Update of My Passive Income Project: Publishing A Book

(scroll all the way down if you just want to vote on the book price)

This post for everyone out there who is looking for a personal account of what it’s like to add an extra passive income stream by creating a product to sell. In my case, the product is a book.

I’m taking you behind the scenes, from deciding on the product, to the creation process, to research, to setbacks and the current progress.

Aside from this passive income project, I have other passive income streams too: investments (see sidebar links) and this website (Related: How to Create a Blog that Doesn’t Suck & Generates Income). The passive incomes supplement my active incomes: writing for a living.

Let’s start with..

Deciding on the product

For the longest time, I didn’t know what I wanted to sell.

I considered:

  • Selling Ringgit Oh Ringgit merch – but figured you guys don’t need another notebook or t-shirt
  • Building a personal finance-related app – but didn’t have a strong enough value proposition
  • Creating a fundraising platform for NGOs – I even fleshed out the idea and asked you guys to critique it (spoiler alert – did not proceed with this idea)

And then the idea hit me like a brick – a book. A personal finance book. Or to be more specific, a personal finance stories compilation, written by Malaysians for Malaysians. I got the idea after attended a writers’ retreat in Penang organised by the Malaysian Writers’ Society.

It’s perfect. Books on saving and investing money are a dime a dozen, but books on personal finance-themed stories are pretty hard to find (believe me. I consume A LOT of personal finance content.)

Plus I like the idea of producing edutainment content – it’s like you get to learn more about money but in a more fun way, you know? And I knew I have to make it a compilation of stories because if I were to write the whole thing myself, it’ll never get done. I know myself that much.

Creating the product

This was one of those moments where I was so passionate about a project that it was all I could think about. Right after I returned from the trip in July 2018, I announced a writing competition to source for the stories. I shared it in every Malaysia-specific writing circles I know. I ran a Facebook ad and tweaked the copywriting to improve the engagement and click rates.

Ad 1:

passive income project book

Ad 2:

passive income project book

(Btw, 1.116% combined clickthrough rates from the ads above – how many people clicking the link after exposed to the ad – is considered above-average. Apparently the average across all industries is 0.90%)

I received around 40+ stories in total. After a ruthless selection process, I’ve narrowed it down to 10 stories, including one of my own (more about that in a bit).

Figuring out how to publish a book

After the content side is more or less figured out, I reached out to published writers to find out the process of getting this book out. The book publishing industry is an industry I’m totally unfamiliar with, and I’m eternally grateful to Gina Yap and Anna Tan who patiently answered all of my questions. This whole thing became an article in itself – see Guide: How to Publish a Book in Malaysia (& Its Costs).

That was in August 2018. I planned to complete the book in two months, to get it out by September 2018.

As you probably figured out, I didn’t make that timeline. I got stuck for three and a half months.

Why I got stuck

This particular section is so damn hard to write. I took a long time to reflect on it, to recognise that despite all of my efforts to be as disciplined and productive as I can be, I am human after all. In short, I overestimated my capabilities.

Ouch, that hurt a lot to admit. Shit.

Here’s (almost) all the reasons why I got stuck:

  • Writing my short story. I am used to writing non-fiction, so I challenged myself to write a fictional story… and got the worst writer’s block ever. I wrote a draft, deleted it, wrote again, deleted it again. I considered many different personal finance-related storylines, from a medieval prince who got stuck in slave labour to (I’ll be there for you) FRIENDS-style comedy piece to an unapologetic high-earning sex worker. The story is finally done (it’s not one of those storylines FYI), and I’m semi-happy with it, but gosh this took a while.
  • Deciding on the publisher. I contacted both MPH and GerakBudaya and pitched the story. MPH expressed interest, but ultimately I’ve decided to go with the self-publishing route for all the skills I get to learn along the way. This took me a while to decide too – was deciding between profit (I’ll only get 10% if I go with traditional publishing) and visibility that MPH can give me (IF they accept the book). In the end, the possibility of getting a higher % of the profit won. But of course that means accepting the risk of a huge loss as well.
  • Deciding on print vs digital. Originally, I just wanted to do an ebook for this passive income project. Figured digital copies are easy to manage and distribute, you know? But the more I think about it, the more I decided that yes, I want physical books too. How many of us read ebooks anyway? I sure don’t – I much prefer to read physical books. This decision will tack on more upfront investment on my end.
  • Outsourcing parts of the project. I wanted to keep costs low and do all the editing/formatting myself, but soon learned that I am not suited for this task. I would doubt my editing abilities and barely get through a few pages a day, then obsessively go through the same page again and again. This anxiety turned me into a procrastinator – I just didn’t want to deal with it. Finally I decided that enough is enough, I need help, please Anna can you edit all the stories, because I can’t. So yeah, another upfront investment on my end.

