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I'd write more, like you said I should. If only, there was more to me.

Friday, September 08, 2006


I've often been asked:
- Why are you always working so hard?
- Is it a million dollar job?

No clear answers to the first, a definite 'NO' for the second. Substituting the million dollars though is the million dollar chance of bumping into some greats. This week it happened to be the leading literary agent Toby Eady. If you don't already know him, you need some quick lessons in marketing your book. He is the man who among other things is widely credited with taking Jung Chang's wildly successful 'Wild Swans' to sales of 10 million copies and counting. Apart from that, some of the other Chinese authors he has represented - Xinran Xue, Wei Hui have all crossed the magical one million mark with their work.

So how does Toby know a book is going to be that big, the minute he touches the manuscript : "My instinct, that's it" says Toby.

An instinct that has been honed over the years in publishing. But the ride has never been easy. Over dinner at Raffles Hotel's East India Room (a meeting of the East and the West couldn't have been at a more symbolic venue) to mark the launch of Picador Asia, Toby recounted the painstaking journey he made to first bring 'Wild Swans' together, then to get it to print (and here you are thinking writing a book is so darn tough!).

Even after it had been printed, it wasn't exactly flying off the shelves. For months, almost years it sat sadly on book shelves around the world. That was till he decided to head to Australia, with the book and the author in tow. Before I get to the next bit, it was heartening to hear a man with achievements like Toby's admitting so fearlessly that it is only the ability to face the failures that can help eventually get on the road to success.

Having recently attended the Byron Bay Writers Festival, I instantly knew the warmth and attention of the readers that he was talking about. Australia changed the tide for Jung Chang and Wild Swans and the rest they say is history. After readers down under sat up and took notice, the rest of the world suddenly woke up. And a journey that started almost seven years ago came to bear fruit.

A lot has changed for Toby since then, but his passion for literature, for finding the next promising voice and ensuring it is polished enough to make the world sit up and take notice has not.

In Singapore, he was with his newest find Fan Wu and her book 'February Flowers'.

Squeezing time between his packed schedule, Toby took time to dish out some soundbites to treasure:

"Once you've done a book like Wild Swans, every Chinese author comes looking for you and hopes you can repeat the same story."
(It's quite another story that Toby has been great with repeats!)

And if you have been thinking of putting your pen to paper or if your manuscript is already ready, here's what one of the world's top literary agents is in a mood to read:
"I would love to see a book based in Malaysia - a love story."

That's a start....
Happy writing....