Adam Tie: Turning A Love For Reading Into A Thriving Business

From a love of the written word to starting The Novel Encounter

By Camillia Dass

October 5 2018

Adam Tie grew up loving reading and writing after first being introduced to it by his mother. His love for books pushed him to start The Novel Encounter, a company that started out selling wrapped mystery books to its customers to encourage them to try new things. It took a customer asking him to write a poem on the spot for Adam to start combining his love for books with his passion for writing. STYLEGUIDE sits down with Adam to find out more about what drives him.

What inspired you to start The Novel Encounter? How did your love for books start?

I have always been in love with reading. As an aspiring author and bookworm, this just seemed like a natural progression.

Aside from this, I have always loved recommending things to people. What's a great cafe in town? What's a great playlist for an evening car ride? What's a great book to bring for my trip to Bali?

So when I think about it, the combination of two things I have always loved doing just made this come together like peanut butter and jelly.

My love for books came from my mother. She was always encouraging me to enjoy reading and writing, so when other kids got toys, I got books and notebooks.

It was habitual and I think the first author that kickstarted my love for reading was Roald Dahl. Then it was JK Rowling (like many out there), then Oscar Wilde and F. Scott Fitzgerald, Jeanette Winterson, Haruki Murakami, David Levithan, etc.

It just seemed like such an easy escape from reality. Till today, I still enjoy reading and writing in cafes so if you have any recommendations for good spots, I'd love to check them out.

What were some of the biggest challenges you faced along your journey?

Balancing demand with quality.

In business, it is always best to make the highest profit margins from each sale, so it could be tempting to get cheaper books in order to make the most profit (as we sell all our titles at the same price of $29). But we are in the business of meticulous curation.

Our policy promises 100% satisfaction: if you do not enjoy the book you purchase, we give you a full refund with no questions asked. We take great pride in our curation process and even if we do not make much of a profit from it, we insist on making sure every single title in our collection is hand-picked, critically acclaimed, beloved by the team and book lovers across the world.

What was the most unforgettable experience for you?

This business started out as a simple premise: mysterious books, wrapped up with a clue on the wrapping to hint at the literary adventure inside.

But during one of the events, I realised my love for writing could also become a service provided from The Novel Encounter to our book-loving, gift-inclined customers.

It all started when I bought a typewriter at a vintage fair (one of the events The Novel Encounter was invited to) and was just clacking away happily when a customer asked if I would write a poem for her, to go with her book purchase.

I asked what she would like me to write and she replied that she wanted me to surprise me.

So without thinking much about it, I asked her to give me three words for me to form the poem's structure - and that was it. I did not think it would become such a big hit, but I'm humbled and happy to see that people have been purchasing these poems (give us three words, and we'll make a poem with these three words included inside) on our website and during live events (where I type them out within 5 minutes) with great reactions.

Some people have even amused themselves by timing me, and counting down to make sure I stay true to my word.

That has since become one of the staples of our business: customised poetry. I never would have thought I could be a poet and honestly, it's all thanks to that young lady who gave me the first push.

We actually have recently been signed by a publisher to publish a collection of these poems, and like every aspiring writer out there, it has been an absolute dream to get signed. I'm currently working on it; it's due to be out in stores before the end of the year.

I'd say that this was one of the most unforgettable experiences that has come about from starting The Novel Encounter.

What motivates and keeps you going?

Making people tick, really. The look on their faces. Whether it's recommending customers mysterious books for themselves or loved ones, or writing poems to inspire people or their loved ones, it's really because of this curation element that makes this so much fun.

I personally would not dare call myself a poet, but I really do enjoy writing poetry and did not expect people to love my writing.

That moment when people say "hey, that book was amazing - my best friend really loved it" or maybe "hey, I want to tell my girlfriend how much she means to me, could you write a poem for her" - it's just moments like these that makes me so excited to keep this going.

What are your thoughts about the current literary scene and what more can be done?

I think there still is a great love, a passion for literature in the local scene.

Perhaps not quite as overt as some countries, but I have met a great deal of fellow book lovers at the many events we have been invited to, and it is truly touching to meet so many amazing people.

Can you share more about your curation process?

We take every kind of book reader into consideration, because everyone deserves to have his/her own unique adventure. So how do we curate our collection of books from around the world?

Not only do we hand-select personal favourites - all our books are rated 3.9 out of 5 and above on GoodReads, a social platform with millions of fellow book lovers - to ensure we only have the cream of the crop.

Every book in our collection is something we would proudly recommend loved ones of all literary inclinations. We take our recommendations very seriously.

What are some of the biggest insights you’ve gathered after starting The Novel Encounter?

People are intricate.

From the books - I have met people of all sorts looking for books. The adventurer looking for a companion during their travels. Someone looking for perfect birthday gift for a loved one. A wedding gift from the bride to all her bridesmaids. The intellect hoping to be introduced to brave new worlds. The casual reader seeking a compliment to their hot tea on a lazy Sunday.

I love talking to people and it makes me so happy that the love for reading is still very much alive.

For the poems - for the upcoming poetry book collection, we sent out an open call, asking our readers to give us three words each for me to turn into poems to be put into the book. And the submissions of our readers all showed great symbolic meaning behind each word.

People are so intricate. It really makes me love what I do.

Can you tell us 3 interesting things that most people do not know about books and The Novel Encounter?

Before I came up with the name The Novel Encounter, I dabbled with several other names: Peek a Book, The Literary Engagement, and Shot in the Dark. I'm happy with the name I picked.

Dr Seuss's editor bet him $50 he couldn't write a children's book in 50 words or less. Ta-daaaa. Dr Seuss won the bet with 'Green Eggs and Ham'.

And because I'm such a F. Scott Fitzgerald nut, here's a fun fact I love sharing: he published The Great Gatsby at the age of 29 and it had absolutely mediocre sales. It is now a timeless classic, beloved since the 1920s. I personally find that absolutely fascinating.

Who is a role model that you look up to and really admire?

I don't have just a singular one - I'd say people I truly admire are my friends around me.

A majority of them are entrepreneurs, passionate, driven, colourful people. Everyone is a protagonist to me because they're just such amazing people and there are qualities and traits about them that I do seek to emulate and learn from everyday.

I think that if the saying is true, that you're defined by the people you hold close, then I might just be the luckiest person in the world.

What is one change you will like to see in the world today?

Cynicism and mockery towards passion and enthusiasm. I really dislike it when people think it's cool to not care about anything; and try to make a mockery of people with passion.

I've a theory that passionate people are the most attractive people. So if you're intensely passionate about anything, anything at all, you're better than the people who laugh at you for it.

What are your future plans?

Aside from furthering my writing career, growing The Novel Encounter to encourage the love for literature in Singapore, I'm also an entrepreneur who enjoys challenging myself creatively.

Beyond The Novel Encounter, I've also established a branding agency.

As long as whatever I do is seen as genuine and sincere, I'm happy to call it part of my blueprint.

The Novel Encounter

We curated the perfect gift. For love (in) language. Video Production: Parallax

Posted by The Novel Encounter on Tuesday, June 26, 2018
 All Photos: Adam Tie