Publishers share their plans to resist pandemics on Publ. Conf.

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Sharjah 24: The rippling spirit of independent publishers and the current renaissance of indigenous storytelling was celebrated on the second day of the 11th Editors’ Conference held today (Monday) at the Sharjah Exhibition Center, ahead of the 40th Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF).
The second day of the conference was attended by Bodour Al Qasimi, President, International Publishers Association (IPA); HE Ahmed bin Rakkad Al Ameri, Chairman of the Sharjah Book Authority (SBA); Tanzanian novelist Abdulrazak Gurnah who recently received the 2021 Nobel Prize for Literature; and publishing professionals representing the global industry.

Moderated by Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief, Publishing Perspectives, the session titled “The Independent Publishing Boom: Generating Book Sales” highlighted innovative ways independent publishers reached out to their readers during the pandemic.

Emmanuelle Collas, editor, Galaade Emmanuelle Collas, France, described how Cameroonian-born writer Djaïli Amadou Amal’s novel The Impatient Ones took shape during the lockdown of Covid-19 last year. “It was a time of waiting for most people but for us – a small publishing house – it was also a time of strong determination, energy and humor. We have decided to leave nothing to chance and to keep fighting.

Michel Moushabeck, founder of US-based Interlink Publishing, revealed how rapid adaptation to new business models enabled the company to increase sales by 8% in 2020 and is currently on track to double in 2021 .

He explained, “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, focus sessions with the authors on Zoom democratized the book tour experience, allowing us to reach a wider audience. “

The most successful strategy, he added, has been supporting independent bookstores to help them thrive during the pandemic.

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.”

Describing how an evening of poetry he hosted on the Zoom platform attracted over 10,000 spectators, he said: “The lockdown has been a time of introspection but also a time to seize opportunities to change our ways. publication process and adapt it to the new situation. We kept publishing books even though it couldn’t reach the reader – as a symbolic gesture to show that we all have to keep going.

The pandemic has dealt a heavy blow to the African publishing industry which is largely driven by an overcrowded textbook market, said Samuel Kolawole, managing director of University Press Plc, Nigeria. “As other markets leveraged their digital strengths, we were crippled due to our limited technological reach. We couldn’t adapt to working from home and therefore missed out on digital opportunities exploited by other publishers. “

He added: “Our goal now is to diversify and strengthen our capacities and skills to be able to react positively in unprecedented circumstances. “

To celebrate the unique African identity

Moderated by Angela Wachuka, Co-Founder and Partner of Book Bunk, Kenya, the session titled “Decolonizing Our Stories: The Growing Influence of African Authors” explored the concept of “decolonizing” African literature as it permeates Africa. new markets. A growing community of African authors tell their stories through their lenses. The session featured three African writers whose works are translated into Arabic by the United Arab Emirates-based group Kalimat.

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.

Stating that decolonization shouldn’t be a check mark exercise for diversity, Gappah added: “What’s exciting about the growing influence of African writers is that we have now started looking inward and starting conversations. with other writers on the continent.

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 keep our rights. as writers. It is with this in mind 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. “


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