5 May 09 | Chad W. Post | Comments

As pointed out at the Literary Saloon, the new issue of the Literary Review at The Hindu has a couple of articles about India’s presence at the recent London and Abu Dhabi book fairs.

It’s interesting how different these two articles are—the one on the ADIBF is more focused on India’s entrance into the Arab book market, whereas the one on the LBF takes a look at the book market in India.

Starting with Urvashi Butalia’s conclusions about the ADIBF:

Never slow to sense when a market is ready to open up, many Western publishers are already making a place for themselves in the Arab world. It’s rumoured that Penguin is soon scheduled to launch a Penguin Arabia — on the model of and perhaps inspired by Penguin India — Bloomsbury already has an overseas office in Qatar, Mills and Boon are big in the Arab world, and others are standing at the sidelines and waiting.

Nor have Indians been slow to sense a growing market. DeeCee publishers of Kerala have a large setup in Dubai that caters to the considerable Malayali population in the Gulf. Young Indian entrepreneurs have set up distribution agencies that cater to universities and schools, Jamia Milia Islamia in Delhi has put in place a translation programme whereby 25 titles from India will be translated into Arabic and five vice versa — and this is only a beginning — and Panther, a publisher of high quality medical DVDs is listed as one of their star attractions by one of the leading Gulf distributors, Kasha, who are based in Jordan.

Clearly, things are changing in the world of Arab writing and publishing. Like India, Arab countries provide one of the potentially most exciting markets of the world, and perhaps the day is not far off when Arab writers will start crowding the numbers of Booker prize winners in the way that Indians have begun to do.

This really echoes the sense that I came away with as well. Despite its distribution problems, the Arab world is a burgeoning market and a lot of publishers are figuring out how to best benefit from this.

Which is actually pretty similar to how the rest of the world looks at India’s book market as well, as Janhavi Acharekar’s piece on the London Book Fair makes clear:

A few years ago, at one of the panel discussions held during the Kitab festival in Mumbai, Antara Dev Sen was questioned about the coming of age of Indian literature. Her astute reply was that it was really the Indian economy that had come of age and the spotlight was therefore on everything Indian, including literature. That India had always had an excellent and ancient tradition of writing but the world had only zoomed in on it with the country’s booming stock market. [. . .]

To the West, India is the only English language book market with a potential for growth. But what did the Book Fair spell for India? For one, it showcased its new writing, poetry and fiction in translation, children’s writing and non-fiction to the world. “In the West, we continue to associate Indian writing with Amitav Ghosh and Arundhati Roy. It’s nice to learn about contemporary writers who haven’t yet found a readership here,” confessed a member of the audience. The concerns of the fair had to do with emerging literary trends in India seen — as Chief Editor and Publisher of HarperCollins India, V.K. Karthika, points out — in the interview of her and bestselling author Chetan Bhagat on BBC World Service Radio. “The fact that they chose to interview an author associated with popular fiction is telling,” she remarks. Literary agent Jayapriya Vasudevan, founder of Jacaranda Press, supports the view. “Popular Indian writing is being read now as opposed to just literary fiction 10 years ago. An unknown author has every chance of selling today,” she says. Vasudevan ought to know. Jacaranda, India’s first literary agency, represents new publishing house Blaft known for its quirky books and translations of Tamil and Hindi pulp fiction, which have elicited much interest at the fair. [. . .]

However, the fair also displayed the differences in literary concerns and trends between the East and the West. While the latter spoke of creative and life-writing courses, ‘enhanced’ e-books and technological innovations such as the Espresso book machine that prints books on demand, in-store, India was still concerned with widening its reach in the print arena. “E-books are not likely to play a big role in India at least for the next decade or so,” says Karthika. Our only association with other media was the talk on literature in cinema that included on its panel Javed Akhtar, Rachel Dwyer and Prasoon Joshi, among others. A sign, perhaps, that Indian literature has yet to truly come of age.

