Epigram Books Blog
In our new instalment of A Day in the Life, we bring you the perspective of Esther, our Design Intern (officially under Epigram). One of the bubbliest interns we’ve ever had the fortune to have under our employ, Esther pitched in with quite a few Epigram Books’ projects as well!
“Hello, this is Esther here, I am coming here for an interview, but I think I got lost. I don’t know where am I now, somewhere near a school called St Nicholas Girl School.”
“Huh… Got difference mehhh?”
And that was my adventurous start at Epigram, the award-winning design firm! I’m a design intern so officially I’m under Epigram. However, because we’re one big happy family, I’m often tasked to assist Epigram Books on design jobs as well!
On my first day, while I was sorting out PANTONE colour chips, I felt a huge sense of disbelief that as an intern, I had a such huge desk in such a nice open office, with whole stretches of white book shelves, and black and white photographs everywhere. I was stunned by how nice the office was and even more stunned by the awards displayed at the front of the office. While I tried to look cool and collected, I kept saying to myself, “Ahh… is this for real? I’m in Epigram! EPIGRAM!!”
This is a list of A+ experiences I had with Epigram:
1. Went for press check for the book Farrer Park.
It was really cool and a fantastic learning experience for me to see the maze like printing press and witness the birth of books! Seriously, those machines are crazy!
2. Doing overtime to read books.
Yes, design books, children books, coffee table books and all other kinds of BOOKS! I always imagine books on those nice white shelves will fly and one day if I accidentally fell asleep in office, words in it will line up and cover me with blanket.
3. Ate raw beef…
… and also other things that tasted really good but in all honesty, I didn’t really know what they were. This was during Edmund’s (the Managing Director of Epigram and Epigram Books) birthday.
4. Admitted to hospital.
Kidding, I became an actress! I posed as a mock patient for an annual report photo-shoot.
5. Did the layout for a book that is going to be published this year.
The title of the book is Sushi and Tapas and it will be out mid-August this year! Speaking about readability and legibility, Macheads spent lots of time getting things like layout and formatting right! (Macheads=designers who buried their heads with Mac). “I shall appreciate books and words more.” Repeat 3 times before you read any book!
Yes, I used to be afraid of doing illustrations because someone once told me I couldn’t draw. But I’ve found new confidence by illustrating for SPARK newsletter. It is one of the things I enjoyed most in my to-do-list. By the way, SPARK is an ADHD association, which Epigram supports.
7. Attended a book launch.
I’ve never attended any book launch before as I’m not quite a book person, but I get to eat nice pastries and drink champagne! (It was the launch of our new play, Mimi Fan by Lim Chor Pee). And it was really fascinating to see how the team at Epigram Books together with BooksActually pulled it all off! It’s really hard work!
Edmund once asked me, “So how? Do you still want to be a designer after being with us for 6 weeks?”
“Maybe, but I want to be a housewife! That’s my long term dream!” I replied with a silly grin. (But of course I wanted to be a designer first!)
I came to Epigram as a design intern thinking “hmm… I’m just an intern, I’m just going to learn about publication and probably a lot short cut keys using Adobe InDesign!”
But in the end, it turned out to not just be an internship, it was much more…
“The political drama that unfolded in real life in Singapore last year was perfect fodder for the political drama of the stage”
–The Straits Times
Both plays, written amidst a climate of increased political awareness, inspired impassioned thought and discussion upon their respective releases.
Model Citizens delves into the lives of the people affected when a man stabs an Member of Parliament at a Meet The People’s Session. Exploring the state of Singaporean social order through a cast of highly relatable characters, Haresh Sharma delivers a work both intellectually stimulating and deeply humane.
Fear of Writing is a groundbreaking commentary on the political climate of Singapore today. Tan Tarn How, Singapore’s quintessential political playwright, marks his return to the scene after a decade of inactivity with a monumental play that confronts the purpose of art and censorship in Singapore, and questions whether Singaporeans have become indifferent to the injustice around them.
The books continue to pose questions as of yet unanswered by Singapore’s shifting political scene and remain representative of the tumultuous period.
Model Citizens won Best Director and Best Actress at the Straits Times Life! Theatre Awards 2011. Fear of Writing was nominated for Best Original Script, Straits Times Life! Theatre Awards 2012.
Model Citizens and Fear of Writing will be launched at The Arts House on Friday, 18th May at 7.30pm. Both Haresh Sharma and Tan Tarn How will be attending to discuss their respective inspirations and motivations behind their works. Additionally, cast members from both plays will be staging a reading during the event.
Be sure to make a date with these prolific playwrights and delve into their creative processes writing these bold, winning plays.
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.
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)
It’s time again for another dispatch from the world of Epigram Books! This week, we learn what goes on in Jocelyn's day.
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
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
Hunger check. Do I want to snag a biscuit from the pantry…or work?
Think I’ll continue working while I figure out the answer.
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!
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.
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!
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!