The Middle East and North Africa region enjoys a distinctive literary exquisiteness, reflective of its rich cultural heritage and the unique, aesthetic qualities of the Arabic language. Considering the eloquence and imagination of Arab writers, a renaissance of Arabic literary works on the global publishing scene is long due.
Some elements worth considering in this renaissance ambition obviously involves nurturing budding authors and supporting literary talents with excellent writing skills that can enthral sizeable readerships. For all the clamour for book marketing, it is pivotal to first invest in honing writing skills among authors to reach a compelling, creative stance. Thus, combining this art and science of writing can elevate the voices of authors and create sustained interest in their works.
From a blossoming age, educators can introduce immersive literature classes in schools and post-school creative writing clubs to cultivate an appreciation and flair for literary works among students. More formally, creative writing degrees should also be available in universities to equip students with practical writing skills and advice on navigating the complex publishing world. Another route would be to engage writing institutes and cultural centers to offer short creative writing courses locally, online, or in inspiring literary cities.
Possessing a unique, unforgettable literary voice is essential for a book to be celebrated by avid readers. Publishers and authors should expand their imaginations to cover important, universal, and relevant themes that would appeal to the masses, while also differentiating content with local, authentic flair.
Within such systems, there needs to be a formal channel that can help discover untapped creative works; either through manuscript critiques, literary prizes, author grants, agent scouting, and open-submissions by authors.
With the strong demand for digital publishing gaining traction across the globe, it is important for publishers to strive to build up an excellent library of Arabic audiobooks that could enthral literary lovers. Creating audiobook formats of chart-topping and timeless Arabic book titles would easily and swiftly boost access to Arabic content.
Narrator’s charismatic performance
Essentially, what makes an audiobook exceptionally riveting is the narrator’s charismatic performance. Thanks to high-profile casting of excellent narrators and flawless soundscape productions, listening to an audiobook can be sheer pleasure. By translating and narrating global best-sellers into the Arabic language, publishers can further take a transformative step towards boosting Arabic content digitally.
Established audiobook platforms should compete for subscriber bases with a suite of attractive elements, such as collection size, pricing, and subscription services to access a set number or unlimited number of audiobooks.
Equally important is focusing on translating literary gems from the Arab world to cater to a global audience. International book fairs provide a fantastic backdrop to advance translation projects with global publishing houses, including the negotiation of film rights based on literary works.
Publishers can also partner with public libraries, bookshops, and digital marketplaces to market Arabic books in appealing, thematic ways. Expanding and improving book distribution channels across the region and globally will be critical in ensuring excellent works reach the masses in affordable formats.
This can be achieved via targeting high-traffic literary hotspots, such as school libraries, public libraries, restaurants and cafés, hotel lobbies, and workplaces.
Multitude of relevant books
Capitalising on international and national literary events could also be a fantastic channel for promoting Arabic books.
Occasions such as World Book Day, book fairs, literary festivals, national celebrations, trending topics, seasonal themes, or celebrating the birthday of a famous author all provide a wonderful platform for showcasing a multitude of relevant books.
Additionally, hosting interesting Arab author talks and interviews via social media, book festivals, and literary salons would ensure their voices reach far and wide. Working with established online content creators to blog about Arabic books is also a great way of engaging global readers with this region’s wonderful literary scene.
Furthermore, it is vital for Arabic literature to have a solid presence on digital marketplaces, especially online booksellers, where they can curate wonderful collections. Many renowned bookshops — such as Hatchard’s, Barnes and Noble, and Waterstones — use social media channels to post charming photos set in their bookshops, window displays adorned with exciting new books, author visits and book signing events, and short captions that are enough to lure readers into bringing home collections of thought-provoking books.
Hatchard’s for instance, offers an exclusive book subscription service, in which hand-picked books are delivered to subscribers based on different interests or themes.
Such platforms also employ creative marketing strategies to engage audiences, such as reading book excerpts, listening to audiobook samples, posting reviews, and building personalised libraries of favourite titles.
Managing a dedicated blog with interesting interviews, thematic book collections, and features is also another way to inform audiences about the latest news in Arabic publishing. Publishing reviews on Arabic books on online book clubs, such as Goodreads, can inform curious readers about best-selling and interesting books, whilst reading book reviews by other fellow bibliophiles.
By progressing the publishing industry’s practices, we can share many of the region’s treasure trove of literary works with an appreciative and keen global audience.
Sara Al-Mulla is an Emirati civil servant with an interest in human development policy and literature