Off to the Lon­don Book Fair

Four in­die pub­lish­ers will be fly­ing the Jalur Gemi­lang at the pres­ti­gious event next month.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - READS - By MALINI DIAS star2@ thes­tar. com. my

THE Lon­don Book Fair ( LBF) will cel­e­brate its 45th an­niver­sary next month – and Malaysia will be join­ing the party for the first time in its his­tory.

While the likes of In­done­sia, Sin­ga­pore and Thai­land have had booths at the pres­ti­gious event for some years, Malaysia has never been rep­re­sented. It fi­nally took four in­de­pen­dent pub­lish­ers com­ing to­gether to es­tab­lish a lo­cal pres­ence at the April 12 to 14 event in Lon­don.

And while the booths of most coun­tries there prob­a­bly have some form of govern­ment or cor­po­rate as­sis­tance, the Malaysian booth is en­tirely self- funded: Buku Fixi, Du­book Press, the Yu­sof Ga­jah Lin­gard Lit­er­ary Agency and Clar­ity Pub­lish­ing are do­ing this with­out any help from the pub­lic or pri­vate sec­tor.

In re­sponse to ques­tions over e- mail, Buku Fixi’s pub­lisher Amir Muham­mad ex­plains how this ven­ture came about.

Amir and Fixi are no strangers to the LBF, of course, hav­ing at­tended in 2014 when they won The Book­seller In­ter­na­tional Adult Trade Pub­lisher Award ( edg­ing out fel­low Malaysian nom­i­nee, Sil­ver­fish Books).

He had ini­tially asked the or­gan­iser about set­ting up a coun­try stand when he was at the LBF in 2015 as a trade vis­i­tor.

“They did say it’s un­ortho­dox for pri­vate com­pa­nies to han­dle one, as they are nor­mally han­dled by govern­ment bod­ies or pub­lish­ers’ as­so­ci­a­tions.”

But af­ter a few weeks of e- mail­ing back and forth, Amir and the or­gan­is­ers worked out a way that a small stand could be shared among a few Malaysian com­pa­nies. The cost for the small­est booth, its decor, as well as flights and ac­com­mo­da­tions is over RM100,000.

Amir than put out an in­for­mal call on Face­book.

“Ini­tially there were six Malaysian com­pa­nies in­ter­ested. But two of them pulled out due to lack of funds. So Fixi has to now pay for half rather than a sixth of the cost.”

Hence the idea for a fundraiser to help cover the ex­tra cost: Fixi Novo, Buku Fixi’s English lan­guage im­print, is putting out a lim­ited edi­tion book of work by lo­cal writ­ers.

Lit­tle Bas­ket 2016 is the first of a planned an­nual jour­nal of new Malaysian writ­ing. This col­lec­tion of­fers not only short sto­ries but also an es­say, comics and po­etry from writ­ers who have ap­peared in pre­vi­ous Fixi Novo an­tholo­gies. Only 3,000 copies have been printed, so this is a rare gem, in­deed.

If you’d like to sup­port this ef­fort, you can or­der Lit­tle Bas­ket 2016 on­line at fixi. com. my/ pro­duk/ lit­tle­bas­ket2016 for RM26 .50 ( in­clud­ing Poslaju de­liv­ery costs). You can also or­der through the mo­bile phone mes­sag­ing app, What­sapp, at 011- 236 5 1972.

Ac­cord­ing to Amir’s Face­book post about the re­lease, “This an­thol­ogy will be made avail­able to the many pub­lish­ers, agents and jour­nal­ists from around the world who will throng the LBF. We will also ac­tively fol­low up with in­ter­ested folks; there are many op­por­tu­ni­ties for col­lab­o­ra­tion. We want Malaysian writ­ing to spread far and wide!”

Aside from Lit­tle Bas­ket 2016, Fixi will also be launch­ing three an­tholo­gies of new South- East Asian writ­ing in Lon­don: Heat, Flesh and Trash.

“I am ex­cited about this be­cause this pro­ject in­volves about 50 writ­ers and seven coun­tries,” says Amir.

“They are launch­ing at Daunt Books and will con­tinue to sell at Daunt, a chain with six shops in Lon­don. We are also meet­ing other book­shops to see if they are in­ter­ested – we have hired an in­ter­na­tional mar­ket­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tions man­ager and she’s fan­tas­tic. I see this as the first step to pub­lish­ing more stuff from around the re­gion rather than just Malaysia.

“And it’s also like a dream come true: as a stu­dent I spent hun­dreds of hours in Lon­don book­shops. Who would have thought that I would some­day pub­lish books that are sold in the same shops?”

We could “hear” Amir’s en­thu­si­asm even in his e- mailed replies! In­ter­est from of­fi­cial bod­ies, on the other hand, seem luke­warm at best. Why is that, we won­der, since this is ar­guably one of the big­gest book fairs af­ter the Frank­furt Book Fair, and Malaysia has ac­tu­ally pro­duced in­ter­na­tional award win­ners in lit­er­a­ture, such as Tash Aw and Tan Twan Eng.

Ac­cord­ing to Amir, the os­ten­si­ble rea­son is be­cause the dates are close to the Bologna Chil­dren’s Book Fair in Italy, which is April 4- 7; LBF is April 12- 14. Also, the Bologna fair is for chil­dren’s books, and there is a greater Malaysian in­ter­est in that mar­ket.

“But I think we have more than just chil­dren’s books to of­fer, which is why I think LBF is im­por­tant,” says Amir.

“The same govern­ment agen­cies also don’t con­sider books pub­lished over­seas by Malaysian ( or Malaysian- born) writ­ers to be ‘ lo­cal’ enough to pro­mote – it’s just te­dious pol­i­tics.

“In­sti­tut Ter­jema­han dan Buku Ne­gara has now ex­pressed an in­ter­est in join­ing us. I was mag­nan­i­mous enough lah to give them shelf space, which they don’t have to pay for be­cause they were al­ready go­ing to be present as trade vis­i­tors. So it’s like what I did last year when I used the Sin­ga­pore booth to have meet­ings.”

Whether there is more sup­port next year, Amir is plan­ning on be­ing in Lon­don again.

“The LBF is the first pro­fes­sional book fair I ever at­tended. Un­like, say, the KL Book Fair, it is not for con­sumers but for pro­fes­sion­als. Even to get an en­try pass is £ 35 ( RM200). But that’s also the place that got me trans­la­tion rights to books by Stephen King and Neil Gaiman ( Fixi is the first com­pany in the world to pub­lish ti­tles by th­ese au­thors in Malay).

“So I hope to go ev­ery year – even if we can’t af­ford coun­try booths ev­ery year!”

Th­ese are the lo­cal pub­lish­ers that will be rep­re­sent­ing Malaysia at the Lon­don Book Fair. Go visit th­ese web­sites and sup­port them: Buku Fixi, Du­book Press, the yu­sof Ga­jah Lin­gard Lit­er­ary Agency and Clar­ity Pub­lish­ing. — Screen­shots

is avail­able for sale on­line now to help de­fray some of the costs of at­tend­ing the book fair. The an­thol­ogy will be launched in Lon­don as well, along with the three new ti­tles, and — re­copies

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