An Evolving Journey

[NOTE: Good news! You can download the digital version of  The Age of Smiling Secrets FOR FREE from Amazon for the next five days or so. The paperback also priced at the minimum price allowed by Amazon. The free offer is available worldwide. Grab it right away here.]

On 14 August, I woke up to the sound of birds chirping and I just knew that it was going to be a good day. An hour later, I was preparing my breakfast as I mentally listed down all the things I needed to do that day. I remember that moment well. In my kitchen, I was pouring boiling water into the cup when I heard the beep on my phone. Who could be texting this early in the morning? I reached for the phone and saw that the notification that a message had come through from one of the editors at the publishing house that helped with the books.

Quickly, I opened the message on the phone app. Hers were the words I’d been waiting to read for a long time. Both my books Two Snakes Whistling at the Same Time and The Age of Smiling Secrets were printed, bound, and ready for distribution. I was aware that it would take up a month for the books to be distributed all over Malaysia. So, in the interim, I had time to figure out how to make these books available to those outside Malaysia. As such, in this story, I am going to share with you that journey to publishing the novel, for a start, outside Malaysia.

OUTSIDE MALAYSIA, IN MALAYSIA
It wasn’t a journey I undertook alone. I roped in my long-time friend, fellow writer and columnist, Rohi. Perhaps, before I share the journey, a little more information about The Age of Smiling Secrets will be helpful.

Malaysia is in a unique position where both the laws of Syariah and the Civil Law are practised concurrently. This has given rise to a conflict in jurisdiction in certain cases. For instance, where a non-Muslim couple is married under the provisions of the Civil Law, confusion arises when one party converts to Islam and converts their children as well. A custody battle often ensues where the Syariah Court can grant custody of the children to their newly converted Muslim parent while the High Court of Malaya can grant custody to the non-Muslim parent.

This is the scenario I’ve played out in my novel where Kamini and her daughter, Nandini, are affected by one man’s selfish actions. It is also a story about Karuppan’s struggles as he tries to survive in modern Malaysia as a child of an indentured labourer.

As you may already know from previous stories I’ve written in this newsletter, ‘The Legend of Nagakanna’, an edited version of Chapter 9 in this novel, was first featured in an anthology called We Mark Your Memory: Writings from the Descendants of Indenture, published by the University of London in partnership with Commonwealth Writers in 2018. The anthology brought together, for the first time, new writing from descendants of indenture across the Commonwealth.

With one adventure over, now came the next challenge. How to make this book available to those outside Malaysia? I sort of know how to create an eBook for Kindle, having created one for Ladoo Dog and The Banana Leaf Men (Reprint). But these were done years ago and I’ve forgotten a lot of the steps. The steps are not difficult to follow, but they require time and patience, both of which are in short supply right now. I have many on-going projects that take up a lot of my time and I knew that there was no way I could manage this project on my own. And that’s how Rohi came into the picture.

MAKING SPACE 
One of the first things he asked me was, “In KDP, do you want Kindle, Kindle Unlimited or Createspace?”

Huh?

I was so confused by all this jargon. And this was only the first step. I decided to use simple language and replied, “Rohi, I want an eBook that we can sell on Amazon.com and a print version for those outside Malaysia.” Mercifully, he said OK, named his fee, and got working on the whole project.

Although we live in different countries, working with Rohi was easy-peasy. He didn’t overwhelm me with questions or choices to make. He simply went about doing what he had to do by meticulously following the instructions provided. In no time at all, he sent me the files to upload onto Amazon.com. I would love to explain the differences between the books in terms of font used, the headers, footers and all the formatting issues. However, I can’t because Rohi did all this for me. Thank God! What I do know is this – the formatting issues for an eBook far differ from that of a print version of the book. I will leave Rohi to explain the rest.

Once that was done and dusted, I decided to attempt something that Rohi vociferously encouraged me to do: enter the Kindle version of The Age of Smiling Secrets into a competition. So, we chose the Kindle Storyteller and worked on uploading the files to meet their requirements.

SOMETHING SPECIAL FOR YOU
Now, what remains is something special for all the subscribers to this newsletter. I have, for the next five days, made this eBook absolutely free. In return, I will be eternally grateful if you could read the eBook and post a short review it on Amazon.com. Here’s the link again:

The Age of Smiling Secrets: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07GC1YNYV

The book and eBook are available worldwide, but for ease of reference, here are some of the more popular links:
USA: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07GC1YNYV/
UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07GC1YNYV/
India: https://www.amazon.in/dp/B07GC1YNYV/
Japan: https://www.amazon.co.jp/dp/B07GC1YNYV/
Italy: https://www.amazon.it/dp/B07GC1YNYV
Canada: https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B07GC1YNYV
Australia: https://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B07GC1YNYV

What’s next on this journey? I cannot say for sure as the story evolves from day to day. What I am learning is the need to take things one day at a time.  It is my hope by the time you read the next story, I’ll be able to share with you more information about the other book, sales and, hopefully, a story about the success of this competition.

Meanwhile, I trust that you’ll enjoy reading The Age of Smiling Secrets as much as I loved writing it. As I’ve said before, I still cry every single time I read the last sentence in this novel.

(31 August 2018)


Aneeta Sundararaj fears social media and aims to ‘go local’ with ‘the novel’.  Read mores stories like this on her website, ‘How to Tell a Great Story’. (http://www.howtotellagreatstory.com).

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