Epigram Books Blog

A Day in the Life of Dustin March 31 2015

Our long-running series, A Day in the Life, makes a long-awaited return with Dustin Wong’s entry! Until recently, Dustin was our intern and we miss him dearly. Few know that Dustin’s not only a published poet but an actively performing one too. Why, he even gave an an impromptu poetry recital at Queensway Secondary School’s English and Literature Appreciation Day while selling our books! So savour his words...

I suppose that I should explain my role in Epigram Books before I take you through a typical day in the office.

I am officially recorded as an ‘intern’ in the company archives. What that means in the context of Epigram Books is that I do everything from lugging cartons of books about the stock room to filling in vast and complicated data sheets with rather sensitive information.

It may seem like a fair bit too much to heft upon a mere intern but I’m not complaining. The work is challenging, but not impossible, and my colleagues are a friendly lot; we all get along just fine.

All in all, this internship has been turning out to be a rather enjoyable shindig. But I shan’t break into the details without flexing my withering literary muscles.

I present to you folks, a day in the life of Epigram Book’s sai kang warrior:

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9am:

I trudge into the office, feeling the hairs on my arms rise in response to the sudden blast of frigid air hurtling out from the depths of the office interior. The office floor is gloomy, with cold, actinic light silhouetting those few colleagues of mine who have deigned it fit to come in this early in the morning.

There is a list of tasks two pages long inside my daily planner.

It’s going to be a long, long day.

10am:

The office is unusually chilly this morning. I pull my arms closer to my body, folding them across my chest in an attempt to preserve whatever little bodily heat I can.

Some have taken to blaming this oddly out of place cold on the monsoon season, pegging the drop in temperature to the storm clouds and raindrops rolling and falling across the land. Others whisper of catastrophic changes in the workings of the world, uttering phrases like ‘ozone depletion’ and ‘global warming’ in trepid voices.

I blame it on the two air conditioning units that my desk is sandwiched in between.

11am:

I am slouched over in my seat. My fingers are numb from the wintry drafts that blow me by as well as from jabbing away at an unresponsive keyboard. My temper frays with every spinning ball of doom that pops up on the screen of my Mac; there is a vein throbbing away beneath my right temple.

I glance at the time, so proudly displayed at the top right hand corner of the Mac’s screen, and find myself muttering some curse of ill taste beneath my breath my breath.

The words nearly drift past my lips in an effervescent cloud.

11.30am:

I find myself sitting in a secluded corner of the stock room at the back of the office. The air here is still and unmoving, and possessed little trace of the frigidity that so often pervades the main office space, with only the occasional chilly draft blowing by my cheeks every now and then. 

I recline on the dusty concrete floor, and shut my eyes, in an attempt to make the most out of my lunch hour and catch up on my enormous sleep debt.

I hope a spider doesn’t find its way into my mouth.

11.40am:

I wake up coughing and sputtering.

There is a spider ihas found its way into my mouth. 

12.30pm: 

“Dustin,” someone calls my name from the left.

Ilangoh is sitting in his chair, completely unaffected by the cold that plagues so usually me, given how none of the air conditioners were built to blow his way. One of his arms hangs casually off the back of his chair, while the other nurses a warm cup of coffee. A smirk peeks through his salt and pepper circle beard.

He is the sales manager of Epigram Books, armed with years of experience of working in the publishing industry. Due to reasons hitherto unknown to myself, Ilangoh and I are the only two people in the sales and marketing department.

“I need you to help me out,” he says as he passes me list, transferring paper from warm hands to frigid fingers, “I’ve got a list over here...”

I can almost hear the stock room and its spiders beckoning for me again in the background.

 

1.30pm:

Half an hour later and I am walking out of the stock room, a cramped and narrow space tucked away at the back of the office, built for the express purpose for storing our many titles as well as copious amounts of dust.

A trolley, laden with books and cursed with squeaky axles trundles along in front of me. Dozens of books sway precariously on the bed of the trolley, having been stacked rather haphazardly in the interest of saving time. 

I push the trolley to the other end of the office, this time without feeling the bitter sting of refrigerated air biting into my bones.

Manual labour has its own way of warming up the body after all. 

2.30pm:

I sink into my chair in front of my ailing iMac, beholding a neat little stack of sales reports and invoices to sift through and upload onto the corresponding Excel sheets.

A little quip from the mighty office manager, Boon, floats through the back of my mind at this point in time, a snarky little voice, muttering something along the lines of ‘thanks for being an EXCEL-lent intern’, right before a little rainbow ball of death pops up on the screen of my computer. 

Yet another curse drifts past my lips in an effervescent cloud.

4pm:

I am standing in the carpark right in front of the office block. A soft, warm tropical breeze caresses my face, taking with it the last of the chill that had settled within my bones during my time inside the office.

The door to the boot of Edmund’s car is open, swung wide, and I am loading box after box into it, each full of books pre-destined for some bazaar somewhere no doubt.

