Saturday, November 8, 2008

Reorders From Jakarta

So batik Malaysia and batik Indonesia is different. My experience and talking to others give the impression that batik Indonesia is generally more knowned throughout.

This batik book features Batik Malaysia... and that is in a way quite a 'handicap'.

But handicap aside, we strived and managed to bring this batik Malaysia title to Jakarta, Indonesia - which obviously of all places, might give us a hard time.

That was already one thumbs up.

But what makes it sweet is that we are now having reorders from Jakarta again... honestly, this is quite something to celebrate - for them to accept our works on Batik Malaysia!

*This reinforces my belief - do a good book and it can cross borders!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

For The Art Lovers

"Do you have a white pen?" she asks.

From this lady's question, I knew she appreciated art. She was browsing the book and I could see her eyes glowing as she looked at every picture. And now she wanted me to autograph it for her - with a white pen, as she knows it goes well with the black background pages.

This is the kind of response I get from the art lovers. Like her, they understand the works that went behind it and could fully appreciate the book. She could even tell me the photography process that went behind.

And when passed the magnifying glass, she beamed even more - appreciating the batiks then.

Pricing to these art lovers is not an issue. Most of the times, they readily accept the price, some even saying its relatively cheaper than expected.

I visited this lady the following day, and again, she browsed the book - before and after purhase. I could tell she like it a lot. It made my day.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

More Re-Orders

I mentioned before about this purchaser in one of the upmarket KL bookstore who didn't believe in the batik book when it first came out.

However, we managed to get it into the bookstore finally. And the good news - we have since gotten a second set of reorders (after the first reorders).

This is good news for us. I'm glad that this book still sells, and that we are right - that there is a market for this 'niche' title... of Batik Malaysia!

So there goes the continuation of promoting Malaysia!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Prominent Display at Changi's Terminal 3

Glad to share that the Batik Inspirations book is prominently displayed at the newly opened wing of Changi's Terminal 3.

I can still remember the first time we had our first distributor, the bookstores at Changi Airport refused to carry our title. I was quite stunned & rather disappointed then.

However, ever since we've had our new distributor, they've been doing a good job & have managed to put the Batik Inspirations book inside the bookstores of one of Asia's busiest airports.

And now, months later, we see the books being prominently displayed at Changi's newest wing! This is another dream come true :)

harris, terminal 3, changi, singapore

The stack of the Batik Inspirations book displayed at the entrance of the bookstore

harris, terminal 3, changi, singapore
The book being displayed at the pillar of the bookstore

What makes me happy is not only that finally we have this book in the airport's bookstore, but more so that the books are recognised as a regional art book and not just a Malaysian book. To be placed right at the front despite being 2 over years old speaks volume. And more so in this new bookstore here.

Truly a reason to celebrate! :)

This just continues our efforts to promote this book internationally. More on our 2nd phase of promotions soon :)

Sunday, May 25, 2008

A Beautiful Journey: Part 6 - Events & Marketing

Having received the books in my hands the first time, I glanced through the pages - it was really a dream book come true! And I couldn't believe it was in my hands.

At first, I was a lil worried as the pages seem dark (we use black as the background). But as I look at it from a brighter place, the pictures came alive. eM.K was around at that time, and we were rather proud.

Actually, getting the book out was just part of the process - I dare say not even half the process. We had to find ways to market it.

So began my rounds of meeting the bookstores & book distributors both in Singapore & Malaysia. And like I mentioned, some were sceptical as they've never really seen such a different book :) Bad part is many look down on local publishers - and the terms are not very favourable.

Many agreed on consignment, ie the books will be left at their shelves and payment done when there's sales. Boy, each time I clinched a 'deal', I really felt happy - it was the only way for the books to be out & seen by the public!

We also went to a few bookstores in Asia - and that deal was a bit better. Kinda proud we have our books in places like Bangkok, Jakarta, Seoul, Taipei & also Hong Kong. :)

Beyond Bookstores
Apart from just bookstores, we also participated & even organised our own events for more exposure, and hoping for more sales.

badawi at batik, klib

The series of events include meeting Prime Minister YAB Dato' Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi at the Kuala Lumpur International Batik Convention & Exhibition. That was really an awe inspiring moment - to meet the no. 1 man in Malaysia! And at that time, I was really new to the business, so it meant so much more to me.

