The Family Business

I have always wanted to run a publishing business. Nothing grand. Just a few books each year by good Singapore writers and artists. But publishing's a sure-fail business in Singapore:

1. The only publishing companies which survive do so with management books (which I guess I should read if I want to start a business), assessment books (those sinful instruments of torture) and cook books.

2. There are only, really, 2 bookstores in Singapore. Both won't deal with small publishers, only distributors.

3. There are only about 2-3 real distributors here.

4. Any book published in Singapore which sells above 1000 copies is considered a bestseller.

5. Who reads "local"? (that pernicious adjective synonymous with 2nd-rate) Except works which fall under #1.

So what is on my side? So far, there seems to be only 1 happy factor. My dad runs a printing company. Ah, so you see, I can always just join the family business!

Picture(14)#1One of the tools of the family trade

With that in mind, J and I trooped to the print factory today with our notebook and camera. My mom and my brother (the more enterprising child who has started his own marketing company in the same factory) gave me a tour. We saw big presses, small ones, aluminium printing plates, tins of ink, folding machines, cutter machines (murder movie props!), binding machines, sorting machines, glue machines...

Every other step we took, we had friendly uncles and aunties ooh-and-aah as my brother and mother introduced us. "Wah, first time here ah?" "Oh, why you never come here before meh?" "Huh? So many years then you come here!"

We came away from the visit pretty inspired. But ever skeptical, I repeated reasons #1-5 why a publishing business would fail. Then J chided me and said - "haven't you heard about going guerilla?"


Hmm, I like that. If I was already going to join the mafia, why not employ guerilla strategies?

I only have to figure out now what that means.


noodles said…
First time here, I have to say that it's pretty sad reality but very true. Books published in Singapore almost never make it big. A sizeable number of those (and not in #1 as stated by you) that did are trash. Unfortunately, I don't think Singaporeans' disdain for anything local will be wearing off in the near future. Good luck if you are continuing your plans.

I like the illustrations that the both of you have done. They are so many times better than mine.
Elia Diodati said…
Plant free copies of self-printed books at various branches of the national library? :)

Perhaps the biggest (glaring) omission would be literature published by Singaporeans that for one reason or another become withdrawn from local circulation.
ampulets said…
elvadrieng & elia - You can check out Earshot at the Arts House at Old Parliament. ST wrote about them a week ago. The optimistic folks at the Arts House have converted their cafe into a book/music store - the only criteria is that the book/music has to be produced by a singaporean or in singapore.

hmm, planting books all over is not such a bad idea. like a form of book-graffiti. I may start with Earshot ;>
wheyface said…
the tropics is perfect for guerilla tactics! finally, we're in the right place for the action.

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