A little vein is throbbing away in my temple once again, but this time, it doesn’t beat to the pulse of frustration. Somewhere, depe in my veins, blood is surging forwards once again, called into action after being put into dormancy by the horrible cold put forward by the air-conditioning.

The vein throbs away, and as I shut the door to Edmund’s car and lock it with a note of finality, I find myself humming the chorus to some pop song whose title I can barely remember.

4.59pm:

One more minute to go. The edge of my vision is turning blurry, and a small part of me wonders why everything seems to have taken on a chilly shade of blue. I rub my palms together, the action sending bits of hoarfrost to the floor, where they dissipate into tiny little spools of ice water.

I feel my teeth rattling in their roots, my jaw shaking involuntarily of its own accord. The howl of the air-conditioning system is all I hear now, and it is jeering at me, mocking my human frailty and a lifetime spent growing up in one the warmest climes in the world.

The world slowed to a crawl around me, even as the air-conditioner’s unrelentlng assault barrages my skin, cracking underneath what has to be a layer of ice. A slurry of regrets start to bubble forth from underneath the partially frozen grey matter beneath my skull. The world gradually edges its way into darkness, but I know I cannot die here.

It has been said that it is nigh impossible to die of hypothermia in Singapore. But still, even as I trudge from my seat to the door with shards of ice cracking and re-forming in my joints, I could not help but feel a nagging sense of unease pervade my weak but tenacious heart, that I have damnably close.

A little part of me wonders how all my other colleagues manage to even put up with the temperature in this frigid place.

5.30pm:

I am off work now, far from the office and its evil air-conditioners inhospitable atmosphere, and quite thankfully, the air around here is warmer.

There is a cigarette in my battered fingers, and I take a drag from it, letting its heat fill my lungs before exhaling it through my nose, sighing incontentment as I do so.

“Note to self,” I find myself muttering under my breath.

“Bring a bloody jacket to work tomorrow.’


A Day in the Life of Wei Ling March 18 2013

Here at Epigram Books, we’re blessed to be surrounded by what we love best: books! So what better subject to have Wei-Ling, our editorial assistant, write about? Here’s the latest A Day in the Life, with a literary twist!

As someone who works at a publishing company, I often find myself surrounded by books—whether in the office, at my work desk, or at home. I regularly max out the loan quota on my national library card (and then resort to begging my parents for their cards).

These past few months, I’ve been borrowing as many cookbooks as I can lay my hands on, in order to get some inspiration for the Plusixfive Singaporean Supper Club Cookbook that I’m editing. Currently on my desk is the Momofuku cookbook, Everyday Harumi, Tartine, Tessa Kiros’ Falling Cloudberries, and the beautiful food memoir Shiro: Wit, Wisdom and Recipes from a Sushi Pioneer. Shiro is as beautiful to hold as it is to look at, with wonderful illustrations, old photographs of Shiro’s childhood in Kyoto and of his working life in the sushi restaurants of Tokyo and later, Seattle. I also recently read Kenny Shopsin’s hilarious cookbook, Eat Me, from beginning to end, and could appreciate how well-written and entertaining it was. Kenny runs the New York City West Village institution Shopsin’s, which boasts a menu of over 600 items, each of which is offered all day, every day. In addition to describing his philosophy of cooking and food, the book is also about Kenny’s staunch belief in the importance of developing a relationship with one’s customers, leftover from his days running a small grocery store in the West Village. Closer to home, I’ve been using Cooking for the President (designed by Epigram) as a resource, sometimes even resorting to referring to the glossary of our children’s book series, Sherlock Sam, which contains helpful descriptions of various Peranakan dishes.

At Epigram Books, we’re also blessed with a huge in-house collection of books, many of which our boss, Edmund Wee, buys almost immediately upon release. During my lunch break recently, I read two beautifully illustrated children’s books: Henri’s Walk to Paris (designed and illustrated by legendary designer Saul Bass) and the delightful Waterloo & Trafalgar, by Olivier Tallec. And when I’m not reading for work, or reading my own books for pleasure, I’ve got my eye on Edmund’s copies of Verlyn Klinkenborg’s Several Short Sentences about Writing, Christopher Hitchen’s Mortality and Big Questions from Little People: and Simple Answers from Great Minds, as well as Chris Ware’s graphic-novel-in-a-box Building Stories, which is lurking somewhere in the office.

Oh, and if I’m still lacking for reading material, there’s always Epigram’s wall-to-wall shelf of design books, archived design magazines, old cookbooks (conveniently filed close to the microwave and coffee maker) and lots of books offering… dating advice? Hm… well, staff here know that’s a favourite topic of Edmund’s (just catch him at lunch time), but more about that another time!


