Sharjah: COVID-19 lockdowns saw independent publishers innovate to survive, the “Editors Conference” heard at Expo Center Sharjah on Monday.
The three-day conference precedes the 40th Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF), which will be held November 3-13 at the same location.
On Monday, the second day of the conference, the independent editors revealed their lockdown survival tactics in a session.
The session was attended by Bodour Al Qasimi, President, International Publishers Association; Ahmed bin Rakkad Al Ameri, chairman of the Sharjah Book Authority; Tanzanian novelist Abdulrazak Gurnah, winner of the 2021 Nobel Prize for Literature; and publishing professionals.
Moderated by Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief, Publishing Perspectives, the session titled “The Independent Publishing Boom: Generating Book Sales” shed light on the creative ways independent publishers reached out to readers during the pandemic.
Michel Moushabeck, founder of the American company Interlink Publishing, revealed how rapid adaptation to new business models enabled the company to record an 8% increase in sales in 2020.
He said, “We focused early on in the pandemic on expanding our direct-to-consumer sales, which has helped us stay afloat. Our newsletters with book recommendations resonated with our readers, and we engaged with individuals and nonprofits in our community to support worthy causes. In addition, author discussion sessions on Zoom democratized the book tour experience, allowing us to reach a wider audience. “
‘Telephone alarm clock’
Khalid Al Nassri, publisher of Milan-based Al Mutawassit, which focuses on contemporary Arab literature and poetry, described the pandemic and the lockdown that followed as a “wake-up call.”
Recalling how a poetry evening he hosted on Zoom drew over 10,000 spectators, he said: “The lockdown has been a time of introspection but also a time to seize opportunities to change our publishing processes and to adapt them to the new situation. We kept publishing books even though it couldn’t reach the reader – as a symbolic gesture to show that we must all keep going.
“Decolonize African literature”
Moderated by Angela Wachuka, Co-Founder and Associate, Book Bunk, Kenya, a session titled “Decolonizing Our Stories: The Growing Influence of African Authors,” explored the concept of “decolonizing” African literature as it permeates new markets.
The session featured three African writers whose work is being translated into Arabic by the United Arab Emirates-based Kalimat group.
Petina Gappah, Zimbabwean author of Out of Darkness, Shining Light, welcomed Kalimat’s decision, saying: “This is exactly the kind of decolonization we need – we need to decolonize the languages we deem important; and decolonize the publishing centers that we suppose to be more strategic.
Calling on African writers not to give up their publishing rights, Lola Shoneyin, author and director of Nigeria’s Ake Arts and Book Festival, said: “For decolonization to work and for Africa to become a self-sustaining market, we must retain our rights. as writers. It is in this spirit that we launched One Read, a virtual book club that gives our people access to books by African writers.
Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor, Kenyan author of The Dragonfly Sea, said: “African writing is a 1,500 year old feat – it is not ’emerging’ now. “
Describing how global media networks are turning to Africa to meet the need for diverse content, she said: “The new generation is not limited by old maps; through them, we find new places of shared imagination, shared values and shared curiosities. The shift in interest in the Swahili seas lends itself to a vibrant energy that makes new ideas and stories possible. “
Incentives for 1,500 publishers
During the upcoming SIBF, Sharjah Publishing City Free Zone (SPC Free Zone) will participate with a range of attractive business creation packages and incentives offered by SPC Free Zone to more than 1,500 publishers around the world who will be present at SIBF 2021.
Salim Omar Salim, Director of SPC Free Zone, said: “SPC Free Zone offers investors an integrated business environment offering advanced services, incentives and state-of-the-art infrastructure. We have remained abreast of Sharjah’s strong and rapidly growing economic environment and have shaped our offerings to ensure that companies that establish themselves in the world’s leading free zone can benefit from our competitive advantages and also grow in scale. regional. The CPS Free Zone is one of the brightest examples of the emirate’s key role in advancing the Arab book market. “