WRITING COACHING, PUBLISHING, FAMILY HISTORY

Looking back: how I marketed and publicised local family history

Reflections and (hopefully) helpful pointers from a published Singapore author

Shawn Seah
6 min readJul 25, 2023

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A plug for the amazing series of Our Amazing Pioneers, on Singapore’s early pioneers and settlers. Available at Kinokuniya and major bookstores. Photograph by author’s team.

Every now and then, someone will ask me about writing or publishing. I just received several valid questions broadly on marketing and publicising a family history book.

I thought it might be useful to look back and share my experiences on how I marketed and publicised a local family history book. I hope the story and pointers shared will be useful to readers.

The flow of this story is a bit unusual. It follows the order of the questions posed to me, but I promise you that if you join us on this journey, you will learn something new and rediscover things you thought you knew.

Basic operational questions answered

Before you can market or publicise your book at your book launch(es), you have to think through some basic operational questions first.

One question I frequently receive is what constitutes a reasonable print run for a book. I think what constitutes a reasonable print run for any book really differs from author to author.

Personally, I first started with 500 copies printed for Seah Eu Chin: His Life & Times in 2017. However, after a rough start, I got lucky and sold out. Later, I went on to print another 500 and then even had another batch printed after that.

I even sold or distributed ~2,000 copies of my second book, Leader and Legislator, during the SG Bicentennial, on top of ~500 copies of Seah Eu Chin: His Life & Times.

However, I am painfully aware that the outstanding results were not due to my talents or hard work, but because of the unique situation at the time. Singapore was commemorating 200 years since Sir Stamford Raffles founded modern Singapore. This meant that historical topics and early pioneers were popular then.

As far as I am aware, most other local writers print between 300 to 500 copies. Many writers I know go for a print run of 500 copies. Even in my experience, for one of my local books (Chinese translation…

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Shawn Seah

Singaporean writer and public speaker, passionate about education, social issues, and local history and community stories.