The first international book fair Oyez! went to was the Bologna International Children's Book Fair in 2009. It was truly an eye opener and a very good experience.
When we started, we were nervous, and we felt very small. Our stand was simple and we shared it with another Malaysian publisher. We had prepared our books carefully, but they had been created for the Malaysian market and while they had been well-received at home, would people from other parts of the world like them?
We were pleased when some people stopped to inspect our books and a few expressed admiration. We learned very quickly what people liked and didn't. We didn't make any sales that year but we felt optimistic because overall, we'd received more favourable responses than not.
Visiting international book fairs is also the Oyez! way to benchmark our books at the international level. It also serves to keep us on our toes, to keep producing world-class books even though they are created for the Malaysian market in the first place.
The Bologna Book Fair was followed by the Frankfurt Book Fair, also in 2009. Since then Oyez!Books has travelled to international book and content fairs in New Delhi, Beijing, Shanghai, Abu Dhabi, Indonesia, Tokyo, Seoul, London and Singapore.
They are all wonderful experiences because we meet people from different parts of the world, experience different cultures, and see a wide variety of books all in one place for a few days. Glamour aside, exhibiting at international fairs are costly and tiring affairs. Oyez!Books is a small company and we cannot exhibit at as many fairs as we would like. We are lucky that we do get some support from government agencies like Matrade, MBKM (Malaysian Book Council) and KotaBuku.
So, for the few fairs we visit each year, we prepare very early in advance. We choose the books we feel would have the strongest appeal and sometimes we make hardcover editions of them so that they look nice on the shelves. We send out marketing flyers in advance to invite potential buyers to come to our stand. Sometimes we place advertisements in selected fair magazines. Finally, Oyez! directors play an active role by speaking at international fairs or taking part in panel discussions.
We feel that we have to work harder to make ourselves known because there are many big publishers at the fairs who have been exhibiting for years. They have thick glossy catalogues and wonderful stands (the ones we take pictures of to post on our facebook page!).
Why do we keep going to fairs? Of course, having an international market for our books is always a plus money wise, but we also feel strongly that we have our stories to tell and we must tell them. We will not be silent or silenced. Yes, we are a children's book publisher and we believe that picture books and children's story books are a great way to tell our story. Picture books especially, are friendly and attractive and before you know it, you have fallen in love. They are a great way to build bridges across cultures. But we also believe that it starts by telling our own stories to our children. And to create from the heart.
So Oyez! priority has always been to create wonderful books at home and then to work hard to take those books abroad because we want to take our place on the international stage.
Oyez! aims to create wonderful Malaysian books at home and to place them on the international stage.
We are happy to say that in the past few years, books by Oyez! have been translated into several languages and some have won awards overseas. Here are a few:
Picture books are a great introduction to children who are learning to read and to encourage reluctant readers. However, older children who want a bit more bite out of their books will be looking for story books. These books are sometimes referred to as Chapter books (as they have chapters) or in Americanism, middle grade books, typically books for children between 8-12.
The fourth book, The Case of the House at No. 74, is perhaps the most harrowing book among the current five, with our young heroes finding themselves right in the middle of a real war, ie World War II. But otherwise how could they have met someone so special as Sybil Kathigasu, the courageous war time nurse who only wanted to save lives.
The latest book in the Door Under the Stairs series is The Case of the Missing Elephants which takes readers further back into Malaysia's history with the discovery of tin in Perak.
All the stories are fiction, but they are based on historical facts and life in the period mentioned. Besides having to do a lot of research, the writer, Heidi also has three school-going children of her own who must have inspired her because all the books are great reads, besides being informative. Lim Lay Koon, who has become our favourite illustrator for black and white illustrations, illustrated all the books in this series.
Oyez! has published more story books than those listed above, including a wonderful collection of science fiction stories by Golda Mowe and a series about a 700-year-old boy ghost with his two modern-day friends who save the world from the very worst of baddies. But in this post, we are only highlighting those books with Malaysian content.
To celebrate Merdeka and Malaysia Day, we will be having promotions for two whole months, August through to September. So don't miss this chance to get more Malaysian stories for your children. In addition, watch this space as we will be highlighting more books as well as behind the scenes with Oyez! publishing.