Armenian book publishing: small but rapidly developing
Arevik Ashkharoyan, literary agent, ARI Literary Agency, shares the status and trends in the Armenian book publishing industry.
The Armenian book market is a small but rapidly developing industry in Armenia. Around 15-20 active publishers cover the 60 percent of the market, with the rest being imported books in foreign languages. “These are mostly general publishers and around 5 of them are considered big, with around 50-100 books per years. The majority of the Armenian language books are translations and only around 20 percent are written by local writers. Fiction makes the 60 percent of the market, non-fiction 20 percent and children’s books 20 percent. The translations are done mostly from big European languages, such as English, French, German, Spanish and Italian, but for the recent years it has become more inclusive in terms of languages as well,” shares Arevik Ashkharoyan, literary agent, ARI Literary Agency.
Trends in Armenian book publishing…
“Since the pandemic, the growth is visible in number of titles published, while the copy-runs have been cut in average from 1000 to 500 first print runs. A growth prospect is obvious in the non-fiction book market for the past 3-4 years and it is still actively growing. E-books or audio books are not yet popular in the market, but there are several attempts to introduce new applications of digital content,” she shares.
The Covid challenge…
“The market suffered huge losses due to the Covid19 and lockdown. The recovery was very challenging and resulted in the cut of bookstore branches and employees of publishing industry, but the situation hasn’t destroyed the market generally, which can be considered a very positive development,” she adds.
“Unfortunately there are no strengths that could lead Armenian literature into a competitive position in the global market. There are only some individual attempts by literary agents, as myself, and some publishers who try to sell translation rights or provide some visibility to the Armenian literature in the global market. Some of the reasons are the lack of governmental strategy in the promotion of literature and limited funds for translations. But, the Armenian contemporary literature can be very competitive especially in the current growing interest towards literature from less represented languages and also ex-soviet countries with complicated history,” shares Arevik.
“As we can see the wars and conflicts can bring a lot of attention to the market, which happened with Ukraine recently. And this is a very sad reality, when it should take a war and hundreds of thousands of lives to finally attract attention to the countries like us,” she shares.
“Another main challenge that has been an obstacle on the way of the growth of the industry is the limited readership. So, the publishers are working towards reading promotion programs, cooperation with libraries and schools, which hopefully will result in the growth of readership in the upcoming 5 years, thus affecting the market,” she adds.
“Another challenge is the tax system of the country and the VAT exception issue, which hasn’t yet been solved. Publishers are constantly negotiating with the government to make the exception for the books and printing materials,” she adds as a matter of fact.
“For many years, since the Independence, a big segment of publishing was state sponsored, which was creating a very negative competitiveness in the market. For the past few years, the state sponsorship was transferred into other fields, such as promotion of some genre literature and support to writers. The industry generally expects the government to support the libraries in modernization and acquisition of books, which is not only very important in the promotion of reading, but will mechanically support the publishers, as the libraries will have funds to buy new publications all throughout the year,” she opines.
On book fairs and festivals…
“Yerevan Book Fest is the main book event throughout the year. It has been implemented for 5 years now and is aiming at becoming an international book festival. Around 30 publishers, big and small, as well as non-profits are taking part. There are a number of book launches and panel discussions, as well as sales on books, which makes people expect the event and go for a good book shopping,” tells Arevik.
“Another book event worth mentioning is the Book Giving Day, which is celebrated on the birthday of the outstanding Armenian classical children’s writer and poet Hovhannes Tumanyan. On this day, the tradition of giving a book is common at all schools and has even extended to families, workplaces and even employees of the institutions, who donate books,” she adds.
How can Armenia and India collaborate?
“Of course, we firstly expect to sell rights to Indian publishers and see our books translated into some of the many Indian languages. And secondly, we would love to see many Indian writers translated into Armenian. And of course we would like to see an active dialogue between not only publishers from India and Armenia, but also writers and other actors of the field. We need to develop translators to be able to do this in the first place,” shares Arevik.
On ARI Literary Agency…
ARI Literary Agency represents around 20 fiction and non-fiction writers. Most of them are literary writers of Generation Independence. “By now, we have been able to sell rights of around 5 titles to around 10 languages. I have also established ARI Literature Foundation, a non -profit organization which is implementing projects to support the development of the book market, trains young writers and creates platforms for international dialogue. We are implementing Write in Armenia International Writing Camp and Zabel International Women Writers’ Forum and we are constantly looking forward to finding new partners from around the world to extend the geography of these international projects. Unfortunately, we are always lacking support to participate at many international book fairs and festival and to be able to make new connections and partnerships, but we are always at London, Frankfurt and Sharjah Publishers Conference. We do hope to be able to host international publishers in Armenia as well soon,” concludes Arevik.
Arevik Ashkharoyan is a literary agent with 10-year experience in publishing. Previously, she worked for international and local non-profit and non-trade organizations as administrative manager. In 2016 she established ARI Literary and Talent Agency, representing a dozen of writers of Armenian origin from all over the world. In 2017 she also founded ARI Literature Foundation, a non-profit organization implementing projects aimed at development of local book market, promotion of reading and writing in Armenia and enhancing international dialogue.