28 April 09 | Chad W. Post | Comments [3]

That was the name of the panel that I moderated at this year’s London Book Fair, and which featured Abby Blachly of LibraryThing, Lance Fensterman of Reed Exhibitions (in particular, BookExpo America and New York Comic Con), Bob Stein of the Institute for the Future of the Book, and Mark Thwaite of ReadySteadyBook.com, the Book Depository, and the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize.

By design, this panel was more about new methods and ideas about marketing, and about the evolving relationship between publishers and their readers, rather than about how to market a particular book. That said, a lot of the discussion—and the particular ideas presented—centered around more “niche” books and how to find a particular audience for these sorts of books via the internet, LibraryThing, etc.

Rather than recap the whole event (not that my memory of what happened last Monday is all that clear anyway), here are a few of the bigger points that came out of this:

  • Mark Thwaite emphasized the importance of publishers having a good website. Not one that’s a confusing mess like this. Or this. This seems super obvious, but the most successful publisher sites are clear, easy to navigate, have individual pages for each book (so that bloggers can link to them, right HMH?), and provide additional content about books and authors.
  • If you’re going to include a blog, publishers should keep a few things in mind: 1) you have to keep blogging on a regular basis, rather than just putting up a couple posts and forgetting about it; 2) linking to other blogs and having other blogs link to you, which ties into the even more crucial point 3) which is to not treat a blog like a place to make hard-sells. All of this can be summed up by thinking of a blog as part of a ongoing conversation—not a place for a publisher to make repeated hard sells.
  • Which was a sentiment echoed by Abby about publishers on LibraryThing. Publishers frequently open accounts on LT, add all of their own books to their library, and then give each one 5 stars. Not effective at all. Everyone can smell a self-promoter, and this sort of thing turns real participants off. That said, editors who have their personal libraries on LT and legitimately participate in conversations, forums, etc., are welcomed into the community, and end up naturally sharing information about their publishing house and its books. Readers outside of the industry think publishing is sexy and love to meet editors—just not editors who begin messages with: “Hi, it was great meeting you the other day. I have a new book I think you would like to purchase.” Read Buying In by Rob Walker for more info on this sort of “marketing.” It really is the new paradigm and anyone trying to use social networks for hard sells is going to run into problems.
  • The Early Reviewers program is f’ing effective at putting books into the hands of the right reader. LT uses a complicated algorithm to match books with people who might be interested in that particular title. For instance, if a publisher is offering up free copies of a book on the Berlin Wall, someone who only have romance titles in their library won’t win the drawing.
  • Although he considered it a bit of a failure (the women participating weren’t keen on the book), Bob Stein’s Golden Notebook Project did lead to some interesting findings. The Institute knew this going in, but one thing that I found really interesting is the finding that by putting the “comments” section right next to the post/original text (in contrast to putting comments at the bottom of the page, like below . . .) readers are much more likely to respond and the conversation develops rather quickly. Very curious how the physical layout so greatly impacts the overall conversation and experience.
  • Lance already wrote a long post about this, but in his opinion, trade shows are dead. He doesn’t mean that the LBF and BEA are about to vanish, but that the very idea of what constitutes “trade” needs to shift. Things are in a bad way when a book critic who writes a dozen reviews a year is allowed to attend the industry’s one and only trade show, but the top reviewer on Amazon, who writes more than 100 reviews a year, isn’t allowed access. The boundary between “trade” and “non-trade” is very blurry these days, and rather than try and restrict access to BookExpo, Lance believes (and I second this wholeheartedly) that the show needs to be opened up to include the enthusiasts who can be as effective in promoting literature as a traditional critic. For the publishing industry to really thrive, we need both of these groups coming to BEA and getting excited about future offerings. Forward-thinking publishers who realize that a passionate reader is your greatest ally no matter where she/he works already know this—it’s just the stodgy corporations who are strangling the show’s potential.

Overall, this was one of the best London Book Fair panels I’ve ever been on. Great presentations and wonderful questions from the audience. And hopefully we came up with some interesting ideas that are of some benefit to publishers large and small.