I will treasure & remember his words - which were full of encouragement & support, together with his very firm handshake. I remember stuttering as I asked him to sign 2 copies of the book for me. Willingly, he obliged :)

Meeting Amber Chia
Before that fruitful & eventful event, we also participated in the KL Asia Fashion Week. And surprisingly, Amber was accompanying Datuk Dr Victor, former Secretary General for Ministry of Tourism Malaysia.

datuk dr victor wee & amber chia

Datuk Dr Victor was encouraging as well and he liked the photographs in the book - another feather on the cap :) And I did have a short exchange with Amber, though the whole situation got me quite nervous! At that time, I think Amber was just coming up to be a well-known star.

Back To Peranakan Roots
Another event which we participated was the week long Peranakan festival - where we had a booth and also did a fashion show. That was actually to launch the book.

We had worked with the Peranakan Association of Singapore. For this, I actually choreographed the whole fashion show. It was scary actually and it being my first time, I think it was ok, though I think could have been improved.

I used the traditional peranakan & even some modern Malay songs (just instruments)... we also had some dramatic songs - very opera like, suggested by eM.K. That was quite a hit. The models paraded in lifestyle method - yes, they were modeling as if they were shopping, going out, etc. It really was something!

More Events
There were so many other events that we participated, again working with the Peranakan Association, there was the press conference cum fashion show in MPH, Midvalley, KL and even some batik talks in Singapore!

These were all done in a period of over a year. And it was really fun & exciting though very very tiring - from carrying the books to organising, and lots of time searching for information. Looking back, we sure came a long way and this is an experience we treasure and truly something we will always remember :)

See our pics: Our gallery of events.

Friday, May 9, 2008

A Beautiful Journey: Part 5 - Printing

I'm adding two additional segments to give an understanding on what went behind in the final stages in the book.

First, the books were sent to the printers - which were uploaded using FTP by the graphic designer.

The printers did an empty mock up to show us the book size, quality of paper and for us to approve it. This book was blank and was in full white.

Once they were ready, they actually called me to stay for 2 full nights (ie 3days, 2 nights) in their factory for press check. This was quite an experience.

They had a room for me with a sofa (no bed) but comfortable enough with working table. There's internet too. They mentioned that I will be in the factory for this whole 3 days - having to inspect on quality control for the book.

That means every 2-3 hours, I was walking back & forth to the printing room to check 8 pages each time (they printed in 8). This seem relatively simple, but for a lack of sleep and to do it even in the wee hours when the eyes are groggy, that was a bit of challenge. Also, the pages are not in order meaning I could be seeing 8 different pages from anywhere in the book.

Our pictures in the book are mainly full spreads ie 1 picture in 2 pages and this is where it becomes difficult.

One example is when I have to supervise one side of it (ie one page), while the other page has already been printed. That's not all - in fact, it could be 2 pages here (from 2 different full spreads) while the other 2 are in another 2 different stacks.

To make it even, and the pages to blend together, I may need the worker to increase or reduce a certain colour. But by doing so, though one spread will be fine, however, the spread will not blend well.

In fact, I took a while to resolve one of this. And luckily there weren't that many like that.

This whole experience of book printing is quite interesting for me. I never knew how printing a book would be and it was nice to see it 'come to live'! I can gladly say that I watched the printing process live!

After that, I went back, and in about 2 weeks later, the books arrived to my doorstep ready for delivery to the bookstores!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

A Beautiful Journey: Part 4 - Compilation

Once all the photographs and interviews were done, the next step was more of a consolidation.

I played & replayed the videos with the designers to capture the essence of their views - on Batik Malaysia and also on their dreams as designers.

eM.K. was working on the photos. That was good, or otherwise my hands would be tied. He selected most pictures he felt suitable. That means he had to go through a lot, selecting only the very best. I gave him the liberty to do so - as I believe he has the skills with his vast experience.

We then had outsource a graphic designer to assist in the layout of the book. We had the first meeting with her to sort our ideas and style. I mention we want something neat and catchy, and classy.

In other words, it was to be plain, but with style.

We tried a few background colours for the pages - from brown, grey and finally ended with black. The photos stood out best with black - where the eyes see the photos rather than the panel. We soon found out that this was what most art book does anyway.

The designer's work was relatively easy as there were no touch ups on the photos, as we wanted to remain its authenticity and to show the readers what went through the photographers' eyes. A photo took the space of a spread of 2 pages.

sample of the 2 pages spread

A photo takes 2 pages giving much details of the picture

This proved to be a right choice as later on people like the big view. However, that meant we had a small black panel for every spread of 2 pages - but that is ok. As I said, black did wonders.

batik book, content

book layout

Inside pages using black background. See how the pictures stand out

Most of the segments in the book was written by me, except for a segment Fun With Pics. Again, you can see the headline is light - making this a light book for a heavy subject.

eM.K. suggested this segment - as he thought it would be a good insight to behind the scenes and more info on the designs and also on his subjects on the photographs. Also a lil bit of info on what went on during the interviews with the designers. He wrote well giving very good insights. Many people love this segment a lot - even one of the designers mentioned it. Up to today, I'm thankful that he suggested this segment.

