1 What's your company called?
We are called Monsoon Books and we publish under the ‘monsoon’ imprint.
2 What do you publish?
Monsoon is a trade publisher of fiction and narrative non-fiction books set in Asia, and mostly Southeast Asia. Our authors hail from all over the world but have at some point lived in Asia, if they are not originally from there.
3 What's the story of the company?
I [Phil Tatham] left the UK for Southeast Asia in the mid-1990s, armed with a degree in Indonesian literature, and I cut my teeth at several leading English-language trade publishers in the region. I established Monsoon Books in Singapore in 2002, and published several hundred works of fiction set in Asia, as well as biographies, memoirs, history and true crime. I returned to the UK in 2015, closed the Singapore entity and incorporated Monsoon Books Ltd in the UK in 2016.
4 How's business?
We are an export-driven company and our main sales markets are in Asia and Australia—especially airport bookstores. We have benefited from a weak pound and cheaper production costs in the UK compared to Singapore. On the home front, we are totally new to the UK market and still finding our feet, but with more than a million business and holiday visits by UK residents to Southeast Asia every year, we are well placed to provide people with their reading material. We also sell translation, territorial, audio, TV and film rights, all of which help with the bottom line.
5 What do you enjoy about being independent?
The ability to adapt quickly and experiment. We were one of the first Southeast Asia publishers to embrace ebooks, and we then flirted with augmented reality to push YA print novels. We currently offer DRM-light ebooks for free on our website with the purchase of the paperback edition.
6 What do you think is the biggest single issue in publishing right now?
The shortage of readers. Having lived overseas for the last 20 years, I am shocked by the sorry state of the British education system and the lack of support for local libraries. The UK produces some of the best literature in the world, but it also needs to produce more literate readers who have been introduced to the joy of reading and who have places to read books, if not buy them.
7 What one piece of advice would you give to a fellow independent just starting out?
Know your niche and understand that you need passion, drive and a commitment to working long hours. Don’t be afraid of experimentation and failure, and always tap fellow publishers for information and advice.
8 What do you get out of belonging to the IPG?
Access to information is hugely important, as is the camaraderie of the publishing fraternity. In Singapore I was involved with the Singapore Book Publishers Association and the ASEAN Book Publishers Association, and the more I helped fellow publishers the more I learned, and ultimately the more I myself was rewarded.