SIBF 2022: Active reader participation core to making books popular
Translations break cross-cultural barriers and being able to transmit universal stories help take big leap, say panelists at cultural session
Sharjah, November 06, 2022
Popular writings are beneficiaries of good readership, marketing and promotion, as well as willingness to adapt to different markets, said a distinguished panel of authors and literary professionals during a cultural session at the 41st Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF) at Expo Centre Sharjah.
At the session titled ‘Attributes of Literature with Mass Popularity’ at SIBF 2022, moderated by Layla Mohamed, panelists acknowledged multiple factors including the power of social media in creating popular literature.
Canadian author and editor Nita Prose said that writers are often the last people who think of their writings becoming popular. “To be a good writer, one needs to focus on creating good content. If you keep “popularity” in mind, it will affect fidelity, authenticity and quality of writings,” said the author of The Maid, a # 1 New York Times bestseller.
Yemeni writer, journalist, researcher and publisher Dr. Saleh Al Baidani highlighted the need for more writer platforms to keep readers engaged.
“Unlike the US or Canadian markets, the Arab publishing world does not have fixed platforms where readers can find new writers or literary works. Most often, awards and word-of-mouth act as the only promoting tools. Also, critics can still make or break a book by publicising their viewpoints in traditional media. Thankfully, social media is now liberating the readers to provide direct feedback and writers are no longer hostage to critics like before,” he said.
Readers are important while writing and it is vital to keep them entertained, said Omani author and novelist Mahmoud Al Rahbi. “Real readers do go beyond awards to find out what is really fascinating to their minds. Substance is of essence as is the style when it comes to a literary work being popular. Awards may bring in additional attention, but today’s readers are intelligent to see past that frame,” he said.
Easy access is often a vital factor in helping a book become more appealing to masses, said Boumediene Belkabir, Algerian professor and researcher.
He added: “Translations and their availability in different reader demographics often become the most contributing factor in making a book popular. Publishing houses have a huge role to play. In the Arab markets, promotional marketing is still in its infancy and there are a lot more interactive activities we can do to engage readers and writers. This also means not leaving behind traditional media users while focusing on the younger readers who use social media.”
SIBF 2022 runs at Expo Centre Sharjah until November 13. Under the theme ‘Spread the Word,’ the event aims to highlight the emirate’s cultural project and raise the community’s awareness about the power of the written word and its importance in constructing a bright, sustainable future. The event’s slogan calls on people of the world to believe in the power of words in building bridges of cultural communication based on noble values.