Epigram Books was launched as a trade imprint in 2011, after finding there was a gap in the industry for publishing long-form fiction: novels. In a decade, Epigram has become Singapore’s leading publisher and publishing more than 350 books from fiction to nonfiction. Included in their wide variety of books are - Children’s, graphic novels, plays, memoirs and short stories. Their books have gained awards as well as international recognition.
As an avid lover of literature, the founder Edmund Wee, wants to publish Singaporean books by Singaporeans for Singapore. Epigram is to “provide a platform for local creatives and champion homegrown literary talents”.
In Singapore, where 9 out of 10 times, bestselling books are from overseas. Telling local stories becomes more important than ever. These stories reflect and show the roots and complexities of Singapore’s multicultural landscape. Yet, in addition to the lack of spotlight in homegrown literature, artistic talents are overlooked in favour of those of Maths and Science. There is also a general misconception that Singaporean literature is of a lower standard to their foreign counterparts.
However, Epigram Books' contribution to Singaporean Literature is impactful. From starting the Epigram Fiction Book prize to their well-designed, eye-catching covers. It is not surprising that they are turning heads towards themselves. Epigram’s growth and publishing journey in the months and years to come is definitely worth looking out for.
Epigram’s Bookshop and Other Distribution Channels
What’s remarkable about Epigram is that they are a self-sufficient company that takes on various aspects of its own publishing chain, including distribution. Their bookshop, Epigram Bookshop, is marketed on their website as “the only Singapore bookshop”, stocks every genre you could imagine. From children’s books with Asian protagonists to sleek coffee table numbers that hark back to the company’s early days as a design agency, the bookshop’s offerings are curated specifically for a Singaporean audience and their reading habits. With free shipping offered for Singaporean orders over 50 dollars, they are right to claim that “it doesn't get more local than this”. If you’re ever in Singapore, make sure to swing by their physical embodiment of the online bookshop. In 2019, Epigram partnered with Huggs Coffee to open the The Huggs-Epigram Coffee Bookshop concept store where local-style drinks and food are served alongside the hottest releases in Singaporean publishing.
But Epigram is also committed to making these voices heard across the globe. Having had their titles win several awards overseas, including the Eisner Award, Epigram Bookshop’s deliveries reach many corners of the globe. With a robust Rights department, they also look after their own permissions, making sure that language and territory restrictions pose no barrier to the sharing of Singaporean stories.
Epigram Books Fiction Prize
Established in 2015, Epigram initiated the Epigram Books Fiction Prize which promotes contemporary Singapore creative writing. Since 2020, the Book Prize has been open to all writers from Southeast Asia. Winners receive S$25,000 and a publishing contract to one winning manuscript.
The winners of the 2021 prize were announced on 16 January during a virtual ceremony where there were joint winners for the time in the history of the prize: Meihan Boey and Sebastian Sim. It is also the first time that a prize winner has won the award for a second time, as Sebastian Sim first won the prize in 2017 for his publication The Riot Act. The winner’s manuscripts, The Formidable Miss Cassidy (Boey) & And The Award Goes to Sally Bong (Sim) will be published by Epigram in the second half of 2021.
Boey’s manuscript is a horror-comedy-romance and follows a governess who arrives to work for a British family. However, the family is haunted by a terrifying pontianak and Miss Cassidy’s mysterious gifts are revealed. Sim’s manuscript on the other hand takes a more comical tone, following the life of Sally Bong. Sally was a star pupil at school, but the rules in the adult world prove to be different to those in school.
In addition to the successes of winning manuscripts of the Epigram Books Fiction Prize, Epigram also has some bestselling novels that cover a plethora of themes. Some of their bestsellers include:
The Naysayer’s Book Club by Simon Vincent
The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye by Sonny Liew
Homeless: The Untold Story of a Mother’s Struggle in Crazy Rich Singapore by Liyana Dhamirah
Nimita’s Place by Akshita Nanda
Lion City by Ng Yi-Sheng
State of Emergency by Jeremy Tiang