Jordan’s Salwa Shakhshir Blogs About Publishers Training in UAE

In Arabic Publishing by Edward Nawotka

Several times a year KITAB, the organization behind the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair, and the Center for Publishing at New York University’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies, hold professional training courses for publishers on the campus of NYU Abu Dhabi. Last year Salwa Shakhshir of Al Salwa Books, a children’s book publisher from Amman, Jordan, blogged about the event for us. This year, she returned to Abu Dhabi for more training and is documenting her experiences here throughout the week.

By Salwa Shakhshir

Day 1 of Publishers Training in Abu Dhabi by Salwa Shakhshir – June 5, 2011

The Class of 2011

I think I can safely say that a lot of people dream of creating the perfect marketing plan, to finally discover what the secret ingredient is — if there is one! So it is safe to say that when I read the title “Creating a marketing plan that works” I was very keen to hear what the session was going to reveal, and I must say I was not disappointed.

This was day one of the 2nd Publishers Training session sponsored by KITAB ( and the Center for Publishing at NYU’ School of Continuing and Professional Studies (, held on campus at NYU Abu Dhabi. The room had 35 participants from 13 countries, many of whom attended the first session last November and have now become my friends.

The day started with a quote from Matthew Baldacci,Vice President and Associate Publisher at St. Martin’s Press, a division of Macmillan Publishing, who defined marketing in his own words as “how a company separates the consumer from their money in a mutually satisfactory transaction.”

We dove right into talk of the four Ps of the marketing mix, and spent a couple of minutes talking about pricing and how each Arab country had a different price bracket. But I think we all agreed that price is a prime concern for marketing books across all Arab countries.

To Galley or Not to Galley

John Sherer, Publisher of Basic Books, a division of the Perseus Book Group, then jumped in and started talking about internal versus external marketing tasks or functions. This is where, I for one, learned the term “galley,” which is a preliminary version of the book that is bound like a book and sent out to key reviewers, retailers and media personnel and is meant to generate sales. For children books, the version is called a BLAD (Book layout and design) and is usually only a few pages of the book, but is meant to show the illustrations and layout that are considered key elements in any children book.

So we learned that in the US, the galley is vital for the marketing plan of a book. Omar Chebaro (from Arab Scientific Publishers) interrupted by saying that a galley would not work in the Arab world as print runs are considerably lower, sometimes reaching just 1,000 copies making it impractical to produce a galley in the first place. Azza Tawil (from All Prints) felt strongly that there was no need for them at all. But Amira Abulmagd (from Shurouq Publishing in Egypt) said that they sometime print 200 copies of the book (using print on demand) to test the market before publishing the book.

Salwa Shakhshir

A long discussion ensued, but by the end of it, I think we all felt that just because galleys aren’t done in our part of the world doesn’t mean that we should dismiss them. The purpose of galleys is to create awareness and hype on the book prior to publication, so by tweaking the concept a little, and thinking of it as simply sharing the manuscript with influential people, as Matthew suggested, galleys could help create better awareness and eventually better sales of the book.

Learning About Tip Sheets and Social Media

Another key marketing tool used was the “tip sheet” or “title sheet” that includes all the information that is needed about the book, and is worked on for months and months until it’s finally done. John went over one such “tip sheet” on the big screen that was in front of us. The sheet was packed with information like a biography of the author, the elevator pitch of the book, a fuller description of the book’s contents, the selling points…and on and on…to the point where Amira said “this is more than just a tip!”

We talked about the importance of web 2.0 and how being able to socially interact on the internet and share reviews has completely changed the way publishers think of a marketing timeline. It’s still changing till this day, but it has definitely forced publishers to move much faster on their marketing campaigns such that they start as soon as the book is acquired!

The next tools to start thinking about, or the tools that are predicted to start affecting the way we think of our marketing plans, are discoverability tools. Where the music industry has fought people who shared their content, the publishing industry is learning from their mistakes and embracing the idea of sharing their content and making discoverability tools their partners.

“It is ok to spend money on marketing” said Matthew, “but you better have set your success metrics in order to find out whether or not the money you’ve spent has given you the results you needed.” A very important point I thought, but also very hard to asses because how do you know that any one specific thing has led to the success of your campaign? Unfortunately there is no answer to this question, and like the nature of a marketing plan, I guess, the answer lies in hard work, analysis and trial and error!

Upon learning about a very interesting and important program called “Nielsen Book Scan,” which allows publishers to view their sales data at different retailers, I realized how important data and information is. I mean, I knew how important data is, but I just wished we had something similar in our part of the world because data is such valuable information to have. From tracking sales to knowing how competitive books are doing in the market, this information will help build better marketing strategies and plans.

At the end of the session, we were grouped into teams of five and asked to come up with three marketing tactics for a book that we made up and then marketed! Two of the groups decided to capitalize on the recent events and revolutions in the Arab world, especially the Egyptian revolution. One group really got into the marketing of a book they claimed to be a memoir for Hosni Mubarak entitled What Went Wrong? — which made the whole class laugh.

It was definitely an information-packed day to say the least, looking forward to part two!

About the Author

Edward Nawotka

A widely published critic and essayist, Edward Nawotka serves as a speaker, educator and consultant for institutions and businesses involved in the global publishing and content industries. He was also editor-in-chief of Publishing Perspectives since the launch of the publication in 2009 until January 2016.