Raman talks not only about his bookshop and how it's facing the challenge of larger competitors, but also about his publishing venture which has put out 14 books so far, six of them anthologies.
This from the article:
He believes there is a strong demand for books in English by local authors.Laziness?? Is what Raman says entirely true? I know of one excellent Silverfish writer who had his manuscript rejected ... probably because it would have attracted too much controversy. (The writer is gay.) It's every publisher's right of course to decide on the type of books they want to publish. But the writer did submit his work and ergo was not "lazy".
“It is an irony. We complain that Malaysian readers prefer buying foreign writers. This is rubbish. But we have to stop insulting them by offering low-quality books.”
He also feels that it is important for local authors to get their work published locally. While there is a lot of glamour in getting published abroad, it is also a make-it-or-break task.
“Britain publishes roughly 10,000 books a month. When you publish there, you are one in 10,000. Also, there is a lot of pandering to their taste and a kind of selling out. The big publishing houses want the exotic East, they are purely commercially driven,” he explains.
Raman, however, has one grouse. He is disappointed with the local writers who have contributed to his six anthologies. Discounting previously-published authors, the new writers have yet to come up with a book of their own.
“There are a lot of people calling themselves writers in this country but they have yet to become authors. We have about 50 writers (in the collections) and not one has become an author. I am very disappointed,” he says.
“They used to complain there was no platform for writers and I have given them a platform. I think they are just lazy.”
The word "lazy" is unkind in the sense that many of the writers have gone on to achieve significant recognition elsewhere e.g. Datuk SHANmugalingam whose work has appeared in various collections of stories and poetry including the much more prestigious The Merlion and The Hibiscus (Penguin), James Lee who of course has become an award-winning filmmaker and my friend RuhayatX (whose incisive and witty articles appear in the NST and on the Malaysiakini website) has set up his own publishing company to encourage young Malay writers. Lazy, huh?
Still, I think Raman has a point and I certainly stand guilty as charged. (This is good kick-up-the-butt stuff for me - and I hope for the other Silverfish writers.) I've short stories to complete and the first draft of a novel that needs reworking. Okay, will make a redoubled effort to get down to it.
Hey guys - let's show him!