“Bestseller authors should include energetic and powerful marketing plans”

Opines Fatimah Abbas, International Publishing & Literary Consultant and Literary Translator at FALA (Fatimah Abbas Literary Agency).

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Fatimah Abbas is an International Publishing & Literary Consultant and Literary Translator at FALA (Fatimah Abbas Literary Agency). Here, she shares her experience in the Arab publishing industry and beyond.

Journey so far…

“I started helping my dad in his publishing house since 2014.In three years, I became fully responsible for foreign rights management and international connections due to my fluency in English and French beside my mother tongue – Arabic –and the “people talent” I developed since childhood. After a long time of hesitance, I decided to have my own literary agency,” tells Fatimah.

The genesis of FALA…

“We help authors in all stages by managing their projects through the entire writing, production, and publishing process. We inform, advise, and educate the author on what can be done to have a bestseller or an award winner. And then the follow up comes when we look for the distribution channels, translation rights, contracts, next editions, etc.We also work along with publishing houses worldwide by helping them decide on books, give market forecast, and help in marketing and production.We also offer some translation and interpretation services to industry professionals,” she shares.

Languages & regions…

“We have worked on books in different languages like Arabic, English, French, Italian, Turkish, Serbian, Azerbaijani, Armenian, Indonesian, Malaysian, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Dutch, Slovenian, Russian, Hindi,” tells Fatimah. “It is completely different when you move from a country to another or from a region to another. Each country has its own trends, and its readers have their own habits, culture, and background.A successful agent should be aware of each market own statistics and mechanisms to be able to penetrate it seamlessly,” she adds.

“I have worked in different regions like MENA: Egypt, Lebanon, Iran, Morocco, UAE; Europe: Belgium, France, UK, Netherlands, Russia, Germany, Italy, Spain, Greece, Sweden, Serbia, North Macedonia, Slovenia, Malta; Asia: Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Nepal; Latin America: Mexico, Ecuador, Argentina, Peru, Brazil; besides USA, Canada and New Zealand,” tells Fatimah.

What makes a good writer?

“In my opinion, a good writer should have clarity and effective communication with readers. He/she should be able to reveal ideas seamlessly and meet deadlines. A good writer should also have persistence to deal with disappointments and rejection that might happen especially in the beginning of the journey,” she tells as a matter of fact.

What makes a bestseller?

“It differs from a genre to another, however, there are main aspects that should be found in all genres. The bestseller should know its audience and what they love to read, have a good backstory which creates authenticity, clarification of the how and why the book was written that readers are fascinated by, present a unique story or a creative refresh of an old one, having distinctive and clear voice that is not like any other writing, creative and impactful covers that should be the key to public success, and last but not least, bestseller authors should include energetic and powerful marketing plans using the most recent platforms,” she shares.
On digital publishing…

“It’s a double-edged weapon,where it provided publishing professionals with opportunities and barriers at the same time,” tells Fatimah.
According to her, the opportunities are as follows:
• Minor cost due to a shorter and meeker supply chain and the elimination of printing costs.
• Greater savings on costs related to the physical product (warehousing and physical distribution).
• The potential for greater profit.
• The elimination of risk related to the depreciation of printed books.
• The potential for greater flexibility and interactivity of content.
• The potential for new levels of creativity in the production of new and interesting products and features.
• Simplified searching, annotation and bookmarking for easy navigation.
• New marketing and distribution opportunities.
• Direct channels to target markets via social media platforms.
• The possibility of tracking, monitoring, and predicting online consumer habits and buying patterns
While, the barriers are as follows:
• Costly conversions to digital publishing strategies and operational models (new systems for e-book production, archiving and distribution).
• The necessity for extensive consultation and experimentation following the replacement of the printing process.
• Expenses tied to electronic archiving and the development of systems.
• Preservation concerns.
• The acquisition of new resources (including training staff in digital processes).
• The problematic alignment of digital and traditional intellectual property rights, and the accompanying digital rights management restrictions and expenses.
• The surplus of different e-book formats and reading devices, and confusion about which one to choose.
• The confusion around pricing models, as there is a lack of standards in pricing, and the complication of users expecting e-books to be cheap or even free.
• Readers’ aversion to move away from the printed book.
• Low internet access rates among the majority of the population in some countries.
• Slow and expensive broadband internet in some points.

On translating The Most Famous Myths of the Pharoahs…

“The Most Famous Myths of the Pharaohs was the book that I enjoyed the most while translating because it allowed me to have deep research in so many aspects and beliefs. I studied the Torah, the Bible, and the Quran along with different past civilizations to be able to deliver a proper and precise transmission of the information. This indeed added a lot to my personal experience,” tells Fatimah.

Challenges for Arab publishers….

“The publishing industry in the Arab world is faced with a number of challenges. The lack of a publishing infrastructure and of experts in the field able to produce and market books has restrained the establishment of an effective book industry. The illiteracy rate among the 436.08 million (approximately) inhabitants of the Arab world is still high, although it is decreasing in some countries. Chronic currency difficulties in some Arab countries make intraregional book trade difficult, especially for books for general reading. These obstructions also make it difficult for some countries to import machines and materials needed for book production. Foremost among these materials are paper of good quality,” she tells.

Talking about the raw material costs, she adds, “In almost all Arab countries, printing paper, newsprint and magazine paper are subject to custom duties and other auxiliary. Some Arab countries like Egypt, Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia that produce printing and writing paper domestically obstruct its importation by prohibitive customs duties or by administrative regulations designed to protect the indigenous industries. This state of affairs is an obstacle to book publishing in these countries, since prices of domestic paper are higher than international prices but the quality is inferior. The same restrictions also apply to other materials required for book production, such as ink and binding materials.”
“Author’s copyright is a fragile right which needs special protection. However, most Arab countries lack copyright legislation at a national as well as regional level; and they have abstained from acceding to international copyright conventions. Besides, piracy is also a growing challenge,” she adds.

Effect of pandemic…

“Because of the pandemic circumstances and the frequent lockdowns and borders closing in different countries around the world, not to mention the cancelations we witnessed for the most important book fairs, agents’ ability to travel and attend international programs was limited therefore, taking on new authors was risky unless you can guarantee the success of the deal you are making otherwise, maintaining the current author-agent relationship was more important,” tells Fatimah.

What next?

“I am in preparation of a very important book (based on true story) that will be translated into many languages and broadcasted in different cultural hubs around the world,” concludes Fatimah.

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