I couldn’t have done all of the above if I didn’t decide to invest in a professional book coaching session in October 2018 to ‘unstuck’ myself (also with Anna btw). Despite my best efforts to work on the book every day, I’d find excuses NOT to work on it.

It got so bad that I would open the draft, stare at it for five minutes and decide to vacuum the house instead. I’ve tried everything I could, including making a timeline with datelines, getting an accountability buddy (thanks Norman!) and work at different locations to get fresh ideas. All of them didn’t work.

I want to say sorry to the writers who’ve submitted their stories and agreed to receive their payment in book profits (the others chose to be paid a flat upfront fee). Sorry that I delayed the project. Sorry that I don’t give enough updates. I feared facing you and letting you down, and instead of owning up, I procrastinated.

The current progress

As of writing time, all the stories are done and waiting to be edited and formatted. What I need to do on my end:

  • Get a book cover designed
  • Get quotations for book printing and get it printed
  • Figure out online and offline distribution models
  • Figure out how to automate distribution and sales (there’s a reason why I call this a passive income project not a side income project)
  • Organise a launch and possibly pre-orders
  • Find book reviewers
  • ??? What else???

My current timeline is to have the book ready for distribution by January 2019. Subscribe to the Ringgit Oh Ringgit newsletter to get discounts on the book when it comes out!

Just to tease you, here are all the stories included in the book:

  • (My story) A small business owner living in dystopian Malaysia which implements universal basic income
  • Story of a single father and his young daughter (I legit shed tears)
  • The concept of memories as currency
  • A son’s account on how a Ponzi scheme affected his family after it busted, losing all their and their relatives’ money
  • Merfolks doing budgeting and grocery shopping and stuff
  • A refreshingly honest account of a smoker who knows he should quit smoking but why is the expenses not enough of a deterrent?
  • Trying to recover an expensive in-app purchase that you did NOT make
  • Reality TV-style challenge where participants have to complete gross challenges to win prize money
  • How a PhD holder managed her finances while studying
  • How much a mother’s work would sum up to, in RM

Intrigued? 😀 If yes, subscribeeeee

Also, do me a favour and let me know how much you are willing to pay for the book?

Last thoughts on publishing a book as a passive income project

Boy they weren’t kidding when they say a lot of upfront effort is required to reap long-term passive income stream. 

It’s hard work, but I hope at the end of the day all these effort will be worth it. If not, around RM10k of upfront payment to complete this project will go down the drain. You didn’t think it’d cost that much to self-publish a book did you? Yep.

While doing this project, I finally empathise with other people who commit money and time for their own passive income projects. For example, many people purchase properties to rent it out. I can only imagine how costly and problematic the renovation project can be!

But you know what? Despite everything, I can genuinely say that I’m having fun – after overcoming the whole being stuck thing, that is. Now all I have to do is to get everything else done, but the hardest part is behind me.

Any of you have passive income projects going on? What can you tell me about your journey? Any of you planning one in the future? Share with me what you plan to do to earn a side income!

Link Roundup #14: 10 Things to Know This Week

Accelerate your personal finance knowledge with this regular feature on Ringgit Oh Ringgit – the Link Roundup! I promise you’ll find these 10 links informational 🙂

1. #Budget2019: 25 Highlights From Pakatan Harapan’s First Budget In Power –

A good summary of what you need to know about Pakatan Harapan’s #Budget2019 / #Belanjawan2019 announcement.