A Day in the Life of Michelle October 19 2012

It’s time for another instalment of A Day in the Life! Read on to find out from Michelle about marketing efforts and events at Epigram Books.
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It’s been six months since I joined the publishing industry as an Editorial and Marketing Assistant for Epigram Books. To date, I’ve worked on or organised seven book events, emceed at four of these events and performed spoken word with a jazz band at our very own ‘Evening of Poetry and Music’ to celebrate the Singapore Pioneer Poets Series featuring the best of Edwin Thumboo, Robert Yeo and Kirpal Singh.

At last count, together with my manager Felicia I’ve launched, promoted and written to the press about our first graphic novels, three children’s titles, two food titles, one photography title, one travel book and one literary non-fiction collection. That’s a total of 29 books I’ve worked to promote in the last six months. Phew. On average that would make about four books a month but in reality, our publishing schedule does not work according to an average each month. Oh, and I’ve also co-produced three book videos to date with Meteor Workshop for our books. That was just too much fun to be called work.

Rock musician and friend Mik meets Singapore literary giant Edwin Thumboo
Rock musician and friend Mik meets Singapore literary giant Edwin Thumboo

Coming from a background of teaching drama, arts administration and a short stint in journalism and copywriting, a mid-career switch to publishing was a surprise just out-of-the-blue for me. I had just reconnected with my childhood love for comics and graphic novels having discovered Koh Hong Teng and Dave Chua’s Gone Case as well as Sonny Liew’s works. When a school friend with an illustrious career in the books industry called me about a part-time position in the publishing house she had moved to, something in me jumped. Before I knew it, I was tearing joyfully telling my soon-to-be employer why comics trump films any day. Before I knew it, I had my foot in the door of the enigmatic business of publishing. Before I knew it, I was hosting events I organised for books such as the never-before-published Mimi Fan, Singapore’s first English language play by a local, penned in 1962. I had come full circle from treading the hallowed boards as an actor since school days, to teaching students drama, to marketing plays and encouraging people to read Singapore literature and to buy books written by Singaporeans.

Actress Karen Tan, who once played Mimi Fan, at our event

Watching Karen Tan, who played Mimi Fan in a 1990 TheatreWorks production, tearfully express love to the late playwright Lim Chor Pee in the company of his family and friends meant something to me. I felt the same kind of gratitude as she did to him, as someone who also fell in love with the theatre and who never got over it. So did interviewing my local comic artist idols Koh Hong Teng and Sonny Liew who had been supporting me even before I joined Epigram Books at my jazz gigs at The Old Brown Shoe. Still, the most nerve-wracking experience I’ve had to go through apart from speaking in front of the likes of Singapore’s Ambassador-at-large Chan Heng Chee, was performing selected poetry by the likes of Edwin Thumboo, Kirpal Singh and Robert Yeo. It was a great honour to be trusted to present their works musically with my chosen genre of jazz and I will always be deeply humbled by the experience. If you’d like to see it, here is a preview on Epigram Books’ very own YouTube channel.

My best friend recently said to me, “I always see you posting about your work and photos of your events, glam glam all lah…” I related to him the analogy of the pretty-looking Mandarin ducks swimming on the lakes – elegant and calm above water, frenetic paddling below water. If you can see me as a Mandarin duck, that just about sums up this six-month-long Day in the Life of Michelle. This explains too why my blog post reads more like a retrospective than a Day in the Life account. It was six months in the making (or rather writing) as I just could not have written it until today.

For a taste of what the journey has been like for me this past year at Epigram Books, this is what it looks like above the water at least, in the public eye. Watch out for more Epigram Books titles and book events in 2012 and 2013!


With Denise Fletcher, author of Mum's Not Cooking: Favourite Singaporean Recipes for the Near Clueless or Plain Lazy, after a successful event!


A Day In The Life of Jason September 28 2012

In this week’s installment of A Day in the Life we hear from Jason, another valuable and recent addition to our editorial team.  A published author, editor, teacher and small-press owner, Jason brings to Epigram Books a wealth of literary experience.
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The life of a book editor was always something very mysterious to me growing up and reading fiction, and then still later after becoming an author myself (you can find me online at JasonLundberg.net). What power those people must have, I thought, and what fun. They are the ones who determine what books get published, and they get to include their fundamental love of reading and books into their daily job.

After a month as one of Epigram Books’ newest editors, I can say that much of the mystery has fallen away, but the passion remains. I had editing and publishing experience as an anthologist prior to being hired—Scattered, Covered, Smothered (Two Cranes Press, 2004), A Field Guide to Surreal Botany (Two Cranes Press, 2008) and Fish Eats Lion: New Singaporean Speculative Fiction (Math Paper Press, 2012)—but acquiring and editing books as a house editor is a completely different animal.

Our fiction publishing line has thus far largely consisted of reprinting older works, of bringing them back into the public consciousness after years of being out of print, which is a noble endeavor; but our publisher, Edmund Wee, is also eager to release new and original titles, to show that Epigram Books is committed to championing the best new Singaporean writing in English. And that’s where I come in.