We also had contributions by Pak Adriano for his 3 pantuns (Malay poems) which once again gave the book a lil bit of style - making it very Peranakan & Malaysian.

Although it seemed simple, but this whole process took a full 1 month, with a lot of bouncing back and forth with the graphic designer. There were minor changes each time, even up to the font size. However, we were quite open to her ideas as well eg. on the font type and layouts for some of the segments.

Finally, with much work and lots of late nights (up to 4am and up again by 9am), we were done, and it was next ready for print!

Read also: A Beautiful Journey - Part 3: Interviews

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Yes, It's Different!

"Your book can't sell. It's so unlike the other batik books... the cover is different. The inside pages are different - it's modern, bright, and showcasing different kind of batik. The layout of the book is also different. This is just a very different batik book. I don't think it can sell," says the Purchaser in a high tone in a bookshop in Singapore.

eM.K. just nodded at each statement she said.

I was thinking to myself "Oh, that is it, she's not going to take it...".

She goes on to show us the other batik books around which focus in on traditional batik motifs and its meanings. None were on modern batik which focus is on modern artistic values. These were pages after pages of batik cloths. And none were on how batik can be used today.

After she has finished, eM.K. just said
"Great. That is just what I want to hear from you."

I was a lil puzzled, and I'm sure the Purchaser was more so.

eM.K. continues "All the things you have said makes this book special. It's not just another batik book, like the rest on your shelf."

"The batik is different - it's on modern, contemporary batik - from Malaysia. The cover and layout are all different. This is a different book, and you are right. And
that is why it is published in the first place...
we don't want just another book".

I had to agree with him. This book is really a unique book by itself. It was planned that way. Though it is hoped to reach the batik enthusiasts, but it is also aimed to reach the ordinary folks who don't want to know just about history and traditional works. We wanted a book with a wider appeal - the reason is because we wanted
'to show how beautiful batik can be'.

And that is something I must say that we can be proud to have done, though in a small way. In the events and even through the book itself, we have had many compliments like
"Wow, I didn't know batik can be like this!".

These comments were mainly from people not in the industry, who have never knew about batik much, what's more be associated with it. Their idea of batik was gold, brown, and dark - not trendy and maybe a lil dull. As for the Malaysians who may know about brighter colours, they think of batik as just bright ugly designs!

But now, these people from Malaysia, Singapore and all the way to Hong Kong, Japan and USA have a new mindset about batik. They know that batik is cool and chic. Modern batik in fashion can make them look young and good. What a difference a book can do. These people can actually flip through the pages of a batik book!

So back to the story, the books were eventually taken on a 'see how' basis. And what a surprise, as we heard there was a buyer who actually bought all the
Batik Inspirations books available - wonder who that was. And after we replenished, it still sold and now they are going to send us the cheque again.

So, the Purchaser is right. This is a different book - it is a book with a difference.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Surprise Orders & Re-orders

Last week, Batik Inspirations had quite a fair bit of pleasant surprises.

From Cannot Sell To Sold-Out!
First, after some checks at bookstores in Malaysia, there is one bookstore that have fully sold out the book. This is a nice surprise as at first the purchaser in charge didn't want to carry the books in the first place, saying that this book is 'too different', and may not sell.

Well in a way, she was right that it was different, but how wrong was she that no one wants didn't want to buy it. It's because it is different that people buy - it's a coffee-table book like no other. In fact, many people who like books, especially coffee-table books have commended on Batik Inspirations.

There were quite a fair bit of negotiation in between, but to cut the story short, she finally ordered and now they are all already sold! And for the bookstore to re-order, it only shows that they know the book will sell.

Orders Pouring In
Another good news happened last week - where there was a reasonable sized order via the email left on the website. This came as quite a pleasant surprise.

It's good news to know that there are still orders for Batik Inspirations despite the first edition being launched in Nov 2005.

And for the website to pay benefits - that is good news too. In fact, the website is one of the facilitator for us to receive orders from all over the world - one of them is quite a renowned publisher from Europe :)

A Really Special Gift
One of our corporate buyers mentioned that the book has been given as a gift from the country to someone very internationally famous. Now, that is another thumbs up for us - for our works being able to be given away to such renowned people, and to be seen by them.