I like most things from Budget 2019, except:

  • P2P lending as a way to finance housing. From what I’ve observed so far, P2P lending’s interest rates are pretty high, from 12-18%. Why would anyone want to finance their home ownership via P2P lending, when normal housing loans are just around 4%? Also, apparently investors make their money on the appreciation value of the property. That makes the borrower a ‘custodian’ of the property, instead of for their long-term housing solution? It just doesn’t make sense, but to be fair we haven’t seen the full guidelines of the implementation method yet. So let’s see, but until then I’m highly sceptical.
  • Higher budget allocation for JAKIM. They got an additional RM100 million, from RM1.1 billion to RM1.2 billion. Sigh, expect more moral policing next year too I guess. Note: I’m not attacking Islam, I’m attacking Jakim. You can’t deny their actions give the religion a bad reputation, not only nationally but internationally as well.

A lot of people didn’t like the digital services tax. As a Spotify premium subscriber, this affects me too. But you know what? I’ll take the hit. First of all, I’m already paying lower because I’m in a family plan (related: 3 Ways to Get Cheaper Spotify Premium in Malaysia). Secondly, I’m just happy they didn’t increase the personal income tax, after it was lowered last year! This is pretty much the only ‘sacrifice’ I have to make, so OK la, no complaints!

MalaysiaKini has a handy tool to check how #Budget2019 will affect you personally. I can recommend it. Take it here, or click the picture below. Good job creators Lee Long Hui and Sean Ho!

link roundup

What are YOUR thoughts on Budget 2019?

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Budget Update: October 2018

budget update october 2018

Budget Update: October 2018

I spent RM21,407 in October 2018. It sounds like a lot (it is), but almost three-quarters of that was a gift to my parents. I’m sponsoring their umrah trip.

When I was growing up, I heard how my parents – then newlyweds and financially struggling – saved a portion of their salaries every month. They told me the bottom of their car had a hole in it, and they didn’t even buy a bed until much later and simply slept on a thin mattress on the floor. They saved aggressively so my dad could afford to send his mom, my late grandmother, to hajj.

My parents have already completed the hajj, but they constantly talk about going back to Mecca so sponsoring their trip has always been in my bucket list. In October 2018, I transferred over RM15,580 so both of them could go for their umrah next year, in January 2019, under Tabung Haji. My mom was so touched, she cried. I feel happy knowing that my money can give them this kind of happiness.

What do you save up for your parents? Is there something you know for sure they’ll appreciate?

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[SPONSORED CONTEST] Tell Me Your Best Money-Saving Tip and Win An Apple Watch!

EDIT: Contest update

  • The winning entry. Congrats, you won the Apple Watch Series 3!
  • For those who (1) didn’t win or (2) missed this dateline, don’t fret – re-submit your entries for a chance to win RM5000 pulak!
  • How: (1) Play the quiz, (2) post your money personality and money-saving tip on your Facebook profile page, and (3) tag the Treat Your Money Right Facebook page. Make sure to use the hashtags #treatyourmoneyright #VISA #AKPK and set it to public. Submit your entries BEFORE OR BY 19 November 2018!


In conjunction with World Savings Day, VISA and AKPK are doing a financial literacy initiative called Treat Your Money Right.

treat your money right

This campaign is so perfect for RoR audience that they reached out to me and basically said, ‘Suraya can your readers share their best money-saving tips? We can give an Apple Watch Series 3 (38mm black) to the best answer’.

I said YES OF COURSE (this contest should be easy for you!) then looked up the prize. Wah it retails for RM1229 at the Apple Store wei.

treat your money right

How and enter and win the contest

Follow these steps-

Step 1: Find out your money management personality quiz at

treat your money right 3

Answer as honestly as you can – it’s better for you to know your actual personality than get the ‘right’ personality. At the end of the quiz, you’ll get one out of these four money personalities.

treat your money right

Here’s a video explaining the four spending personalities:

Step 2: In a social media post, share (1) this article, (2) your money management personality, and (3) the best savings tip you’ve ever used. Use the hashtags #treatyourmoneyright #VISA #AKPK

For example: “I am a [money management personality] and the best money-saving tip for people like me is [your tip]” #treatyourmoneyright #VISA #AKPK

(the above is an example – feel free to tweak the wording!)