So far, I’ve mostly been working on titles that Epigram Books has already acquired, and shepherding them into shape for publication in 2013. I’m working with authors of both novels and short story collections of the literary variety, although I’m also very interested in speculative fiction as well (since that is my specialty), and hope to start bringing in more SF to our stable as well (submission guidelines are here).

One of the unexpected benefits of this job has been the projects that have come up because of an immediate need to be filled. This has resulted in me writing a children’s picture book about the pandas who have just arrived at the Singapore Zoo, and curating a biennial anthology series of best new Singaporean short stories. Both of these projects are stretching me as a writer and editor, and likely would not have happened if I were not in the right place at the right time.

I’m part-time at Epigram Books, meaning that I only work mornings. My days consist of emailing the authors with whom I’m working to ensure that everything is coming in on time and to our satisfaction, editing the text in Microsoft Word (thank goodness for change tracking), reading and assessing other manuscripts that have been sent in over the transom for quality and marketability, drawing up author contracts based on our standard template, applying for publication grants from the National Arts Council, and meeting with the rest of the editorial staff to discuss our production timelines.
In the afternoons, I’m free to work on freelance projects, and to get my own novel into decent shape (I finished writing it in August, and have just completed my own second editing pass; I hope to have it ready for first readers by end of October). It’s a situation that has worked very well for me so far, enabling some steady income but still giving me time to pursue my own creative passions. I’ll be appearing in my authorial capacity at the Singapore Writers Festival in November.

I have to give many thanks to Edmund Wee for recognising my potential as a book editor and bringing me aboard Epigram Books. It’s a relationship that I hope will continue for many years to come!


A Day in the Life of Sheri August 03 2012

In this week’s A Day in the Life, we hear from Sheri, one of our newest editors. Sheri brings to Epigram Books years of children’s book editing experience garnered from her time with the publishing powerhouse in the US, Simon & Schuster.

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Okay, so I’ve been at Epigram Books since April, just long enough to learn a couple of important things:

I need to wear my fleece jacket at all times. The blast of arctic air from the air-conditioner hits my desk (and my face) at just the right angle. An Eskimo would be so happy. I’ve moved my monitor around to shield the blast as much as possible, and it helps...somewhat. Now I just need to get one of those fingerless gloves so I can still type.

Lunchtime is taken very seriously. Everybody goes out to lunch! Having worked in publishing in New York for a while, I’m more used to the culture of bringing your own lunch—leftovers, sandwiches, whatever you find that’s edible in your fridge—as buying lunch would cost at least US$10, and that can get kind of expensive if you eat out everyday. So at lunchtime in NY, there’s always a long line for the microwave. When I first started here, I’d bring my leftovers . . . and there would be no line for the microwave (I was so pleased, I thought I had gotten to it ahead of everyone!). In fact, I found out that NO ONE uses the microwave. No wonder it looks brand-new.

Anyway, this is what my day at Epigram Books looks like:

9am Walk through the glass doors; turn on computer; put on fleece jacket, make myself a cup of hot tea (it helps stave off the cold).

9:05 Go through e-mails; respond to authors asking for a more time to finish their manuscripts, authors with questions on their contracts, potential authors asking what I think of their ideas.

9:45 One of the series of children’s books that I’m handling includes picture books that were published by foreign publishers in France, Korea, Spain, and Italy. We will be translating the text and publishing the books in English for Singapore. So I make sure that the contracts with the publishers are in order, contact the translators and give them deadlines, work with the designer to get the covers for our edition ready for publicity purposes.

10:30 Another series of picture books I’m working on is written by prominent local personalities. They are tasked to retell fairy tales with a Singapore flavour. Some of the authors are new to the picture book genre, and need a bit of guidance to craft and flesh out satisfying stories.

10:45 Edmund (the head honcho) prods my back to ask about the status of one of my projects. Should we cancel it? he asks. I tell him no, the author just needs more time. And then there’s further discussion about salvaging other projects that seem to be falling by the wayside.

11:30 Ah, I can get back to actual work.

12 noon LUNCHTIME!! The office gets a little noisy now as papers are pushed aside and people discuss where to go, what to eat. Yes, I no longer bring anything to microwave. What’s the point, when a hot, tasty meal is available for SGD$3? Oh yeah, I also want to enjoy the company of my colleagues.

1 p.m. Figure out the publishing plan for other authors and picture books on my list. Some involve republishing out-of-print titles, all of them require illustrators. I review illustrator portfolios and put on my “matchmaker” hat. When the right illustrator is paired with the right manuscript, it is a match made in heaven.

2 p.m. Quitting time for me at Epigram Books. Now it’s on to my other job as mum to two active young boys. I turn off the computer, take off my fleece jacket, and open the glass doors, happy to step out into the very warm sunshine.


