A short Q&A with Amir Muhammad of Fixi

If you are looking for contemporary urban novels in Malaysia, the first name that pops up for many would be Fixi.

Fixi was Launched by Amir Muhammad in 2011 and has since become a household name among fans of local publications. They have various imprints such as Buku Fixi (local Malay Books), Fixi Novo (local English Books), Fixi Mono (nonfiction), Fixi Retro (reprints of old Malay-language classics), and also Fixi Verso (Malay translations of current international books).

Fixi to date has published over 150 pulp fiction titles in Malay and English. Buku Fixi also won the Adult Trade Publishing award at the London Book Fair in 2014.

We managed to catch up with Amir recently for a short interview.

A quick Introduction on Amir Muhammad taken from the Walkley Foundation website:

AMIR MUHAMMAD is a Malaysian writer, publisher and occasional movie-maker. He has contributed to the Malaysian print media since the age of 14 and has had several columns.

His books as writer include the non-fiction 120 Malay Movies (2010) and a micro-fiction collection Rojak (2009), neither of which sold as well as a jokey compilation he did in 2007 called Malaysian Politicians Say the Darndest Things: Vol 1. He has made several movies (mainly documentaries) that have shown in international film festivals such as Sundance and Berlin. Two of the documentaries were banned in Malaysia.

Here is our short Q&A with the godfather of indie books in Malaysia.

There are quite a number of imprints from Fixi. We are in the midst of reading Letters to Home published under your imprint Matahari. This seems to be the first book after a long break for Matahari. (The last being 120 Malay Movies) Is there a renewed interest to publish new material under Matahari? (We saw a post on Facebook stating that Fixi Novo will be only publishing a few titles this year.)
Well, we have a few non-fiction ideas we want to pursue, so maybe we will have 4 or 5 Matahari Books titles this year.

For the benefit of our readers, Can you explain the difference between Fixi Novo & Matahari in terms of books published since both are for English publications.
Fixi Novo is for fiction and Matahari Books for non-fiction but for anthologies often there will be both elements.

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How do you manage the different imprints under Fixi? Each seems to have different directions. Are they managed by different individuals or do you oversee all of them?
Two of them (Matahari Books and Fixi London) have people managing them; I oversee the others.

Fixi’s best-selling book of all time?
ASRAMA at 42,500 copies.

Editors Note: We definitely need to get this and review it soon!

You started off selling your books online back in 2011. How do you find the trend these days? Do most readers mainly order books through your website or get them off your brick and mortar stores?
Our main sales are through big bookshops (MPH, Times, Borders, Kinokuniya) which account for about 50% of our total sales. Online sales are maybe 15% but has been on a steady increase compared to previous years.

From your experience, do you think Malaysian readers prefer an eBook or a physical book? Do you think this will change over time?
Physical books. Hardly anyone buys eBooks.

How do you think the publishing scene locally has evolved over the past 5-6 years? Has there been good growth in readership/sales over the years?
Retail has declined since 2015 together with most sectors of the economy. There are also more competitors now. Due to the exchange rate, it’s now also not feasible to buy translation rights to foreign novels, so we are doing only one this year. We have cancelled over 20 titles that were already completed, but which we now feel won’t be worthwhile financially to print.

If there is someone who wants to start reading books by Fixi, could you recommend two titles they could start with?
Oh, I will need to speak with them to find out what they like, and only then be able to provide, confidentially, some suggestions.

Lastly, what are you current favourite local reads (non-Fixi)?
Alamak, I am not reading any local books at the moment. But I always enjoy the captions of the Instagram account of John Hafiz: (https://www.instagram.com/john_hafiz/)

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Write-Lah! focuses on reviews of movies, music and books (not necessarily new releases) with an emphasis on local talent here in Malaysia.
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