If there are lots of entries, then the best-quality answer will win. Not the number of shares, nor the amount of likes. Just quality.

Here are some suggestions that will increase your chances of winning:

  • Brutally-honest answers
  • Funny anecdotes
  • How you implemented the money-saving tip in your life (was it hard to adjust?)
  • A technical or psychological hack you used
  • A creative delivery of the answer
  • And more!

Can right? Apple Watch Series 3 is worth spending 5 mins to think of a nice answer right 😉

Step 3: Put the link to your social media post in the comments section of this article. That will make it easy for me to track entries coming from RoR audience 🙂

Please remember to set your post to public if not I cannot see your entry!

Contest Guidelines

  • Must be Malaysian and over 18 years old
  • Only entries received between 31 October 2018 until 14 November 2018 (12pm) will be accepted
  • Please check to see you followed all the steps correctly. So sayang if your answer is bombz but have to rule you out due to a technicality!
  • You can make more than one entry
  • All results are final
  • The winner will be contacted after the contest ends. If the person does not get back to me within 3 (three) days, another winner will be selected.
  • The winner and their winning entry will be announced on Ringgit Oh Ringgit Facebook page

I can’t wait to see your best money-saving tips. Make me proud 😀

4 Things You Should Know About The Financial Ecosystem We Live In

First off, I want to say that most players in the financial ecosystem are important*. Not even going to deny it. Like banks for example – they provide tons of job opportunities, safekeeping of funds, access to financial services and overall contribution to the country’s financial health.

*most are important except the Ponzi people and other scammers. I pray they will miss all the connection flights in their lifetime

But let’s go beyond the friendly, approachable image the financial industry like to portray to the world.  Here are 4 things you should know about the financial ecosystem we live in.

#1 – Banks use the money you deposit to make more money

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14 Malaysia-Based Personal Finance Instagrammers You Should Follow

Nowadays, I notice there are more personal finance websites and blogs around. My grand scheme to get more Malaysian talk openly about money is working muahahahah!

(okay I cannot take all the credit but some la okay some)

(I’m not perasan they told me one)

You know where else money discussions are spilling over, aside from websites and blogs? Instagram. Yes, Instagram, the platform you log on to get jealous over other people’s perfect-looking lives (I’m not wrong).

So you can imagine how pleasantly surprised I was by the emergence this new trend, of Malaysians sharing about personal finance in their Instagram accounts (instead of the usual food, fashion, beauty, travel, etc). I love following them, and find them therapeutic – as I scroll down my feed, my bouts of envy is naturalised by money quotes and reminders to not spend money!

Here are 14 personal finance Instagram accounts that Malaysians should follow. This list is in no particular order.

#1 – debtfreemy

personal finance instagram malaysia

What to expect in the feed:

#2 – debtfreemalaysia

personal finance instagram malaysia

What to expect in the feed:


View this post on Instagram


My October’s Target. Where I want myself to achieve at the end of this month. #DebtFree #DebtFreeCommunity #DebtFreeMalaysia #BebasHutang

A post shared by DebtFree (@debtfreemalaysia) on

#3 –

personal finance instagram malaysia

What to expect in the feed:

#4 –

personal finance instagram malaysia

What to expect in the feed:


View this post on Instagram


October’s Groceries (wet food only)

A post shared by Debt Free NNR ( on

#5 – savvysaz

personal finance instagram malaysia

What to expect in the feed:

#6 – dearduit

personal finance instagram malaysia

What to expect in the feed:

#7 – mimirello

personal finance instagram malaysia

(yep, the same blogger behind website!)

What to expect in the feed:

#8 – dividendmagic

personal finance instagram malaysia

(yep, the same blogger behind DividendMagic website!)