A Day in the Life of Huda July 25 2012

Thus far, we’ve given you an insight into the workdays of our editors, marketing managers, and interns. However, behind every successful publishing house, there are the quiet heroes, the people who ensure that everything runs smoothly for the rest of the team.  In this installment of our A Day in the Life series, we find out what our new Administrative Executive has to say about her job at Epigram Books!
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I was quite nervous on my first day of work at Epigram Books (barely a month ago). I didn’t want to be late and in the end, I was half an hour early to work. Fortunately, our Studio Manager was around to show me around.

As I came from a bookstore environment, with the ambient music, constant chatter of customers, and ringing of cash registers, the quietness of the Epigram Books office environment took me by surprise. The office is big and white, lined with shelves filled with books and an amazing collection of artwork displayed on the walls. Plus, the pantry is filled with glasses, plates, and cutlery, chopping boards, state-of-the-art coffee maker, and microwave. Also, did I mention that every table comes with an iMac (seriously, how cool is that?).

As it was my first day at work, they decided to take it easy on me. I was given simple administrative duties which gave me the chance to get used to using an iMac. It was a bit of a struggle at first but I can now declare that I am no longer a Mac noob! Yay!

However, it was just the calm before the storm. As the week progressed, I was given more responsibilities, sorting out the accounts and paperwork for our line of NOTBOOKS, organising work flow, and other administrative duties. I’m also in charge of calling our vendors to check on our accounts and payments (this is quite fun, I have to admit). With so many new responsibilities that included meeting with distributors, doing overseas orders, payroll, and doing up sales invoice, my first few weeks passed by swiftly.

It’s been almost a month now since I first joined Epigram Books and here’s some of the things that I’ve done as Administrative Executive:

- Fulfilling a book order from Kinokuniya Dubai (I thought this was my first major responsibility!)
- Replying potential customers on their enquiries about purchasing our titles.
- Learning to post up new titles on our website. My first post was for our new poetry title, The Best of Robert Yeo (part of our Pioneer Poets series) using WordPress, which thankfully is quite idiot proof.
- Scribbling on post-it notes and sticking them onto my iMac so I won’t forget important things.
- Peeling tags of wine glasses with Edmund and our intern, Josephine. (I started reminiscing about the good old times at the bookstore doing returns…). We take our event preparation quite seriously!
- Liaising with our HK distributor (who spoke to me in Cantonese at one point) and rushing to get their last minute orders out on time.
- Segregating box after box and labeling them clearly (By Air or By Sea) for our HK Distributor together with Josephine (a back breaking task, I must say).
- Maintaining our contact database so that Michelle, our Marketing Assistant, can set up a mailing list (let us know if you’d like to join!).
- Getting an Excel spreadsheet ready for Ruth, our Managing Editor, to use as part of her presentation in a meeting.


That, folks, is the life of an Administrative Executive! I can’t say that I miss the retail environment of a bookstore (okay, maybe a little bit), but regardless of where I am, my love for books won’t ever change.


A Day in the Life of Josephine July 06 2012

After a brief hiatus, our A Day in the Life mini-series returns with Josephine, our newest intern! Read on to find out what high jinks our interns get up to everyday.
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My editor and supervisor, Ruth, warned me to always remain objective while evaluating a manuscript.

“Even if you like it, it might not sell. Or if a book bores you, you still have to read through everything,” she told me, in her wise motherly voice.

What this meant was that I would have use all the objective analytical skills at my command to evaluate the manuscript that she emailed me, no matter how much I liked or hated it. So I cuddled up on my seat with a nice steaming cup of Milo, and was quickly absorbed by the manuscript. To my colleagues it must have seemed like I was taking a nice, slow stroll through the park. As they passed by and saw me so comfortably sprawled in my seat, they eyed me with suspicion, and as I like to imagine, envy.

The previous intern had so much work to do,” Stefany, our in-house designer, accused me during lunch, when I seemed to have nodded off by accident at my desk. (I wasn’t really though, I was just resting my eyes. Honest).


“I wasn’t slacking! I was assessing a manuscript!” I cried. And they all nodded pacifyingly.

After I was done with reading, I began typing out my evaluation report about how the book depicted a protagonist’s journey through life, and while the characters were realistically portrayed, with touching moments, the prose style could be somewhat awkward and stilted.

As I valiantly fought to insert both the good and bad points of the story in my report, I also considered the four criteria that were used to judge a manuscript’s potential to be published––Personality, Prose, Plot and Profit. I decided that the manuscript scored points on Personality and Plot but none on the other two, and explained why.

I then sent the report to my editors, who would use my report to help with their evaluation process. They make the final decision of course; I’m just an intern after all. And that, folks, is the manuscript evaluation process for you.

If you are a hopeful author reading this, please do go ahead and submit your works. We’re very nice people and like the good and professional publishers we are; we try our best to help all aspiring authors achieve their dream of getting published!

If you are a hopeful intern reading this, and think that this is an exceedingly easy job, you haven’t heard about the other tasks. But don’t worry on that count either. Nothing a book-lover can’t handle.


