Russo tells Sharjah: 'global rise in English readers'

Russo tells Sharjah: 'global rise in English readers'

Simon & Schuster’s v.p. of international sales Seth Russo has told the Sharjah International Book Fair that he's been encouraged by a “rise in the pool of readers”.

Speaking at the Fair's professional programme on Monday (3rd November), as part of a review of global sales, Russo also noted a pleasing rise in online retailers springing up across Europe and a general hike in children’s books sales across the market.

“There is a global rise in English language teaching so we are seeing more readers coming into the pool who are capable of reading English and that is a very encouraging trend in our business,” Russo said. “The other is the rise in social media. We now talk about the number of Twitter followers and how many friends on Facebook an author has in meetings – these are important determinants of the future success of authors.”

In the same session which also explored translated books, Amir Muhammed, founder of the publisher Fixi in Malaysia, explained to the audience that he founded his company three years ago after noticing a gap in the market horror, thriller and punk titles.

He said: “Bestellers will sell around 15,000 copies in Malaysia and 90% of that is dominated by romance titles. I thought ‘if I were a teenager, I wouldn’t want to read that’.” He added: “Selling printed books made me want to branch out into translation. Translated books are almost non-existent in Malaysia because many people are bi-lingual in English, so they read it in the English language. But I found people were buying our translated books for the novelty factor. And who cares as long as they pay for it?”

Meanwhile Yasmina Yrissati, founder of the Raya literary agency in Lebanon, spoke about the difficulties in selling Arabic novels to foreign publishers and gave some advice to the audience. “They can’t be too local. But they also can’t be too universal,” she said. “So there is a small margin to work with there. The stories have to have a universality and a local cultural reference. What publishers are looking for are very strong narratives, but also an approach and structure that will be good for their readers. The book has a to hold the story convincingly.”

As part of the attending SIBF, publishers are offered a translation grant up to $4,000 for translating general titles and $150,000 for children’s books from the SIBF Translation Grant Fund, administered by the fair and the Sharjah Department of Culture & Information, with a total of $300,000 available.