What to expect in the feed:

#9 – blackbeltmillionaire

personal finance instagram malaysia

(yep, the same blogger behind Blackbelt Millionaire website!)

What to expect in the feed:

#10 – financial_friday

personal finance instagram malaysia

*not technically Malaysian, but used to study/work in Malaysia, so close enough (she’s from the Mauritius)

What to expect in the feed:


View this post on Instagram


I was an international student in Malaysia and I was constantly on the move: from campus accommodation to cheaper and cheaper rented rooms. . . I wanted to get the most out of my small allowance and soon, I was not only moving to smaller rooms, but I was letting go of a lot of stuff. And yet, the more I stayed in this new country, the happier I was. . . Now that I’m back home, in Mauritius, I realised I didn’t need a lot of things. And I realised that a fancy high-maintenance lifestyle will not make me happy. . . That’s why I wanna share this list, which follows my journey in #intentionalspending and #intentionalliving . . And you? What are the material things you realised you could live without, even despite what others would say? Comment below! . . If you want to read more about the ‘why’ and ‘how’ and back stories of all the items I chose, read it on my blog via the link in my personal account —-> @dkwaye . . . #FinancialFriday #personalfinance #minimalism #minimalist #lessismore #bemorewithless #minimalistlife #spendinghabits #spendless #debtfreeliving #howtosavemoney #savemoney #savingmoney #financialfreedom #moneytips #simpleliving #financialplanning #financialindependence #financialadvice #moneysavingtips #moneyadvice #simplelife

A post shared by It’s #FinancialFriday! (@financial_friday) on


View this post on Instagram


Happy Monday guys! Yesterday, I was going through my old #budget notebooks. I used to get those cute #pocketnotebooks which come with blank no-line pages and would list down: . • all my expenses of day every evening before going to bed, • the exact amount I had in my bank accounts at the end of each month and how much I had in cash at the time of writing, • my #savingsgoals – basically how much I planned to put aside for #savings for the month, • my income of course! . It was a tedious handwritten process, but it was so satisfying, seeing my small savings grow and I got to have 100% control my spending 😊 . . Notebooks from @mosseryco . . . #financialfriday #budgeting #budgetingtips #personalfinance #financetips #savemoney #savingmoney #savingsplan #financialplanning #adulting101 #cutestationery #financialgoals #finances #debtfreeliving #financialliteracy #financialadvice #moneysavingtips #disciplineequalsfreedom #budgetplanner #budgetlife #budgetfriendly

A post shared by It’s #FinancialFriday! (@financial_friday) on

#12 – debtfreesabah

personal finance instagram malaysia

What to expect in the feed:

#13 – surayaror

Mine 😀

personal finance instagram malaysia

What to expect in the feed:

Special mentions!

Aside from the above, I also want to feature some people in the zero waste movement who are leading by example. They prioritise DIY culture, consuming less and buying local & natural. We can learn a lot from them, and save a bunch of money in the process, too!

#13 – zerowastemy

personal finance instagram malaysia

What to expect in the feed:


View this post on Instagram


Current read: Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st-Century Economist, Kate Raworth. This should be essential reading for every economist, student, human. . . An excerpt: “Economic theory has long portrayed a “clean” environment as a luxury good affordable only for the well-off. … growth will (eventually) clean [the pollution] up. But there is no such law: ecological degradation is simply the result of degenerative industrial design. This century needs economic thinking that unleashes regenerative design in order to create a circular – not linear – economy, and to restore humans as full participants in Earth’s cyclical process of life.” . . We can no longer ignore the fact that economic “growth” led by our consumption and need (greed) for endless stuff (fashion trends, latest gadgets, dollar store knick knacks) has had a very negative impact on our planet. Scientists now warn of potential irreversible environmental damage affecting us, all of us, by 2030. Impacts include more severe droughts, heavier rains, coastal flooding, wildfires and heat waves. Will you take action to reject this insane model of a linear economy in favour of a more circular one? We can all do something small to ensure we still have a liveable planet in 2030, 2040, 2050. Take public transport instead of driving; shop local produce; refuse that straw, plastic bag, coffee cup and free gift; forget that sale – shop your best friend’s closet; eat less meat; start a compost. What will you do to reduce CO2?