A Day in the Life of Sok Wan March 28 2012

Rejoice! It's the latest of instalment of A Day In The Life. Sok Wan talks about her life of Editing and spills the beans on our top-secret upcoming launches.
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One of the perks of my job is that I often get to meet and work with some very interesting people, with fascinating stories and backgrounds. Tomorrow I will be meeting Ernest Goh, the photographer behind The Fish Book, to discuss on future marketing plans for the book, and he will also be showing us samples shots from his new project! His photographs have never failed to amuse and amaze me and I very much look forward to seeing what he’s been up to after wrapping up The Fish Book. (Felicia and I couldn’t help bursting out in laughter when Edmund shared with us the subject for this new project. It’s unheard of and Edmund even came up with a hilarious title for the project. I’d love to share, but I have to keep mum for now to protect Ernest’s interest!) Later this week, I’ll be meeting a famous local comic artist to discuss on publishing his comics, and also a local celebrity chef to have a follow-up meeting on publishing his cookbook. Plus many more meetings with poets, artists, photographers and chefs in the following weeks.

Besides these prospective projects, here’re the statuses of the ongoing projects I’ve been working on for the week…


1.Uncle Lau’s Teochew Recipes by Lau Chiap Khai and Lau Lee Leng.

This book was supposed to go to print like…two weeks ago? But that didn’t happen because we had to make some last minute changes to the illustrations. Last week, Lee Leng requested that we use illustrations done by her late husband (renowned local architect Mr Jack Tan). It’s quite problematic as our publication deadline will need to be pushed back for at least a month and our ongoing promotion and publicity plans halted. However, after seeing the illustrations, I believe the delay will be well worth it. Mr Jack Tan’s food illustrations––stunningly intricate and lovely––are perfect accompaniment to the delicate and refreshing Teochew recipes in the book! But don’t take my word for it, grab a copy of the book when we launch it late April and see for yourself!

2. A series of poetry collection by Professor Edwin Thumboo, Professor Kirpal Singh and Mr Robert Yeo.

This landmark poetry series will showcase the best works by Singapore’s Pioneer Poets. To ensure that the poems included in the collection are indeed the ‘best of’ their works, the poets have been working hard, and I have been working closely with them to re-re-re-revise their selection. Mr Robert Yeo dropped by in the afternoon to pass me his revised poetry selection, which was all hand-written. I spend about an hour typing it out, but, I quote my managing editor, “For you, Robert, anything!”  (see A Day In the Life Of: Ruth) But, seriously, Mr Yeo is a very nice person to work with and I’m really grateful that he has been dutifully keeping to the timeline of the project. And today, I finally manage to confirm a date for the book launch event! Given the busy schedules of the poets, finding a suitable date for the launch is no easy task—it took about 20 emails back and forth and frantic flipping of the calendar to confirm a date that is three months in advance! Yes, the series will be launched in July!

3. Graphic novel series (or comics series, but calling it graphic novels does make it sound more ‘atas’ and serious, because we are a serious publisher!)––Epigram Books’ new imprint!!

I’m real excited and looking forward to this project. Who knows? This could just be Singapore’s first successful graphic novel series that breaks into the international market! We have big plans to sell rights of the series to the US where the comics industry is burgeoning. Details of the graphic novels or identities of the comic artists that we are working with will be announced via our blog and Facebook. So hurry and ‘Like’ our Facebook page right now! And stay tuned!

 


A Day in the Life of Felicia March 12 2012

Welcome back to the hectic harried universe of Epigram Books. In this edition, our Rights and Marketing Manager Felicia gives us an inside view into the glamorous world of book marketing.

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Greetings Earthlings!

I’m Felicia, the Rights & Marketing Manager with Epigram Books. Basically what this means is that it is my job to ensure that all our titles are known by and hopefully read by everyone the world over!

Now. When I decided to join Epigram Books, I thought that I would be taking on something less hectic in my old age. I mean, after more than five years in book retail, what could compare to prepping for the release of the final book in the Harry Potter series or a new Lee Kuan Yew title? Now that’s the Hard Truth. Little did I realise the insanity that awaited me at Epigram Books: firstly, a food crazy Managing Editor constantly dragging us around the island for lunch to try new food places; secondly, a Managing Director who only answers emails after 2am. And yet…I wouldn’t change anything for the world (Well, maybe just the printers. Maybe).

So here you go. A peek at my to-do list slash post-it mad day.

