Publishing (and Design)
Literary Fiction and Non-fiction
Epigram books sales conference 2014
Epigram Books is an independent publishing company in Singapore. It is known for publishing works of Singapore-based writers, poets and playwrights.
Epigram was set up in 1991 by Edmund Wee as a design agency. Epigram started with the publishing and designing of annual reports. The stable of clients under the company includes OCBC Bank, Media Development Authority and CapitaLand. Epigram has won numerous international awards for their designs of annual reports including the Hong Kong Design Awards and the Graphis Gold Award for Annual Reports. They are also the first company in the world to win the Grand Prix award at the Red Dot consecutively. The success of the company in designing annual reports led to commissions for commemorative books for agencies such as National Trades Union Congress and Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Epigram continues to provide services such as art direction, publication design, branding, signage and way-finding, and editorial development. The company Epigram Books, the publishing arm of Epigram set up in 1999, published its first book with mountaineer David Lim’s Mountain to Climb: The Quest for Everest and Beyond. Epigram Books bore the design and printing costs of the book and sold 5000 copies. Epigram Books was incorporated as a separate entity from the parent company in July 2011.
In 2015, Epigram Books launched a fiction prize with an award of $20,000, the richest literary award in Singapore. The first edition was won by O Thiam Chin.
Notable publications and reception
Epigram Books have published a series of cookbooks, under the Heritage Cookbook series. In 2010, they published There’s No Carrot in Carrot Cake, a guide book to Singapore’s street food (or hawker food in colloquial terms). The book sparked off a debate in the media about the need for a culinary school to preserve Singapore’s food heritage.
A short story, “Moving Forward” included in the compilation of Andrew Tan’s Monsters, Miracles & Mayonnaise was nominated for an Eisner Award for Best Short Story in 2013. Monsters, Miracles & Mayonnaise is one the three graphic novels that was published by the company in 2012. Epigram Books is also the first Singapore publishing house to have a comic book nominated for this prize. Another graphic novel, Ten Sticks and One Rice by Oh Yong Hwee and Koh Hong Teng won an International MANGA Award (Bronze) in 2014.
Other than publishing books by debut authors, Epigram Books has also taken to republish books that are out-of-print Singapore classics like, Jean Tay’s Boom and Everything but the Brain, and the late Goh Poh Seng’s book The Immolation. The company has also launched the Cultural Medallion series, where non-English works of Literature award recipients are translated into English. Some of the works include Singai M. Elangkannan’s Flowers at Dawn, Suratman Markasan’s Penghulu and Wong Meng Voon’s Under the Bed, Confusion.
In 2016, Epigram Books was shortlisted for the Bologna Prize for the Best Children’s Publishers of the Year at the 53rd Bologna Children’s Book Fair. The award rewards creative, innovative publishers based on “the editorial projects, professional skills and intellectual qualities of work produced by publishing houses all over the world”. In the same year, Epigram Books won four out of eight prizes at the Singapore Book Awards, including Book Of The Year for Sonny Liew's The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye and Best Fiction Title for Amanda Lee Koe's Ministry of Moral Panic.