A post shared by Elena (@zerowastemy) on

#14 – iquitwaste

What to expect in the feed:


View this post on Instagram


I made a new simple face scrub: locally grown brown sugar, local raw honey from stingless bees, juice of keffir lime and ground ginger (both I got from the market). Use it once a day before going to bed. I don’t know if it removes make up cuz I don’t use make up 😊 My small way of reducing my impact: we all have limited emissions credits, by making my own product from a few natural locally sourced ingredients I have a sustainable alternative to a plastic-packaged, centrally manufactured with many dubious chemicals shipped in from different places, heavily packaged and shipped out finished product; which gives off waste in the form of toxic suds wastewater and plastic microbeads down the drain, and a plastic tube or bottle that probably will never get recycled and end up in the ocean. And let’s look at emissions: a commercial manufacturing facility consumes huge amounts of energy (industry is in the top 5 of largest emissions sources), and then logistics of shipping out finished products (transport is also in the top 5). Take back our individual emissions credits. By making and consuming things as close as possible to their natural state and locally sourced, we are giving the finger to big industries and putting ourselves and our planet over their profits 💚

A post shared by Smita Jairam (@iquitwaste) on


View this post on Instagram


It still bothers me when I see many urban Malaysians insisting on buying and consuming imported food, fruit and vegetables; especially in affluent cities. We are so uber-blessed to live in a land of abundance, fresh fruit and vegetables growing all year round: greens, gourds, tubers, roots, herbs, flowers, fruits, everything that is needed to nourish us. Imported fresh fruits and vegetables have to be air freighted and wrapped in layers of plastics to maintain their freshness when they reach their destination. All that plastic waste and emissions are contributing to Mama earth’s deterioration. The transport sector is one of the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases and what are they transporting: people, goods and food! It’s especially ridiculous because here in Malaysia we maintain our culture of regular farmer’s markets that happen in every city and every town. Kuala Lumpur has accessible morning and night markets in different suburbs. In East Malaysia, they are called tamu and are held regularly. On our road trip this past weekend, we stopped in many small towns and headed straight to the tamu to buy local goods, including food. We don’t need fancy “exotic” trendy superfood fruit and veg grown 15000km away. It’s not healthy for our bodies if it’s killing our planet. Photo by @dean1sm

A post shared by Smita Jairam (@iquitwaste) on

Do you know of any other personal finance accounts in Malaysia we should follow?

Strictly curated by people, not brands or companies 😉 And must talk about personal finance in the majority of their posts.

If you know of any other Malaysians maintaining personal finance instagram accounts, share with us in the comments section!

Link Roundup #13: 10 Things to Know This Week

Accelerate your personal finance knowledge with this regular feature on Ringgit Oh Ringgit – the Link Roundup! I promise you’ll find these 10 links informational 🙂

1. Report: Rising household expenditure driven by food inflation – MalaysiaKini and Research: Malaysian households earning RM2,000 may have only RM76 left after expenses – The Malay Mail

Different headlines by different news publications reporting from the same source – ‘The State of Households 2018: Different Realities‘ report by Khazanah Research Institute.

There are lots of data inside both articles, but here’s what you need to know: the poor spend a much bigger portion of their income on expenses, leaving them without much safety buffer (if any) for emergencies.

With Budget 2019 coming up, I expect lots of financial support given to this income group (as it should).

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9 Things in My Financial To-Do List (That I Keep Putting Off..)

For the most part, I think I’m doing this financial thing right. I think.

And then I look at my financial to-do list, and go like, uuuggghhh Suraya why you so lazy one to get these done??

You probably have a running financial to-do list too. It may be written down somewhere, or it may be casually stored in your head. I thought it might be fun to share how mine looks like. So every time I open my own website I’ll keep being reminded of it. Hopefully that’ll pressure me to finally take action :p

Here are 9 things in my financial to-do list that I keep putting off..

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