TO DO LIST

  • Ask someone how to turn on the darn Mac! Buy new mouse because the Apple mouse has no roller and fingers are not equipped to deal.
  • Call Canadian publisher to discuss sale of rights for Archibald and the Blue Blood Conspiracy. (Update: When trying to use a Skype account, first remember to set up Skype account.)
  • Read Rights Contract. Bring contract home to read. Bah. (Note: Go back to school to get a law degree.)
  • Chase editors to fix a launch date for new titles in Stage to Print series: Model Citizens, Fear of Writing and Mimi Fan. (Note: Remember to read scripts in order to appear somewhat intelligent when talking to playwrights.)
  • Talk to Min about press kit for Stage to Print series. (To think about: How far is too far when it comes to creating controversy over political plays? Should probably check with someone as would like to keep job.)
  • Tell Aran minion to mail samples of The End of Char Kway Teow and Heritage Cookbook title to Overseas Singapore Unit (OSU). (Update: Make sure that all future minions are taught from the start that they should write the address on the front of the envelope not the back.) — Reminder: Email OSU about new cookbook for lazy people aka students!! Also newlyweds.
  • Check with Boon how to print paperwork needed to process first ever Epigram Book title order from Dubai!!! (Note: Also ask Boon why the printer hates me and refuses to print for me. Create own Epigram Books letterhead because the printer hates me.)
  • Talk to Jocelyn about marketing plan for new local kid’s poetry book coming out. (Reminder: Tell her about the time I almost drowned longkang fishing since there’s a poem about longkang fishing in the collection.) Also ask Sok Wan what’s the progress on the SG Poets series (Note: Think really, really hard about how to plan an event with Professor Edwin Thumboo, Robert Yeo and Kirpal Singh).
  • Email Adeline Foo on her upcoming appearance at the Hong Kong International Young Readers Book Fair in March. IMPORTANT: Make sure Sok Wan is around to speak Cantonese in case HK distributor calls to talk about sending The Diary of Amos Lee titles to Hong Kong. Speaking Mandarin in a funny accent does not Cantonese make.
  • Continue to set up meetings for Edmund at the Bologna Children’s Fair in March. To check: What exactly constitutes spam mail? (OMG, remember to actually BUY Bologna fair tickets for Edmund!!!!!)
  • Prepare for Books-in-Progress meeting next week. (Note to self: actually prepare this time, don’t pretend to have lost notes. THEY KNOW.)
  • Help draft email to comic creators keeping in mind delicate sensibilities of artists (Note: remember to hide notepad so no one can see comments on delicate sensibilities of artists, especially in-house designers).
  • Do a to do list for tomorrow. (Reminder: Buy more post-its too. Sticky ones this time)

 


A Day in the Life of Jocelyn March 06 2012

It’s time again for another dispatch from the world of Epigram Books! This week, we learn what goes on in Jocelyn's day.

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Someone recently asked me how I’ve liked working here as editor since joining the company in December 2011. I think my haiku “Lo Hei”, which I composed after our company lunch during the Chinese New Year and posted on my Facebook wall the same evening, should speak volumes.

Feastful of dishes:
Never more tasty than in
present company.


For one, I now have a namecard that says, simply, “Jocelyn Lau, Editor”, printed on a nice hard card. Editor, not Assistant Editor, not Associate Editor, not (oh gosh) Production Editor. Just Editor. (It matters!)

For another, everything I’d imagined life as an editor would be, since the year 2000 when I graduated from the University of Denver Publishing Institute course, has finally taken form. I’d almost given up (boss, you know this), disillusioned, until this job presented itself.

At present, I’m juggling five book projects: Model Citizens by Haresh Sharma of The Necessary Stage (April––it’s a very, very good play! Read it! Or go watch it!); a book of rhyming verses for children (April––this will have sweet hand-drawn illustrations); a cookbook for clueless Singaporeans (May––I will be buying my own copy), Singapore Classics 2’s series of books (October––interesting job, this one); and a to-be-edited manuscript for Singapore expatriates (August?). [All the editing and proofreading at Epigram Books are done in-house.] There’s also a new photographic book project we’re brainstorming, due Christmas. And a couple of other projects in the pipeline we’re keeping an eye on.


Today, I had my face in a complicated author’s contract, which has been negotiated at length. Taking breaks while doing so, I wrote to a literary agent in New Zealand to explain why we want to edit the Singlish used in a book we’re hoping to republish; texted another writer to request personal particulars for an ISBN application; communicated with two photographers about a potential project; and wondered about a potential author’s silence over a draft contract. In between, our studio manager managed to distract my intense gaze from my Mac screen long enough to receive my project updates for the next day’s publishing meeting. And just before dashing off, late, to pick up my kid from his daytime minders, I sent off by email my suggestions for the title of that book of poems, knowing full well that ideas will come in fast and furious from various colleagues – throughout the night.

It’s been a good day at work.


A Day in the Life of Ruth February 16 2012

What is it really like to work at Epigram Books? How is a manuscript or an idea scribbled on an NTUC receipt turned into a finished book that you hold in your hands?

Now, with our new series A Day In the Life, you can find out! First off is our managing editor Ruth, who recaps a typical day. We hope you enjoy this glimpse into the wild, weary and wonderful reality of literary publishing.

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7.45am 

I fumble for keys as I walk towards the locked doors of the office. First to arrive. Again. Have just dropped my son off at his primary school––school starts way too early, and I’ve nothing to do after bidding him goodbye, so that’s why I’m always the first one in. After staring at my computer for a while, I begin work.

