What a difference a day makes.
At 3pm Tuesday, I reached a verbal agreement with a large distributor in PJ to handle New Malaysian Essays 1. We agreed on the quantity, retail price, some modest promo stuff.
At 9am Wednesday, I got a call from the printer. This printer is also part of the same corporate family as the distributor. I was told that the corporation is "unable to associate itself with the book". It refuses to print or distribute it.
I was told that this is "the Datuk's orders." A hastily convened meeting the day before (which ended at 10pm) came to the conclusion that New Malaysian Essays 1 is somehow 'politically sensitive.' There's also the business of 'the vulgar words.'
I explained that while there are certainly some bits in the essays that are pointed and provocative, there's nothing that can be construed as libel, slander or sedition. Thus, there should be nothing wrong from the legal standpoint. (As for the vulgar words in my essay: I was being educational).
Ah, but these are difficult times. (The word 'elections' was used).
I should have been dismayed or upset by this act of corporate self-censorship but the main thing I experienced was panic: The launch would be in less than 4 weeks (which would include the protracted Chinese New Year holidays) and I didn't have a printer!
Phone-calls. Emails. Checking of bank balance.
Luckily, later in the afternoon, I managed to get a printer. But I still have no distributor.
Without a distributor, I would not be able to get into the main bookstores.
Well, I have since decided something.
I have decided that it's no big deal.
So what if the book doesn't get into the main shops? I will just distribute the thing myself. I am sure there will be a few independent bookstores/venues that will stock it. For sure it will not be in any MPH, Times or Popular, though.
I reduced the print run to 1,000. The fact that I don't have to surrender such a large cut (55%) to this distributor also means I can now price the book at RM30.
Where exactly will it sell after the launch day? Well, there's always Kinibooks, that plucky online shop run by Malaysiakini.
After the Thaipusam holiday (which now spreads to KL, thanks to the efforts of Hindraf to push the government to think of the Hindus for a change*) I will speak to a few other retailers too. Can't promise anything at this stage but you shall be updated!
* I wonder if this sort of sentence qualifies as 'politically sensitive.' There are quite a few of them in the book. Ah well. It's not something that a certain corporation in PJ will have to worry about now.