litho type printing option. My context: I’ve had 2 hardcopy books published and distributed commercially without needing to invest my own money, and a 3rd self published. A 4th will be out in a month, and costing (most likely) less than $7000, including layout, cover designs, and offset printing on sustainable paper stock for 2000 copies. I have sold about 25,000 copies of all my books in total. I hope you might want to update this useful blog article with those cost-effective options I mentioned. All the best

    • Hey Dave, thanks so much for this helpful comment. Will definitely consider that. But why I chose to use Singaporean artists is because (rightly or wrongly) I thought they would be more reliable to what I wanted to do. And the first illustrator I worked with really did get my style.

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