Local publisher Epigram Books won big at the second edition of the Singapore Book Awards, which recognises the best in book publishing here.
It chalked up four wins, which was half of the eight awards given out, including Best Fiction Title, which went to Amanda Lee Koe's short story collection Ministry Of Moral Panic, and Book Of The Year, for Sonny Liew's graphic novel The Art Of Charlie Chan Hock Chye. The special edition of the book also won the Best Book Cover Design award.
The awards were given out at a ceremony at the Rendezvous Hotel on Wednesday night.
Epigram Books' The Rock And The Bird by author Chew Chia Shao Wei was named Best Young Adults' Title, while Lingzi Media's The Search by Chinese writer and illustrator Lee Kow Fong won Best Children's Title.
The other awards were Best Education Title, which Star Publishing won for Singapore: The Making Of A Nation-State 1300-1975, Best Non-Fiction Title, awarded to Through The Lens Of Lee Kip Lin - Photographs Of Singapore 1965- 1995, published by the National Library Board and EDM Books, by Lai Chee Kien, and Best Digital Work, given to The Colour Pencil by author Liow Yuting, published by Candid Creation.
Publisher Edmund Wee of Epigram Books says he has no secret to success when it comes to publishing.
"It's hard work, listening and talking to the authors and a commitment to high standards of design, editing and curation," he says.
He intends to work on improving his imprint's marketing efforts.
"If we go out on the street and ask people if they've heard of some of our authors, they won't know. So I'd say this is a small step forward for us, but we've got a long way to go before Singapore books can compete with foreign titles."
Epigram Books, set up in 2011, has published about 40 titles annually in the past few years, including bestsellers such as the Amos Lee series by children's author Adeline Foo and the Sherlock Sam boy detective series by husband-wife duo AJ Low, who are Felicia Low-Jimenez and Adan Jimenez.
Wee also brought out Liew's book The Art Of Charlie Chan Hock Chye, which retells Singapore's history through the eyes of its protagonist, interwoven with the character's life and career as a comic artist. It is widely regarded as Singapore's best literary work last year.
The graphic novel has had a banner year - it made bestseller lists upon release in the United States in March and has also been shortlisted for this year's Singapore Literature Prize's English Fiction category.
Speaking to The Straits Times, Liew thanked cover designer Yong Wen Yeu, editor Joyce Sim and the Epigram Books staff, who had helped in the editing, design and production of the special cover edition of his book.
He said: "The awards are best for showing my parents that this comics thing is going somewhere and they do provide encouragement along this tricky road."
The awards, which do not come with prizes, are organised by the Singapore Book Publishers Association, and were first held in 2012.
They were not given out in 2013 and 2014, as the association, which has 67 members, was focused on building up the presence of the Singapore publishing industry at overseas book fairs then.
Shortlisted books must be published in one of the four official Singapore languages and be published between Jan 1, 2013, and Nov 1 last year. They must have a Singapore International Standard Book Number, with hard copies deposited with the National Library Board. Books sold in print must be available in retail stores here or overseas.
The winners were chosen by a panel of judges and it comprises writers, educators, bookstore directors and other industry insiders.
The association's president Peter Schoppert, who is also director of NUS Press, told The Straits Times that it plans to hold the awards every year. This year's awards received 147 submissions, more than twice of the 60-plus submissions in 2012.
"The number of submissions shows that there's more competition, better quality and that Singapore publishers are ahead of the game. We hope to add awards for marketing and production. We're looking at all aspects of the supply chain in the business," he says.
Book Of The Year and Best Book Cover Design: Special cover edition of Sonny Liew's graphic novel The Art Of Charlie Chan Hock Chye by Epigram Books
Best Fiction Title: Amanda Lee Koe’s short story collection Ministry Of Moral Panic by Epigram Books
Best Young Adults’ Title: Chew Chia Shao Wei’s The Rock And The Bird by Epigram Books
Best Children’s Title: Lee Kow Fong’s The Search by Lingzi Media
Best Education Title: Singapore: The Making Of A Nation-State 1300-1975 (Secondary One & Secondary Two) by Star Publishing
Best Non-Fiction Title: Lai Chee Kien’s Through The Lens Of Lee Kip Lin – Photographs Of Singapore 1965-1995, published by the National Library Board and EDM Books
Best Digital Work: Liow Yuting’s The Colour Pencil by Candid Creation