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London Book Fair 2017

Unearth Your Inner Editor at London Book Fair 2017

March 27th, 2017 by Amalie Andersen | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Unearth Your Inner Editor at London Book Fair 2017
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Having been up since 3 in the morning and realising upon arrival in Glasgow Airport at 5 am that our flight wasn’t as early as we had thought, I was exhausted when I eventually landed in London and went straight to the Book Fair. With its glass roof and the energy from the thousands of people gathered there, Hammersmith Olympia was an overwhelming greenhouse full of tiny networking and rights selling ants.  However, after a well-deserved coffee break and a Dairy Milk bar sponsored by Harper Collins, it was with renewed energy that I attended my first seminar of the Fair; Unearth Your Inner Editor by Cornerstones founder Helen Corner-Bryant.

Cornerstones is a literary consultancy which offers editorial services to authors hoping to get published. Authors send them their manuscript and Cornerstones edits and improves these manuscripts to the point where they will (hopefully) get picked up by a publisher or a literary agent. On a very practical level this means looking at:

  • The structure and plot of a story – if this doesn’t work, Cornerstones and the author will go back to the drawing board together.
  • Characters and their development – are all characters unique and relevant or could some be cut or merged?
  • Dialogue vs description – dialogue brings the story to life in a way that description doesn’t. Helen Corner-Bryant was adamant that a good story puts the reader in the centre of events by using dialogue and an active voice rather than describing previous conversations and events.
  • The three (or five) act graph – how are suspense and obstacles distributed throughout the story?
  • Finally, and perhaps most important, is a story’s pace. To keep the reader reading, superfluous words, chapters or characters must be cut to make every word count. Secrets must be revealed slowly and not all at once to create and keep tension.

These all make up an editor’s tool kit.

Helen Corner-Bryant emphasised that, as editors, we should be directional but honour the author’s vision. If an author insists on keeping a character that you don’t see the point of, you must, in cooperation with the author, make this character work.  She also made the point that if she skims over a paragraph she knows that something isn’t working. However, this can be difficult to communicate to the author as “I just got bored” isn’t very constructive. An editor must therefore rely on their instinct but always back up their argument with their editing tool kit. So, instead of communicating to the author that their paragraph just couldn’t keep your attention, back this up by saying that the pace was too slow or that there was too much passive description rather than active dialogue. This is constructive criticism and suggests ways to improve the paragraph.

Finally, Helen Corner-Bryant reminded us that if you read back over a draft and nothing is missing, you’ve made a good cut in the first draft. Every word should count.

by Amalie Andersen

‘India at 70’ at the London Book Fair, 2017

March 22nd, 2017 by Kanika Praharaj | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on ‘India at 70’ at the London Book Fair, 2017
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14th March, 2017: It’s my birthday and I’m at the London Book Fair. I am also nursing a horrible headache. I make my way to the English PEN Literary Salon for what is the first seminar I will be attending at the LBF. Friends and classmates OtienoKatharina, and Lenka come along with me. I sit up front and psych myself up for what I think will be a drab discussion. Boy, am I wrong.

Chaired by Jonathan Morley, the ‘India at 70’ seminar had doctoral researcher Somrita Ganguly, writer and activist Bidisha Mamata, poet Mohan Rana, and translator and editor Arunava Sinha as speakers. The aim of the talk was to discuss the multilingualism that characterises India and the role of literary translation in the Indian publishing sector.

Mohan Rana started off the seminar by talking about growing up in one language and living in another. While he writes in Hindi, he believes that the translation of his poems opened up new worlds for his words. His poems have now been translated into Spanish, Italian, Norwegian, German, Dutch, Marathi and Nepali. He lives in the UK now, and is comfortable with “being a Hindi poet in a space that is totally occupied by English.” He then read out a section of his poem ‘This place is enough’, which is now available as a part of a collection in a bilingual chapbook.

Bidisha took the floor next as she stressed the need to “honour the variety of the world” and a contemporary Indian writing which panders to no stereotypes. She talked of the recent drive amongst Indian writers to write in Indian languages instead of privileging only English. She then cited the examples of writers such as Rushdie and Naipaul who write in English not because they’re trying to increase their readership but because their privileged upper-class educations have made English a language of their own. She also talked of the Indian writers of yore who are now being reclaimed and put back into the Indian literary canon. However, she warned against creating a new hierarchy that replaces English with a chosen few of India’s many languages. According to her, the question that needs to be answered here is “what do we want to say and how do we want to say it?”

Arunava Sinha then provided a history of the sub-continent and its languages, essential for those in attendance who weren’t that well-versed in the same. He pointed out the fact that India is extremely diverse when it comes to its languages and people and that it would make more sense to say the “literatures of India” instead of Indian literature. India makes for a large market for English language content, which brought in major international publishers into the picture. These publishers began by translating Indian writing into English, which isn’t happening that often now. According to him, publishing works with a more utilitarian perspective now, changing books into what he calls “book-like objects”. He believes that smaller publishers (such as Seagull Publishers, whom he works with), however, can afford to be more “whimsical” in what they publish. He finished by saying that English is a very convenient “bridge language”, which makes it the language that is generally chosen when it comes to translation.

Next, Somrita Ganguly picked up where he left off as she talked about the politics of the mother-tongue. English, she claimed, is her first language. While it is important to promote Indian languages in the country, it isn’t an act of betrayal if one chooses to speak in English. We need to be wary of the politics of assigning a mother-tongue to a child who grows up in a region where another language is the lingua franca, as many do in India. She pointed out that English is considered by many to be a “caste-less” language, which meant that marginalised sections of the Indian populace decided to opt for it instead of Sanskrit which they were not allowed to speak. English is no longer considered to be a foreign language in India, with plenty of upwardly mobile people using it in their day-to-day lives.

