‘I set up the business not because I wanted to be a boss, but to give myself some autonomy to use my creativity to “brew” new books.’
Tang Chi-man enrolled in the newly launched Bachelor of Arts with Honours in Creative Writing and Film Arts Programme in 2008, and became one of its first batches of graduates in 2012. The four-year studies let him know about the operation of different types of media. He became interested in editorial and publishing work after studying a course on news editing and attending a workshop on creative writing. He was also inspired by the publishing experience of some teachers.
After graduation, Chi-man joined a non-mainstream publishing company. Its fresh and flexible approaches to marketing opened his eyes. Later on, he worked for a traditional publisher and learnt more about the industry, becoming increasingly sure that it was the right field for him. ‘When a well-edited book is published and appreciated by the author, I would be deeply satisfied,’ he said. However, editing jobs could be extremely tedious and taxing, and he sometimes felt like being reduced to an ossified machine which produced shoddy goods. Chi-man firmly believes that there is a market for well-honed quality work. Putting his conviction into practice, he established ‘Ideate Trails’ with a friend in early 2017. ‘I set up the business not because I wanted to be a boss, but to give myself some autonomy to use my creativity to “brew” new books,’ he said.
Chi-man has some incisive observations of the ecology of the industry. Eager to introduce new thinking into it, his dreams are not just castles in the air. ‘Small publishers can operate with more dexterity and flexibility, and have more editorial autonomy in producing quality books and expanding markets. This has become a trend in Hong Kong and Taiwan,’ he said. Since its formation six months ago, the company has launched a total of four books and the sales have been quite promising.
Publishing requires an eye for identifying talent. Chi-man got his skills not just from experience in the work place. ‘The university curriculum has sharpened my sensitivity in selecting material, and interactive seminars have enhanced my social and communication skills. All this is helpful to me in finding and reaching out to writers with potential,’ he said. He is of the view that print publishing is not yet a sunset industry. The key to success is to keep your pulse on the market and select works with value. There is also the need to target rightly a group of readers and use the interactive online media to bring the writer closer to them. Some touching promotional ideas would also help boost sales.
Making his publishing dream come true calls for stamina and hard work. Right now Chi-man is busy planning the launch of new books. He also attends book signing sessions with authors around the world to get in touch with readers, and tries to identify more business opportunities on existing sales platforms. Notwithstanding his passion for writing and film studies, Chi-man has no intention of publishing his own books at the moment. He just wants to do the best in his current position as an editor, and contribute what he can from the piece of ground he himself has cultivated.