With the participation of over 140 publishers and professionals within the industry, the Professional Training Programme for Arab and African Publishers kicked off today, Saturday 28th October.
This initiative, organised by the Sharjah Book Authority (SBA) in collaboration with New York University, serves as part of the lead-up to the 42nd edition of the Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF), taking place from 1-12 November.
The primary objective of the programme is to enhance the skills and expertise of Arab and African publishers by imparting global best practices in the publishing industry, as well as modern technologies for book marketing. This includes strategies for engaging with readers, increasing sales and revenue, and underlining the importance of data as a cornerstone for making strategic decisions in the publishing sector. Additionally, the programme addresses plans and communication policies for international distribution, giving valuable insight within the global market.
In his opening speech, Mansour AlHassani, Director of Publishers Services at SBA, stated, “The Professional Training Programme underscores SBA’s commitment to supporting publishers and aiding their access to emerging and competitive publishing markets. The advancement of the book industry in the Arab region, as well as worldwide, is a central objective of the Authority. That is why we consistently introduce initiatives and organise events such as these, to bolster the presence of publishers, while supporting their efforts.”
He added, “Through this programme, we review the latest trends in the book production sector, the key technologies, and the essential skills required for developing the sector in the Arab and African regions. This will greatly contribute to achieving the comprehensive and sustainable development goals.”
Andrea Chambers, Associate Dean at the School of Professional Studies at New York University, said, “Our partnership with SBA serves as an opportunity to convene publishers from around the world in Sharjah. It enables us to give them invaluable insights into the best practices in the publishing industry, which help the participants, expand the scope of their businesses, and bolster their presence in global markets. This opportunity enables publishers to leverage the expertise of renowned publishing experts who nurture their skills, boost their capabilities, and provide them with strategies that could increase their sales and reach a broader base of readers.”
In the programme’s first session under the title “The Power of Podcasts and Storytelling for Publishing Profit” author, journalist and podcaster, Brendan Francis Newnam, who is Vice President of Special Projects at Pushkin Industries, discussed the incredible growth within the podcast industry, stressing that 120 million people listen to at least one podcast each month.
“In the MENA region, podcasts are gaining a growing audience, and these are not once-off listeners, these are over 10 million dedicated listeners who tune in for extended periods, averaging five to seven hours of podcast consumption each week,” Newman added.
Regarding the financial aspect, Newnam pointed out that the global audiobook market is expected to exceed US$35 million by 2023, with audiobooks projected to contribute over 21.3 percent of global book publishing revenue. The MENA region is poised to be a driving force in this growth, with a forecasted growth rate of 31.9 percent between 2022 and 2030.
In the second session, titled “Data-Driven Success Strategy for Publishers,” David Walter, Executive Director at Circana Books, emphasised the importance of data as a common factor in various fields, including applied sciences such as mathematics, biology, physics, and chemistry, as well as human sciences like literature, music and philosophy. He noted that data provides publishers with precise insights into readers’ interests and preferences, enabling them to meet specific community needs and identify reader preferences, thus offering a key to success in the publishing industry.
“Data offers publishers precise insights into the readers’ interests and preferences. When data indicates that the number of elderly people increased in a specific community, for example, it encourages publishers to boost publications that meet the needs of this age group. Besides, data contributes to identifying what readers are looking for and the type of content they prefer, offering a key to success in the publishing industry,” said the Executive Director.
Walter pointed out that data is a powerful tool for improving book performance and increasing revenues. By analysing geographic data, retail data, and marketing metrics, publishers can take strategic actions to boost their sales. Those actions include inventory management, designing region-specific marketing campaigns, and employing social media campaigns that encourage audience engagement with books through social platforms.
During a Q&A following the two sessions, speakers addressed a variety of topics, including book marketing strategies, technology utilisation in publishing, audience engagement, and building close relationships with authors. These insights contributed to a deeper understanding of the factors leading to success in the publishing sector, emphasising the need for a comprehensive understanding of the ever-changing dynamics of the industry and a constant adaptation to its innovations.
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