Writing the World: Publishers of Southeast Asia
By Shaniah Shields and Jia Wen Ho
Publishing in southeast Asia is ever growing and vibrant, though not without its challenges. Southeast asian countries are overwhelmed by the one-way traffic of books from the West which prevents many local books from getting the recognition they deserve. A language barrier exists for books not written in English as there is a lack of translation opportunities for many of Southeast Asia’s languages. Additionally, independent publishers have small marketing and publicity budgets. However, with many talented homegrown writers, Southeast Asia is bursting with stories and ideas from a plethora of cultures and languages. The time for Southeast Asia to make waves in the publishing scene is not far off.
Asiapac Books are Singapore’s leading independent publisher of educational comics and illustrated books. They publish on many topics including history, literary and cultural. Their writers include Bessie Chua and Linda Yan, the authors of Candy is a Good Helper, and Aydeel Djoeharie, the author of Sacred Guardians.
Founded in 1999, Candid Creation Publishing is an independent English-Chinese bilingual publishing house based in Singapore. With a vision to be the publisher of choice in Asia and beyond, Candid Creation aims to lower barriers to getting published and make professional publishing accessible to all.
Epigram Press are an award-winning Singaporean publisher who have more than 350 fiction and non-fiction titles to their name. From graphic novels and children’s books to cookbooks, they publish a range of stories. They also run a bookshop and distribute Southeast Asian literature across the globe. We wrote a full spotlight on Epigram Press for Issue 16.
Established in 1997, Ethos Books is an independent publisher of literary fiction, non-fiction and poetry. They give voice to exciting emerging writers from diverse backgrounds and help to foster an environment where literature can thrive. Their authors include Adeline Foo, Cyril Wong and Danielle Lim.
Anvil is an eleven-time ‘Publisher of the Year’ as named by Manila Critics Circle. They aim to appeal to different Filipino audiences and popularise books by publishing trade books spanning a variety of genres. They have a number of imprints including Bliss Books, Anvil Art and Anvil Classics.
Adarna House publish local literature for children of all ages. They have published some well-loved classic titles like the Pilandok series by Virgilio S. Almario and the popular Janus Silang series by Edgar Calabia Samar. Adarna House are also able offer educational courses through their ties to the public and private sectors.
Ateneo De Manila University Press
This publishing press supports Ateneo De Manila University through the production and publication of textbooks and syllabus novels. The press publishes a variety of books on subjects such as law, society, science, religion, politics, cultural heritage and so much more. They recently published The Philippines Is Not A Small Country by Gideon Lasco in 2020.
A children’s publisher based in Malaysia, Oyez!Books specialises in publishing English-language books that highlight local heritage and values. After finding a vacuum in Malaysian children’s literature, the founder, Linda Tan, wanted to encourage children to read and give them access to local stories. Since their launch in 2008, they have published over 200 books.
Established in 2012, Clarity Publishing is an independent press in Penang, Malaysia publishing both fiction and non-fiction. Among its book titles are Little Mamak, a graphic novel depicting rural life, and Pearly’s Nyonya Pantry, a cookbook of Nyonya cuisine. An imprint of Clarity Publishing, Miku books publishes travel books showcasing professional photographs of Penang.
Founded by Amir, Buku Fixi was born to diversify the genres of Malay-language novels at a time when most Malay novels fell under the romance genre. Buku Fixi’s mission is to tell the urban Malaysian stories of this generation. KL Noir is their English publication, an anthology of dark thrillers set in the country’s capital city, Kuala Lumpur.
First founded in 1999 as an independent bookshop, Silverfish Books started publishing after realising that they only had one bookshelf of Malaysian books. Publishing both fiction and non-fiction, Silverfish Books seeks to develop and showcase Malaysian writing. We wrote more about them in Issue 10.
Established in 1987, Silkworm Books is based in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Covering both bookselling and publishing, Silkworm Books offers a variety of titles covering topics across culture, history and many other fields of study focusing on Southeast Asia. They also have Thai works, both in translation and the original language. Have a look at Mekong Kids by Khemachat and Letters from Thailand by Botan.