Anvil Publishing: encouraging reading in Philippines

What are the key trends in the Philippines book publishing market? Which genres sell more? What are the challenges in the industry? These are just few of the questions answered by Andrea Pasion-Flores, general manager of Anvil Publishing, Inc.

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Andrea Pasion-Flores, GM, Anvil Publishing, Inc.
Andrea Pasion-Flores, GM, Anvil Publishing, Inc.

The Philippines is a commercial and educational market. Our nonfiction sells, such as our cookery and self-help/inspirational titles do well. We just started a partnership with Wattpad to come out with an imprint called Bliss. Bliss will be publishing the print versions of titles that are popular in the Philippine market on the platform. We have a lot of the genre YA books in the local language, which has really hit a spot these past few years. We know these titles would do well. I know the kids are into this, and are definitely reading. I am hoping this helps develop a reading habit that stays with them for a lifetime, as Anvil has a book for every stage of a person’s life,” says Andrea Pasion-Flores, general manager of Anvil Publishing, Inc.

Genres and more…

To date, Anvil is the leading trade book publisher in the Philippines. Founded and operationalized in 1990, it publishes and occasionally imports a wide range of books like trade books (cookbooks, dictionaries, self-help, reportage, culture and the arts, fashion, history and politics, popular songbooks, psychology, fiction, poetry, biographies/autobiographies, new age, travel, comics books, health and parenting, inspirational and religious, and others); children’s books (generic coloring books, activity books, storybooks, etc.); and textbooks and reference books (nursery, elementary, and secondary, college and university textbooks).

“We started with nonfiction books like regional maps, collection of essays, etc. Later, we started fiction but at its core, Anvil is a nonfiction publisher. In fiction, the middle grade and YA novels present the most significant growth, that’s due to the population profile of the country, who are in this age range. Our list of children’s titles need a boost, so I am looking for collaborations and exchange in this segment,” shares Andrea. Andrea was earlier the executive director of the National Book Development Board of the Philippines, and once a literary agent.

“Romance and crimes does well in the local language. A book for a renowned author sells around 10,000 copies. While, a celebrity cook book can sell up to 30,000-40,000 copies,” adds Andrea.

Another segment which Anvil is catering to is the textbook market. “We have a small list of textbooks, too. We are addressing the local curriculum, which has been changed a few years back. So we’re re-examining our textbooks list to address the various changes in the educational system,” she shares.

Distribution network…

“Anvil’s mother company, National Book Store, is the largest bookstore chain in the country with over 230 outlets. Aside from that, we are also found in some of the other bookstores as well as online platforms, such as Amazon, Shopee, Lazada, and of course our website (www.anvilpublishing.com). We also have sales team servicing schools and libraries,” shares Andrea.
“National Book store is 76 years old and Anvil is coming up to its 30th anniversary in 2020. So both companies combined offer authors a lot of muscle to reach their audience,” she adds.

On ebooks…

Talking about the ebook market, Andrea shares, “It’s a young market, the readers are in the age group of 15-34 years. Our eBook sales are growing, which I suspect is the case for many other publishers in the Philippines, who are addressing a young market. We are always looking for books targeted towards this segment of readers.”

Young adult imprint…

As mentioned, Anvil Publishing has partnered with Wattpad to announce a new young adult imprint, Bliss Books. Wattpad is the global multiplatform entertainment company for original stories. Targeting Filipino YA and romance fanatics who have found a home reading and writing on Wattpad, Bliss Books will publish hit titles from the platform. Bliss Books will bring some of Wattpad’s biggest stories and authors to bookshelves across the country. “Over the years, Anvil has published a wide range of titles in diverse genres and categories in several imprints,” Andrea says. “We think this exciting, new partnership with Wattpad will allow us to serve a large segment of the reading population and discover new voices for a new generation of readers.”

The Philippines is one of Wattpad’s largest markets, and home to some of its most passionate users and successful writers. Millions of Filipino Wattpad users have shared more than 13 million story uploads on the platform. To date, hundreds of Wattpad stories have been turned into books, TV shows, and films in the Philippines. One of Wattpad’s biggest successes in the Philippines was the hit TV5 series, Wattpad Presents. The series ran from 2014-2017, airing 250 episodes representing 76 Wattpad stories, reaching millions of viewers across the Philippines.
The 2019 Bliss Books list will be released in spring 2019. Titles from Bliss Books are expected to hit stores midyear.

On partnering…

“We are always open to partnerships, as a matter of fact, we have quite a few, including providers and publishers,” tells Andrea. “We are looking at partners who can offer an exchange, that they both buy and sell rights so we can both try each others’ content in each of our markets. We have a wide range of books as we have about 100-150 new titles every year. But, we pick up titles strategically.”

Anvil publishes in English and Filipino. “At London Book Fair 2019, I met a lot of interesting publishers, including those from China and UK. I also bought some books from an Indian publisher and we were just confirming the shipment in translation. We translated it into Tagalog and had them produced in India,” she adds.

“We are also in the process of expanding our distribution base. In the Philippines, the digital shopping platforms are very popular, for example, Shopee and Lazada, to name a few. So we ensure we are present on these platforms, too,” she adds.

On book fairs in Philippines….

“Manila has a book fair where the reading base is strong – Manila International Book Fair – which is privately run and is a huge retail event. It’s not a rights fair but a trade fair, which means a retail event. There are also cities in the north and south which good markets as well,” tells Andrea, “we are actively trying to reach out to these markets to not be so Manila-centric.”

Challenges faced…

“If it is print book, there is always limited distribution, because you are basing it on the number of bookshops. A bookshop now not only sells books, but also stationery, toys, etc. Books have to compete in that environment. There are so many books and not enough shelves for all of them. So, for the stores, the are faced with the dilemma to fill their shelves with those titles that would do well. And, because of the sheer number of titles available, there is always a problem of discoverability, and not just for print – audio, ebooks, print. The reader is really spoiled for choice, which make sour job a little bit harder,” she shares.

Other challenges she mentions are the need for more professionals. “We need to invest in a lot of people in every stage of the book-making process, from editorial to marketing to sales and distribution. We have dedicated people for social media, but we need to do more both in the digital space as well as in the shops, but they’re not mutually exclusive. People want to be engaged and speak to the author or tweet the author. An engaged author would usually enjoy more sales. We know now that the consumer is empowered. They have a voice and they will use it. We have to get through to that consumer amidst the many things the consumer is inundated with. To get through the noise, we have to make noise ourselves — to rise above other things which compete for the consumer’s time to read like Netflix., social media, etc I know people always binge watch. So, I hope they Binge read, too, which would mean that some of our titles that come in a series would do well. But, imagine the amount of work we need to do now to get across to people that reading is a worthwhile endeavor, instead of going online or being on Netflix!” adds Andrea as a matter of fact.

Trends in the publishing industry…

On asking about the trends in formats, Andrea replies, “People are willing to try all sorts of things or formats to enjoy their content. They like to listen as well as read, though listening is still a novel idea in the Philippines. I think the YA commercial titles pick up in print because they are produced more beautifully nowadays as publishers are more aware that they have to produce beautiful objects. I mean, really, it’s a readers market: there are better printed books, better covers, more formats, etc. The reader never really had it this good.”

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