First task of the day: sieve through the 100 emails I have received. Indian company advertising its book cover design services. Hotel in Frankfurt advertising cheap hotel rates. “Book now for the Frankfurt Book Fair in October (or risk disappointment!)”. I also get other emails: a potential author griping the advanced royalties we offered him is way too low (“how to feed family?”), a colleague who sends a funny quote she read on how to write well, and another cold call from a wannabe writer with a tome of a manuscript for me to assess. I make hot tea while contemplating the trajectory of my day. Oooom.

 

8.30am

Ding, dong! We receive a surprise visit from Robert Yeo! How I love that man––such an easy person to work with, always a gentleman, so dapper. We republished his book The Adventures of Holden Heng last year. Robert is stopping in to drop off his introduction to a play we’re hoping to publish in April––Mimi Fan by Lim Chor Pee. I look at the introduction––it is handwritten! How cool is that! I spend the next hour typing it out. For you, Robert, anything!

9.30am

After sending off the introduction to my intrepid designer, Boon, for layout, I buckle down to look at the emails that really matter. Imaginary Friends Studios has just sent in the draft illustrations for the new Archibald book, out in May. Eeks! Why does Archibald look like a Japanese manga character? It’s ok, it’s ok––still early days, and I’m very confident they’ll get it right because Darren Tan of IFS is DA BOMB.

Have a quick discussion with Stefany regarding the draft cover. We also spend time choosing eight portions of the book to illustrate––these will be spot illustrations, more like sketches. Should we illustrate the twist at the end of the book? Hmm. Would it give the story away if someone accidentally flips to that picture at the end? Double hmm. Should we illustrate the evil villain? Hmm. Hmm. Hmm. Or leave it to the readers’ imagination? Got budget? What is best for reader? Decisions, decisions, decisions. And oh yes, Stef and I both agree this Archibald book is even better than the first one. Go SherMay!

11am

Hunger check. Do I want to snag a biscuit from the pantry…or work?

Tough question...

Think I’ll continue working while I figure out the answer.

11.15am

Receive an email from Lim Chor Pee’s family. They are the ones signing contract with us as Lim Chor Pee has passed away. The daughter, Claudine, explains she is from a family of lawyers. I understand the reason for her explanation as I read her email––she is requesting to include, among other things, the following clause in our contract:

The illegality, invalidity or unenforceability of any provision of this Agreement shall not affect the legality, validity or enforceability of any other provision of this Agreement.

Wha wha what?

I call Claudine and she is extremely friendly and approachable. In essence, the terms and terminology and phrasing and phraseability of the aforementioned contractual agreeity are rectified, clarified and demystified in, but not in exclusivity of, and not limited to but in consideration of the following ways: colloquial banter, jokes, plainspeak and much humour and discreet laughing. In short, we sorted it out!

11.45am

Contract settled (I think! I hope!). It’s time to…call some celebrities! Yes, celebrities! Wait, let me check my breath. My nail polish. My hair. JUST kidding. First on the list: Woffles Wu. Yes, we are doing a book project with Woffles and he is lovely to talk to over the phone. Next I call Mr Brown. I hope to convince him to do a book project with us. I call, and call, and call. Then email. He replies to email, “Ah, that was you? Sorry, having flu.” I tell him I will call him later. It’s off to lunch then. Lunch is porridge, colleagues, talk of board games, Munchkin, Ticket to Ride, Hwa Chong students, doing wushu as CCA and studying in America.

1.30pm


Start chatting with Felicia, our marketing manager about marketing ideas for our Gurkha Book and our Teochew Recipes Book. Unlike our fiction titles, these non-fiction titles rarely receive sponsorship or grants. =( How do we ensure they make money for us? How do we ensure people buy our beautifully-designed cookbooks and photo books? We think of a few ideas which Feli will follow up on. Suddenly, I get a call from SherMay––she was supposed to drop by to discuss marketing for Archibald. “Sorry, Ruth, I have flu. On the way to doctor’s. Postpone to next week?” Is there a flu epidemic today? Hee. No matter, I start to type out my discussion points with her over email, since our meeting has been postponed. Don’t want to lose a week because of flu!

2pm

Off to a meeting with Edmund which will take the whole day. But before that, I note down my key tasks for tomorrow: a) Proofread Mimi Fan in layout b) Call Mr Brown c) Send new short story to Dr Howard Goldblatt who is helping us translate some Cultural Medallion Chinese novels, including You Jin’s, for publication in October this year c) Chase Tan Tarn How for the revised manuscript of Fear of Writing (yes we’re hoping to publish that in Apr!) and d) Send email IFS to discuss our comments for the book cover (make Archibald less manga!) and spot illustrations.

I switch off my computer, grab my bag and speed off behind Edmund while he harrumphs and harranghs about our celebrity book project, his latest culinary find ODP and how we should rename a poetry book we’re putting out soon. That’s all, in the day of a life of an Editor, for you!