27 April 09 | Chad W. Post | Comments

OK, after ten days of book fairs and festivals in three countries, I’m finally back in Rochester . . . for the time being. The PEN World Voices Festival kicks off today in New York, and after our event here in Rochester on Thursday—a Reading and Conversation with Norwegian author Jan Kjaerstad (The Conqueror, The Discoverer) and Mark Binelli (Sacco and Vanzetti Must Die!)—I’ll be heading down to New York for the last couple days of panels, readings, etc.

Assuming I don’t come down with the swine flu tomorrow (how do viruses spread? Via people who travel from London to Rochester to Montreal to Rochester . . . ), I’ve got a lot of posts for this week, including a number about the London Book Fair and the Blue Metropolis Festival, and a few about new books that arrived while I was gone.

22 April 09 | E.J. Van Lanen | Comments

Congratulations to our hero, Drenka Willen, who was just given the 2009 London Book Fair Lifetime Achievement Award in International Publishing.

Check this out from the LBF site:

Drenka Willen joined Harcourt as a translator and freelance editor in the nineteen-sixties. She took over day-to-day duties for the Helen & Kurt Wolff imprint in 1981. She is currently a Senior Editor. Among the authors and translators she has worked with are Günter Grass, Italo Calvino, Octavio Paz, Wisława Szymborska, José Saramago, Umberto Eco, Irving Howe, Charles Simic, Ryszard Kapuściński, Amos Oz, A.B. Yehoshua, Yehuda Amichai, William Weaver, Ralph Manheim, Edward Gorey, Ralph Steadman, Harold Bloom, Wendy Wasserstein, George Konrád, Bohumil Hrabal, James Kelman, Edith Grossman, Margaret Jull Costa, Krishna Winston, Cees Nooteboom, Stanislaw Lem, Hugo Claus, Milovan Djilas, Breyten Breytenbach, Tomaž Šalamun, Danilo Kiš, Max Frisch, Margaret Drabble, Paweł Huelle, Jurek Becker, Clare Cavanagh, Stanisław Barańczak, Boris Pahor, Antonio Muñoz Molina, Andrzej Stasiuk, Marcel Beyer, Carsten Jensen, Lídia Jorge, Aleksandar Tišma, Julio Llamazares, Akira Yoshimura, Karin Fossum, Brigitte Hamann, André Brink, Stefan Chwin, Luis Sepúlveda, Paul Klebnikov, Pedro Rosa Mendes, Vladimir Voinovich, Jens Christian Grondahl, Arturo Pérez-Reverte, Andrew Miller, Claire Messud, Robin Robertson, Michael Krüger, Mark Ford, Andrew O’Hagan, Sarah Shun-lien Bynum, Philip Schultz, and David Albahari.

Mindboggling.

19 April 08 | Chad W. Post | Comments

I just found this roundup from a delegation of American Booksellers who attended the London Book Fair.

Not that extensive of a post, but there are a few interesting observations. First about the fair itself:

The London Book Fair is an interesting counterpart to America’s Book Expo America. In the most critical view, booksellers are little more than an afterthought at LBF. A historical legacy of the LBF’s origins and current industry dynamics, publisher deal-making is the focus as the majority of attendees are present to negotiate publishing & distribution rights.

And then about Foyles, one of the greatest bookstores in the world.

Foyles is in the heart of central London not far from Piccadilly Circus, Leicester Square on Charring Cross Road. I’m so envious of their art-gallery-cum-author-event-space and deep selection of art & photography books. We attended an Arab Authors night co-hosted with “Words Without Borders” which was standing room only. Along the wall behind the authors was an art exhibition of photographs from the book “London Street Art” by Prestel press. You can see the signs that the store has had to respond to competition from the chain stores (including one right across the street), and as a result offers selective discounts at the main entrance but Foyles has also really tried to cultivate departments which cater to niche interest groups including oddly enough a specialty department for Doctors & Veterinarians where you can buy lab coats, scrubs, stethoscopes, doctors bags, along with medical school exam guides, related books and even a full skeleton if you require.