The pleasant week of surprises does ring a bell - that if we produce good works (eg. publish a good unique book), it will be able to go far, and this is just an example. It aspire us to continue publishing good books that can benefit the readers and even the country :)

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

A Beautiful Journey: Part 3 - Interviews

With completed photos, the next was to drive up to KL for the final round of interviews with the designers. Their interviews have been scheduled all in one day - with one after another. That means prompt timing is needed for each interview.

The more professional designers were on time, all set and ready for their interview. However, there were some who 'spoilt' the interview timings and made some others who came early having to wait. That got me into a lil 'hot soup' as 1 of the punctual designer was furious having to wait his turn. Luckily, we managed to cool him down, telling him the mistake by his fellow designer.

Apart from the minor glitch, the interviews went pretty well. I had a good time interviewing them, and it was a new perspective for me - fashion. I learnt a fair bit on the industry, and to see them rather humbly sharing their opinions, their career works, and their aspirations.

I conducted the interviews with the aim to make it a heartfelt one, one that when transcribed, will touch & connect with the readers. That was the best part actually, as the designers were then very willing to share their thoughts & inspirations behind their works.

One memorable part was also when one so called 'high & mighty designer' (I found out later), was rather humble throughout the interview - and even sang some songs for us - all for the fun. In fact, she joked a fair bit!

Another designer even suggested to bring some food as the time was late. We soon became good friends with her up to today.

There was however, one designer who was one of the time spoiler, in fact many times, as he kept rescheduling... and when I jokingly mentioned that he did so & this affected the others, he blew his top & had urged he wanted to back out. Rather weird actually for him to loose his cool - but he eventually took back his words and asked to be featured & the interview was rescheduled. My first 'diva' encounter!

The whole interview process took 2 full days - one was before the shoot, the other just after the shoot. By the time it ended, it was already dark at night, but very contended, and it was the mark of some new friendships.

Read Also:
A Beautiful Journey: Photoshoot Day 4

A Beautiful Journey: Part 4 - Compilation

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Available In KLIA

Yes, it's a lil slow I admit. But finally a few weeks back, Batik Inspirations is now available in Malaysia's main airport - yes, it's in the bookstore there! "Now, everyone can fly"... and purchase the book as a Malaysian souvenir before leaving the country.

And good news - the book available there is the newer edition - Malaysia's Living Heritage: Batik Inspirations! The cover is a good representation of Malaysia's batik and it has some forwards by the current ministers - so, really an awesome gift from the country :)

This 'join ranks' with the other airport that the book is available - Singapore Changi's Airport.

Another win, albeit a relatively 'small one'.

With those who have a chance, do check it out! :)

Monday, January 14, 2008

Happy Moment

That was what I heard from the saleslady in one of the local bookstores here in Malacca - MPH to be exact yesterday.

When I entered the shop, I was a lil surprised to find the book placed eye level and only 1 copy. When I came last time, there were a few of the books and placed at a higher level. So, I thought maybe they have kept the rest somewhere.

As I purchased my items, the saleslady asked where was I from, and I said well, I published that book - pointing her to it. And she then grabbed the book and checked to see how well it has done. To be honest, I was a lil shy & in a way embarrassed... Then she pointed to her screen - '1'. 'Oh wow' (smiles!).

This was quite a happy surprise for me... Being an independent publisher, these small things do make me smile, and again I repeat, I know it's a small 'win', but yet, it's quite a happy moment :)

Saturday, January 5, 2008

A Beautiful Journey: Part 2 - Photoshoot Day 4

The models have gone back, including the make-up artists. Its only left with the main core of the team.

I thought the that on this day would be a light day, with the heavy shoots all done. But I then remembered we needed to take some close up shots of the batik motifs & design.

So, once again, with soft lightings set, I went through the pile of clothes to choose the very best motifs that represented each designer. Some had more than 1 distinct motif. The aim here was to choose the design that is synonym to the designer. I like to put it 'The person is to know whose design with just one look'. For example the spiral motifs are known to be for non other than Tom's. And though there are many copy-cats around, none come close to her placement & drawings.

The day started off a lil late, as we didn't expect a long day. And we thought work could have completed early. But this dragged on for a few hours, and we were soon rushing for time as we had to head to KL that day itself.

Finally, all the shots were done, and the clothes packed back into the bag. Now, we were all prepared to head to KL to meet the designers for their interviews.

Read Also:
Photoshoot Day 3

A Beautiful Journey: Part 3 - Interviews