I’m worried about the telephone bill.

I’ve made about five calls to Malaysia in the past few days and I’m wondering how much that will translate to in terms of cost.

Yes the calls were short, but still…

I’m going to Malaysia insha Allah.

Just the name conjures up such interesting feelings within me.

I’ve actually met quite a few Malaysians. When I was newly married, I went down to New Orleans to be in an Islamic camp. It was in a retreat in Louisiana. There was Spanish Moss on the trees and the people warned us not to go too far into the woods because there were gators.

It was December, and I specifically remember the year was 1979, I’d been married for less than 9 months, and the news came out that Russia had invaded Afghanistan.

At this camp, there were many Malaysian sisters.

Oh how I loved the modesty of their essence. They wore very long hijabs, usually light coloured, and tunics over long skirts, and they looked like Japanese dolls!

And each one of their faces radiated with a kind of glow, I’ve heard it called ‘noor’, which simply means ‘light’ in Arabic.

It’s kind of a radiance that is particularly on the faces of believers, and not just Muslim believers either. I’ve seen it on some Christian faces too.

One of the Malaysian sisters I met was named Hafsa.

I’d never heard the name before even though it’s the name of the daughter of Omar and consequently one of the wives of the Prophet (peace be upon him).

She was so sweet! Such a good Muslim lady masha Allah that when I was expecting my twin daughters, and needed an extra girl’s name I chose Hafsa. Mainly I named my daughter after the historical figure of the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) wife, but also after this lovely Malaysian sister.

I’ve seen pictures of Kuala Lumpur. If you ever saw that Sean Connery Catherine Zeta-Jones flick where they’re these elite burglars (if there really are such things!) and they scale the twin towers–that’s in Kuala Lumpur.

For a time those twin towers with the bridge across, were the tallest buildings in the world. (They’re probably still the tallest twin buildings in the world.)

Anyway, everything’s all set for my trip to Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.

And since the intention is to promote my work in that part of the world, I thought that I’d maximize the impact of the trip by flying into Kuala Lumpur, taking a bus down to Singapore for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content (which I’ve been invited to again) and then leave from Singapore to come back to Toronto.

Wow, what a task it is to plan this side trip!

I only have three full days in Kuala Lumpur. Luckily I met this lovely lady at the AFCC who’s an editor at Scholastic Malaysia. She had tried to acquire the international rights to Many Windows. She really loved it, but somehow couldn’t get the company to agree to it.

She’ll be taking me around sightseeing a bit, and I’ve contacted a number of international schools to see if they’re interested in having me.

All cold emails–easy to ignore–and yet even in my emails things have changed.

Understatement can be the hallmark of confidence, and the funny thing is that the more my work is recognized, the ‘quieter’ and more understated I seem to become.

I don’t need to toot any horns.

I do list my credentials, but not in a *needy* type way.

It’s hard to explain.

It’s just I guess that I don’t need to ‘prove’ anything.

What’s always boggled my mind is how so many Muslim countries haven’t purchased rights to my books. The only Muslim country that has is Indonesia! They bought rights to Big Red Lollipop. That’s it. My books sell well in Italy, Japan and Australia but Muslim countries haven’t heard of my work yet. Gotta fix that, insha Allah.

And it occurs to me that it’s because my mainstream publishers haven’t been really pushing them.

I guess it’s because mainstream publishers don’t have enough established contacts with these Muslim publishers. They have their own channels that they’re comfortable with and honestly speaking, they publish my books because they like them, not because they might sell in Muslim countries!

But it did pay off when I asked the folks at Viking to give me the names of some Muslim publishers in Malaysia.

So I’ve spent the last few days cold calling and then following up with emails.

It’s funny how long it takes for the phone line to connect.

I sit there counting the seconds it takes for the phone to ring on the other side of the world (the time zone is precisely twelve hours! You can’t get any further away before you start coming back!).  And part of me thinks, Subhan Allah! Glory be to God, that I can pick up a phone and communicate with someone like this.

Yes it’s the result of human ingenuity but darn it, who created the ingenius human who invented it but God???!!!

The calls are a bit fuzzy, and there’s a bit of a lag involved, which is why I asked for their emails.

It makes so much sense to conduct as much of this business via email!

The key to marketing is persistence (without being annoying), and the key to persistence is believing in yourself.

I know some writers who are excellent marketers but they haven’t bothered learning the craft of writing well, and then I know a LOT of authors who are excellent writers but haven’t bothered learning the craft of marketing well.

You do need both to succeed in this business.

Unless…you write something that is so ‘common denominatorish’ that any hack can see it making money. By ‘common denominatorish’ I mean a story that appeals to the baser instincts of people–basically smut, gossip, teen sexual fantasy (aka Twilight) and gore.

Unless you’re a megaselling author, you basically have to sell your wares. Nothing wrong with that!

I remember this vacuum salesman who once came to our house when I was a kid. When he’d done his demonstration and my parents had succumbed and bought the aquamarine coloured vacuum that was shaped like a mouse, I watched while he was packing up his stuff and I asked him, “Don’t you ever feel embarrassed going door to door like this?”

He looked at me blankly and said, “Nope. Because I believe in my product. If I didn’t, then yes, I’d feel embarrassed.”

It’s a good attitude to have.

When I’m cold calling and cold emailing I remind myself of that. If I didn’t believe that these people will be better off having been exposed to my work, my books, and my presentations, no way would I have the chutzpah to peddle it to them!

And as publishers lose more and more market place, that’s precisely what we authors are having to do. Peddle our wares more and more.

And yet…with the downturn in the economy, and schools being strapped for cash, I’m finding more and more that the royalties I receive through my published books are making up the slack.

Alhamdu lillah I haven’t suffered economically from the downturn at all. Weird, huh, because they say the arts are the first things to suffer, and books…fuhgett about it!

Just today the teacher librarian who’d booked me asked if I could make money as an author. It was easy to smile at her and say, “Oh yeah!”  This is my day job. Alhamdu lillah.

Can’t complain.

I’m looking forward to Kuala Lumpur and Singapore! Should be very interesting!

Big Red Lollipop is up for the Red Dot award in Singapore, and I’ve got some school bookings there.