15 April 08 | Chad W. Post | Comments

The London Book Fair has always been one of my favorite conventions. London by itself is always fantastic—although way too expensive these days (thank you depressed American economy for making my dollars completely worthless)—and the fair is a more calm, friendly version of Frankfurt. (And, on a personal sidenote, the best thing I ever wrote—in my opinion—was a LBF report for the Words Without Borders blog a few years back. It helped that my fucking hotel room flooded, giving me lots of frustrating bureaucratic encounters to rank about . . .)

This year I’m skipping in favor of an Editors Week in Buenos Aires that starts on Saturday. (Two continents in two weeks was a bit too much for me.) What’s weird is the startling lack of coverage by American media outlets and bloggers about this year’s fair.

PW is doing their thing, but aside from that, the best coverage is overseas. (Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind has a good roundup of the little coverage that’s out there, and points to both Publishing News and The Bookseller for decent updates.) I know Bookslut is there covering the fair, but I can’t find any pieces by her yet.

Seems like the kind of thing GalleyCat used to cover until they co-opted Gawker’s tone, writers, and interest in book covers. (Still a very interesting blog—although I do take issue with the Unboring Book Blogs and the inclusion of the hardly bookish Fimoculous whose last post about books was from frickin’ April 7th! And here I thought I was being lazy!)

All this is to say that this situation kind of sucks. I know some of the LBF is insider baseball with the deals and digital announcements and whatnot, but there are events that would be interesting to the general public. In fact, come to think of it, I haven’t seen much about the Free the Word! festival either. I thought I could live vicariously and hear about the swanky parties I’m missing. The great book international books that are being shopped unsuccessfully or otherwise.

Hopefully I’m missing a treasure trove of LBF info . . . If so, please let me know where it is.

I hope I’m

....
Live Bait
Live Bait by Fabio Genovesi
Reviewed by Megan Berkobien

When my eyes first crossed the back cover of Fabio Genovesi’s novel Live Bait, I was caught by a blurb nestled between accolades, a few words from a reviewer for La Repubblica stating that the novel was, however magically, “[b]eyond. . .

Read More >

The Skin
The Skin by Curzio Malaparte
Reviewed by Peter Biello

“I preferred the war to the plague,” writes Curzio Malaparte in his 1949 novel, The Skin. He speaks of World War II and the destruction it has wrought on Italy, the city of Naples in particular. But the plague he. . .

Read More >

Love Sonnets & Elegies
Love Sonnets & Elegies by Louise Labé
Reviewed by Brandy Harrison

With the steady rise of feminist scholarship and criticism in recent decades, it is little wonder that the work of Louise Labé should be attracting, as Richard Sieburth tells us in the Afterword to his translation, a “wide and thriving”. . .

Read More >

Conversations
Conversations by César Aira
Reviewed by Tiffany Nichols

In Conversations, we find ourselves again in the protagonist’s conscious and subconscious, which is mostly likely that of Mr. César Aira and consistent with prototypical Aira style. This style never fails because each time Aira is able to develop a. . .

Read More >

Nothing Ever Happens
Nothing Ever Happens by José Ovejero
Reviewed by Juan Carlos Postigo

You are not ashamed of what you do, but of what they see you do. Without realizing it, life can be an accumulation of secrets that permeates every last minute of our routine . . .

The narrative history of. . .

Read More >

The Pendragon Legend
The Pendragon Legend by Antal Szerb
Reviewed by P. T. Smith

Literature in translation often comes with a certain pedigree. In this little corner of the world, with so few books making it into this comforting nook, it is often those of the highest quality that cross through, and attention is. . .

Read More >

Mr. Gwyn
Mr. Gwyn by Alessandro Baricco
Reviewed by Paul Doyle

Alessandro Baricco’s Mr. Gwyn is a set of two loosely interlinked novellas that play with narrative and the construction of character. Ably translated by Ann Goldstein, Mr. Gwyn plays some subtle metafictional games as Baricco delves into what it means. . .

Read More >