When I was turned down by the big distributor, I did seek out a smaller one the very next day. His words: "If they [the big shops] don't take it, it won't be worth my while – or yours."
So I have decided to distribute New Malaysian Essays 1 myself. I don't wanna go crawling back to any big or small company, asking to reconsider.
I am calling up the managers of selected bookstores and trying to be, as the quote from Pulp Fiction goes, "one charming motherfucking pig." (They should know me, since the first title by Matahari Books sold quite well...)
Perhaps I will not go through a distributor for all subsequent volumes of New Malaysian Essays. This means that the reach will be somewhat niche but that's OK. I always knew it was a niche book: it has over a hundred footnotes, for God's sake! But if people want the book, they should be able to get it.
I am lucky to have found a printer brave enough to publish the thing, but I might not be able to count on that forever. Maybe, to be safe, I should start asking around for foreign printers, those not so cowed by Malaysian printing legislation ...
We should get the 1,000 copies the day before the launch. The writers have received their advance royalties (am I the only Malaysian publisher that pays this?) Now let's see how, and where, the copies move.
New Malaysian Essays is an annual series that is independent in spirit. If I think an essay is worth publishing, I don't wanna be cowed by censorious commercial considerations.
Doing this annually will also stop me from being so complacent in letting the distributors and bookshops do the selling for me. We shall see how it goes!