Thursday 30 May 2019

Indie Spotlight: Guards Gone Wild!

My guest today is Loh Teck Yong, a Singapore security guard who has self-published an interesting and original account of his experiences. Here he tells us about his road to self-publishing.

Security guards have it rough in Singapore. I know because I started working as one back in 1999. Full-time guards have to put up with a 72-hour work week and the week gets even longer for those who work 24-hour shifts. And while we are battling long hours for very low pay, we have to fend off attacks from unappreciative superiors, angry members of the public and even our own colleagues.  

With social media being what it is nowadays, it has become easier for victimised security personnel to seek justice. As a case in point, look at what happened to British national Stuart Boyd Mills after he was caught punching a security guard. However, as an industry insider, I can assure you that too many security guards don't receive happy endings. They tend not to report unpleasant encounters out of fear of losing their jobs, and instead choose to bottle up all the frustration inside themselves. Sooner or later, the represssed anger leaks out when they are dealing with the public, causing increased misunderstanding and conflicts. It's a vicious cycle.

And so, to promote better understanding between security guards and the public, I set out to write Guards Gone Wild!. When I was working as a security guard, I had the front row seat to all sorts of shady going-ons in the industry. And instead of bottling things up, I wrote them down. There's plenty to write about. Scams perpetrated by security agencies and guards. Intense confrontations with delinquents and work colleagues. Funny moments to make you laugh and frustrating moments that made me cry. Eventually, towards the end of 2018, the collected anecdotes became my debut book. 

The journey towards publication was difficult. But cathartic and educational. Putting my experiences in the security industry down into words did my mental health a lot of good. And I had a revelation. Writing hurts even as it heals. Whenever they show a writer at work on TV, it’s usually tap-tap-tap-tap, some quick bursts of furious typing and, voila, a story is ready for publication. No angst. No tears. No problem. 

In reality, however, it’s more like hours of drawn-out agony because you have been up since 4 a.m. in the morning and you missed your breakfast and suddenly it’s past noon and you are still staring at a blank Word page. BUT, when the words finally take form on the screen... That moment is gold. 

It took me several years to complete my book and after it was picked up by a big-name publisher, I lived happily ever after. The end.   Okay, you probably shouldn't read further than this if you are looking for inspiration through positive stories. I didn't get a writer's happy ending. 

By the end of 2017, I had already submitted my manuscript to 7 publishers in Singapore and I was rejected by every single one of them. 7 may not sound like a big number but Singapore has a very small literary market so you could say I was rejected by every player in the business. I was devastated.  

It also didn't help when well-meaning people around me started advising me to give up. Because it wasn't just 1 or 2 publishers but everyone in the business who thought that my book wouldn't sell. Wow. Everyone, huh? I might have given up if I hadn't developed a very thick skin while working as a security guard. And I had one good reason why I shouldn't give up. I didn't just write my stories but the stories of other security guards as well. I felt it's important to speak up for my former colleagues who suffered alongside me during those soul-crushing years in the security industry. 

So I made up my mind. If no publisher wanted to publish my book, I would do it myself!  

There's a lot of knowledge involved in self-publication so, in a way, I am glad I chose this route. I wouldn't have learned so many new things otherwise. And the most important lesson I learned during my self-publication journey was to NEVER rely on vanity publishers. When you are self-publishing your book, it's best to retain control over the process if you want to end up with a product that you can be satisfied with. That's what I did. 

I scouted around for an editor and book cover designer to work on my book and, since I wasn't relying on an outsider (i.e. vanity publisher) to source for talents, I had the liberty to check out their references and negotiate to fit their prices within my budget. And when it was time to print hard copies of my book, I did my research diligently. A lot of details can affect the printing cost. Such as the quality of the paper, the thickness of the paper and the type of binding you use for your book. Once I came up with the most suitable specs for my book, I submitted requests for a price quote to every printing company I could find in the directory. Do that if you want to be sure of getting the best deal out there.  

Finally, after all the work is done, 500 printed copies of Guards Gone Wild! arrived at my flat on September the 18th, 2018. But it wasn't The End and Happily Ever After yet. Since self-published authors like myself don't receive any support from established publishers, I had a lot of work to do before I could get people to actually buy my book. Chain bookstores don't work with individual authors so I had to look for a distributor who would be willing to distribute my book.  

Today, Guards Gone Wild! is being retailed at Times and Kinokuniya bookstores in Singapore. It's also listed on, an online book retailer based in Singapore. Small steps. One at a time. My journey as a self-published author is far from over.

More details of the book can be found here and the book is available at this link