The session was brought to a close with Mohan Rana reading out another poem of his, ‘The Photograph’.

What all the speakers agreed on was the fact that a single, cohesive India doesn’t exist. Neither should it. The complexities and contradictions that make up the country make it a fertile ground for all sorts of writing and publishing to thrive. While we may not agree with all that the speakers have said, it is important to keep the discussion going. There is plenty of potential in the creative industry in India to fuel decades of successful publishing, if we choose to work towards fulfilling this potential.

Kanika Praharaj

Chinese Publishing Companies on 2017 London Book Fair

March 22nd, 2017 by Yun HAO | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Chinese Publishing Companies on 2017 London Book Fair
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London Book Fair (LBF) is a large international book fair that pools worldwide ambitious publishing companies and institutions. However, it is also a West-dominated activity, and this can be vividly illustrated by looking at the proportion of the exhibitors’ countries. The top ten countries exhibiting on the LBF are Britain (586 stands), the US (245), France (76), India (69), Germany (64), Poland (56, which is Market Focus country of 2017 LBF), Italy (35), Canada (30), Romania (29), and Russia (28). The only Asian country, India, is also an English-speaking country by and large. According to the data, we can see that companies from Asian countries took up only a very small proportion on the LBF. To find out characteristic of the publishing companies from periphery countries on the LBF, I conducted an investigation of Chinese companies.

Firstly, Chinese government plays an important role in Chinese publishing industry’s involvement in the LBF. 18 Chinese companies and institutions appeared on the 2017 LBF. Among them are twelve publisher institutions, four printing companies, one international rights agency and one book fair host. Ten publishers in the twelve are large state-owned publishing groups, which indicates a strong government background and presence. For example, Confucius Institute Headquarters is affiliated to Ministry of Education. China Universal Press is the organizer except for a publisher. One of its duties is organizing state-owned publishing companies to attend all kinds of book fairs in various countries. On the LBF those big state-owned publishing groups were placed in large, eye-catching stands in the center of various halls according to their categories. Only two of the twelve, China Reading and SendPoint, are civilian-run independent publishers. China Reading is the largest platform of digital reading and writing, as well as a publisher of successful self-publishing works. SendPoint is an art publisher. Most of their books are in English and are faced to English-speaking countries. The two civilian-run publishers could occupy only very small stands in periphery positions as many other small independent publishers.

Secondly, Chinese culture display and ideology propaganda are the main purpose of Chinese publishers on the LBF. Most books on display are about Chinese language learning, typical Chinese culture, and propaganda of Chinese politics. A staff of Confucius Institute Headquarters said that the revenue of the books in display certainly cannot cover their costs since the main purpose of the books, to put it simply, is culture importing. One phenomenon resulted from the motivation is that the staffs in the stands were young people who had little experience in the industry and not in charge in most times. The junior staff don’t have the power to decide anything. The only job for them is introducing the company and culture if any foreigners are interested in it. For instance, the young staff in China Education Publishing and Media Holdings were very nervous and did not know what to do when a Slovenia publisher came to ask possible cooperation in China. She also felt lost when an author came to promote her book. China Universal Press and Publications even recruited volunteers to look after their stand. I found nearly half of staffs of Chinese publishers could not clearly tell their purpose other than culture communication on the LBF in my interviews.

To conclude, Chinese publishing companies had a strong presence but weak involvement on the LBF. This is not very strange considering the strong government background of the Chines publishers. Language is another main barrier for Chinese publishing companies. Many of them looked nervous when talking in English. These characteristics were not confined to Chinese publishing companies. Strong government presence, culture display rather than book trade as the main purpose and language barriers can also be seen in other periphery countries such as countries in the Middle East. This proved my hypothesis that the London Book Fair is mainly an international book trade platform for Western countries, especially English-speaking countries. The periphery countries still have a long way to learn how to take full advantage of the platform.

by Yun Hao

 

London Book Fair 2017 — Self-publishing Discussions

March 21st, 2017 by yao_huang | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on London Book Fair 2017 — Self-publishing Discussions
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I was honoured to participate in the London Book Fair 2017. Publishers from many countries grabbed this opportunity to show their shining projects and conduct rights trade to each other.

On 15th March, there were two discussions about self-publishing. The first one, two speakers talked about the current situation of self-publishing and some problems people who want to involve with had to be aware of. The following discussion invited three bestselling authors to share their interesting experiences of self-publishing and what they did for the success. They are Rachel Abbott, L J Ross, Mark Dawson and Keith Houghton. All of them agreed that they wrote for themselves at first, not for meeting readers’ expectations. Rachel mentioned that editing for professional editors was really important because she edited her manuscript 30 times altogether without editors, the number surprised me. And she emailed her first hundred readers, each of them. I suppose that this behaviour can make readers know their reviews and opinions are valuable, are considered by the author. Also, it is a good way for the author to close the distance between readers and herself. L J Ross pointed out that binding was crucial because people judged by the cover. Although Keith published books via traditional publishers, he still enjoyed self-publishing. He could completely control the process, especially how and when to promote, and he was satisfied with the final version. Finally, authors were expected to give some advice for other authors, Mark only said one word: “Professional”.

Self-publishing has been a popular choice that could not be ignored and more and more writers would like to do. Challenges and opportunities exist at the same time. Traditional publishers think they are so professional that can make the package right, know the distribution and market but most authors do not. So if an author wants to self-publish, you have to know the industry as much as you can, do lots of research.

I appreciate Mark’s advice, everything should be professional although it would take a lot of time and energy. The more carefully you treat, the more returns you obtain. For a self-published book, the competitors are not only books published by traditional publishers but also by thousands of independent authors. So be professional, let yourself be a strong “publisher”.

by Yao Huang