Just as last year, Salwa Shakhashir (of Dar al-Salwa) blogged for Publishing Perspectives from the publishers’ training course hosted by Abu Dhabi International Book Fair organizers in the UAE. Shakhashir touches on a number of issues, including:
- Tip sheets, galleys, and social media—ways for Arab publishers to promote books to reviewers
- The possibility of a universal bestseller list
- Cooperation between Arab publishers
By and large, it seems that the publishers in attendance thought that galleys were too expensive. I agree that they aren’t the best option for publishers already looking at thin profit margins. But the real question is not about galleys, but: How can we get the word out about these books?
What about sending out preview digital excerpts to reviewers? Getting out more review copies to bloggers? Keeping lists of reviewers and bloggers? Being more active on GoodReads and other social media? Cheap, saddle-back excerpts that can be easily distributed on…the metro? (Oh, what do I know about marketing?)
Rehab Bassem, of Dar el Shorouk, noted on Twitter that the local media needs to up their game when it comes to book coverage. “All publishers in the Arab world need to educate the media about their books to help promote them #pubtraining cc @adibf”
Universal Bestseller Lists
There are a number of piecemeal bestseller lists around the Arabic-reading world: Shorouk has a list, Diwan has a list, Kotob Khan has a list, there are lists released by the international book fairs, Magrudy’s has lists. But there’s no trusted “universal,” or even semi-universal, list.
A weekly—or monthly—bestseller list could do a lot to promote reading. After all, if other people are reading 100 Steps to the Revolution, then I don’t want to be left out! A universal bestseller list also could promote translation of Arabic books into other world languages.
Thus far, e-books have had relatively little impact in the Arabic-reading world, although who knows what the landscape will look like ten years from now. There’s an interesting piece on Publishing Perspectives today about how different regions need to chart their own paths to digital information—and not just follow what’s working in the Global North.
Thus far, it seems the Arabic-language publishers who’ve been most involved in e-books are, like al-Salwa, children’s publishers. Shakhashir wrote:
We’ve recently published an Arabic children’s book App and were quite honestly struggling with how to market it, so to hear that giant publishers in the States haven’t yet figured it out kind of made me feel good!
According to Shakhashir, one of the greatest points of agreement was a call for greater cooperation between publishers:
Ghayath Maktabi (Syria) passionately pointed out that since we keep on complaining about the situation, maybe it’s time to do something about it. We as publishers should unite and celebrate each others’ achievements because a successful book in Syria, for example, will promote the whole book industry, and we should all be grateful for that. I think this rang true to a lot of the publishers in the room. I hope the ripple effects of this conversation will actually result in seeing more collaboration among us publishers in the near future.